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22 July 1879

COMEDY OPERA COMPANY AT ST. JULIAN'S HALL.

Startling announcements and loud promises of coming entertainments in Guernsey are seldom realized in such satisfactory style as was the first performance last evening of Mr. D'Oyley [sic] Carte's Company, organised for the production of the exceptionally popular Comedy Opera "H.M.S. Pinafore," written by W. S. Gilbert, the famous author of the "Bab Ballads" and a hundred other clever and amusing satirical effusions, and set to music by the equally versatile composer of sweet and tuneful airs, Arthur Sullivan. This combination was indeed a "happy thought ", for not only in London, where it was first produced at the Opera Comique, is it still running nightly after 360 representations, but it is ranging through the provinces with success everywhere, and has sailed across the broad Atlantic, where in all the important cities of the new world, this truly English musical tale of "the lass that loved a sailor" is being sung amidst the heartiest plaudits of our American cousins, and their numerous friends and acquaintances. It was not difficult therefore to predict for it a warm reception here, for we have ever found Guernsey audiences most appreciative of really meritorious performances. Last evening was no exception to this rule, and a large and enthusiastic audience assembled to welcome the debut of this (to the island) exceptional entertainment.

The Opera in itself possesses most attractive elements, it is patriotic, stirring, and true to nature, in design and conception; and being wedded to effective music appeals at once to the eye and ear of the most fastidious seeker after genuine amusement, refined but still bearing a strong comedy stamp. The plot of the piece is very simple and may be told briefly thus:– Ralph Rackstraw, an able seaman, falls in love with Josephine, the captain's daughter, against the wish of Captain Corcoran. The Admiral has also a passion for the captain's daughter, and entertains a high opinion of Ralph Rackstraw, but when he hears of the engagement he at once orders the able seaman into custody, and he is marched away handcuffed between two marines. Here, Little Buttercup, a Portsmouth bumboat woman, reveals the secret that she has been a baby-farmer, and that Captain Corcoran and Ralph Rackstraw were in her charge in their infancy, the former being of humble, and the latter of high birth, but somehow or other they got "mixed" up. This revelation brings about a change, and Captain Corcoran here comes upon the scene as an able seaman, whilst Ralph Rackstraw assumes the command. From this point a mutual feeling springs up between all parties, and the dénouement becomes one of
extreme happiness all round.

The whole action takes place on the quarter deck of H.M.S. Pinafore; an admirable set scene, furnished with every realistic accompaniment, the main portion being supplied by the well-know stage artists, Messrs. Gordon and Harford. The illusion is complete, and the dresses and appointments add materially to the success of the performance. As the same artists have so often sustained the respective characters, and have been so favourably noticed for their excellent work, we shall content ourselves with a record of the cast and with a brief reference to some of the most salient points of the opera. The cast as represented last night comprised :–

The Right Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B.
Mr. R. Mansfield.
  (First Lord of the Admiralty)
Captain Corcoran Mr. W. Hogarth.
  (Commanding H.M.S. Pinafore)
Ralph Rackstraw (Able Seaman) Mr. Cadwalladr.
Dick Deadeye (Able Seaman) Mr. R. Brough.
Bill Bobstay (Boatswain's Mate) Mr. Lackner.
Bob Becket (Carpenter's Mate) Mr. Maple.
Tom Tucker (Midshipmite) Mr. Fitzaltamont, Jnr.
Little Buttercup Miss F. Trevelyan.
  (a Portsmouth Bumboat Woman)
Hebe (Sir Joseph's First Cousin) Miss Millie Vere.
Josephine (the Captain's Daughter) Miss Ethel Pierson.
First Lord's Sisters, his Cousins, his Aunts, Sailors, Marines, &c.

Where all worked so well it is needless to individualise.

The opera is so composed as to play in two acts, the action of the first soon leads up to the main incidents, and we quickly become proud of the gallant captain of the Pinafore, and enamoured with his lovely daughter, while our sympathy goes with the honest Ralph and our disdain with the Right Honourable "the Ruler of the Queen's Navee." The Bumboat Woman is an important feature in the plot, and earns our regard by rendering justice at last for her shortcomings as a baby farmer, while Deadeye, the Quasimodo of the piece, gives us satisfaction in the end by the fact that all his hopes are foiled by the revelation of Little Buttercup. Every character was well sustained, from the First Lord, to Midshipmite Tom Tucker. Of the airs, the Captain's boastful, "I'm never, never sick at sea," with the following queries: "What, never?" "No, never!" "What, never?" "Hardly ever!" elicited hearty applause, especially when repeated on subsequent occasions. Josephine's ballad, "Sorry her lot," the sailor's chorus, " We sail the ocean blue," and Sir Joseph's song, "I am the Monarch of the Sea; the Ruler of the Queen's Navee," were all admirably rendered and applauded, as well as the other important numbers in the first act.

In the second act the Captain's song, "Fair moon, I sing to thee," [sic] and his duet with Little Buttercup, "Things are seldom what they seem," were well received, but the trio between the First Lord, Captain, and Josephine, in which the former is induced to believe that he has made a conquest of the Captain's daughter, was the most effective concerted piece of the Opera, and was enthusiastically welcomed. The scene between the Captain, Ralph, and the crew with the Boatswain's refrain and chorus, "He is an Englishman," was also very lively, and capitally played. Cousin Hebe and the First Lord's female relatives were a source of considerable amusement. Buttercup's revelation ("A many years ago") of her changing the babes, leads up with much spirit to the final dénouement, when Ralph having become Captain, and the Captain a common sailor, nothing remains but for the First Lord to give his blessing and retire to the arms of his aunts and his cousins, &c., and so the piece ends merrily with song and dance to the most jovial and inspiring strains. Every character is charmingly sustained, and the whole piece sails cheerily along with flying colours from beginning to end. The points were admirably worked out, and several of the airs, which cannot fail to become popular, were applauded again and again.

At the close of the first act, and at the fall of the curtain the company was most vociferously recalled. As conductor, Mr. Ralph Horner was most efficient, while the entire stage direction and management of the company devolving upon Mr. Herbert Brook, was complete in every respect. To Messrs. Hartwell and Woodward much praise is due for the general arrangement of the Company's visit, and we feel assured that those who have the opportunity of being present during its short stay will be well pleased to witness such a delightful entertainment. There will be a special morning performance tomorrow, for the benefit of those who cannot attend in the evening. We understand that for Wednesday evening, when His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor promises his patronage and presence, nearly the whole of the Hall is taken for reserved seats.


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