|The Pirates of Penzance > Reviews > First Night Review from the New York Times
Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's new opera, the "Pirates of Penzance," was produced for the first time at the Fifth-Avenue Theatre last night, to an audience that completely filled the house. The performance was received with the utmost enthusiasm, and it was evident that the new piece was a success. Whether it will be received with the same favor that has been accorded to "Pinafore" is very doubtful.
It is a further working of the same vein that has proved to be so valuable. In place of Sir Joseph Porter, K. C. B., there is Major-Gen. Stanley, of the British Army, who is quite as absurd a personage as his naval predecessor. Instead of little Buttercup, who practised baby-farming and mixed the children, there is a piratical maid-of-all-work who makes an apprentice of her infant charge to the pirate chief. The sisters and cousins and aunts are in this play daughters of the Major-General, and their friends.
The story is exceedingly droll, full of, good points, odd rhymes, and irresistibly comical situations. There is an underlying current of humor which shows the talent of Mr. Gilbert in this peculiar line, and it would be impossible for a confirmed misanthrope to refrain from merriment over it. It is very well put upon the stage, and is picturesque from first to last. The amusement that is caused by incongruous situations and the absurd gravity with which the pretended seriousness of certain scenes is carried out were the cause of irrepressible laughter last night. The text is so full of points that it can hardly be appreciated at a single hearing.
Mr. Sullivan has been a faithful and valuable partner of Mr. Gilbert in the music he has written for this bright little work. There is genuine musical merit in several of the numbers. The chorus near the close of the first act, which has the character of a serious prayer, the duo for the soprano and tenor in the second act, and an aria for soprano on her appearance in the first act are exceedingly clever compositions. There are a number of other bright and lively airs, choruses, and concerted pieces which are likely to become popular. A chorus of policemen was the most musically-humorous number of the evening, and provoked more amusement than anything else during the performance. Mr. Sullivan's abilities as a musician are shown in even the trivial and light "tunes" which are introduced. There is nothing thin or weak about it, and the jingle of it is alway agreeable. In a word, it is a bright and engaging operatic trifle, and is full of the same merit that has made "Pinafore" so successful.
The chorus and orchestra last night were both excellent. The principal solo parts were assigned to Miss Blanche Roosevelt, Miss Barnett, Mr. Talbot, Mr. Brocolini, and Mr. Ryley. Miss Roosevelt sang better than she has heretofore done, and was quite successful as the General's youngest daughter. Mr. Brocolini has a fine voice, and gave his part of the Chief Pirate with spirit, and Mr. Ryley was exceedingly amusing as the venerable Major-General. Miss Barnett also added very much to the success of the representation. The essential part of the young pirate apprentice received inadequate attention from the tenor. His make-up resulted in his appearing, in the first act, to be of advanced age, he was not, apparently, acquainted with his lines, and his singing was weak and tame. But the others were so spirited and generally enthusiastic that the effect of the opera was not materially injured by this weak spot in the cast. For a first night it was a remarkably smooth performance.
In response to repeated calls, the author and composer appeared before the curtain and bowed their acknowledgements. There was no lack of enthusiasm, and flowers were given in profusion to the actresses. The opera will be repeated every evening for the present.
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