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The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   HMS Pinafore Revival 1908
 
Second Repertory Season, 1908-9

“H.M.S. PINAFORE,”
Or, “The Lass that Loved a Sailor.”
Written by W. S. Gilbert.
Composed by Arthur Sullivan.

The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B.  Mr. C. H. Workman
Capt. Corcoran Mr. Rutland Barrington
  (Commanding H.M.S. Pinafore) (His Original Part)  
Ralph Rackstraw   Mr. Henry Herbert
Dick Deadeye Mr. Henry A. Lytton
Josephine Miss Elsie Spain
Hebe Miss Jessie Rose
Little Buttercup  Miss Louie René

The gallant little Pinafore set out on her fourth cruise last night with all the good wishes of everybody concerned. Produced in 1878, and revived in1887 and 1899, this third revival should, if appearances are to go for anything, be at least as successful as any of the others. On this work more than on any of the Savoy series were founded the fortunes of the enterprise that has had such important consequences in our national music. Its immediate predecessor, The Sorcerer, enjoyed, as every one knows, great success, but it did not take the world as H.M.S. Pinafore did; and the failure of the second of the series would have meant a short life for the whole, while its wonderful vogue ensured the permanence of the institution, a permanence which an occasional failure in after years did little or nothing to alter.

At one time the piece was being played by two companies simultaneously in London, and, it is said, by no fewer than 16 in New York, for the copyright laws on both sides of the Atlantic were not in the most satisfactory condition; and it is sad to think of the sums that must have been gained by unscrupulous managers who never took the trouble to pass any part of the gains into the pockets of the creators of the piece.

It is unnecessary to discuss the merits or to enumerate the beauties of the opera at this time of day; it is enough to say that both words and music sound as fresh as they did 30 years ago, and as a welcome result not a word has been altered of the original libretto, even “The Queen’s Navee” being retained, though the dresses show that the present day is the time of the action. Some day, perhaps, it will be worth while to play it in the dresses of 1878, though it has not been deemed politic to put back the clock now in this respect.

The bright particular star of the present cast is, of course, Mr. Barrington, who was not in the 1899 revival. His acting is as unctuous as ever, and his singing is far better in tune than it used to be, although occasionally there are traces of the work of time in some notes. He scored a very great success, and Mr. C. H. Workman’s Sir Joseph Porter was not less favourably received. It is full of excellent points, though this time it is difficult not to sigh for Mr. Grossmith. As Ralph, Mr. Henry Herbert’s beautiful tenor voice tells splendidly, and his elocution has so vastly improved since his first appearance in The Mikado, that his burst of “simple eloquence” made a real effect. Mr. Lytton makes what is possible of the not very grateful part of Dick Deadeye, and the rest of the sailors are capital.

The part of Josephine has never yet been identified with any first-rate singer, and therefore Miss Elsie Spain is not handicapped as so many of her companions are. Her voice is powerful and pleasing, and her high notes are effectively used. Miss Jessie Rose is not Miss Jessie Bond, and her Hebe seems a little wanting in colour; still it is a clever piece of work, and quite in the picture. Miss Louie René makes a better Buttercup than was to be expected from her previous performances.

The scene is of wonderful excellence, and the performance under Mr. F. Cellier as fine as usual. The reception of the work was most enthusiastic, and encores were of course the rule.


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