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The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   Pirate King The Pirates of Penzance Major General


From The Examiner, Saturday, August 14, 1880.

Whether Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas are to be lost sight of after so many long runs and so many successful revivals, or whether they are to be joys for ever, is a question concerning which the world is not likely to trouble itself very much. They answer the purpose of the hour, and form a light, easily digestible fare for those who do not care for more substantial things. Mr. Gilbert is a true humourist, and his style is original. The “books " he supplies to Mr. Sullivan are so many Bab Ballads in operatic form and, as such, abound in the true spirit of caricature. How he is going to vary his style and manner is best known to himself, but variety will be expected from Mr. Gilbert, as from any other successful writer, and when the time comes he will probably be equal to the emergency.

At present there is no sign of anything new being required at the Opera Comique. The "Pirates of Penzance" is likely to be in the bill for months to come, and goes as well as it did on the first week of production. To a certain extent this good fortune may be attributable to the acting and singing of the company, but only in a comparative sense. Mr. D'Oyly Carte having been able to retain most of the originals in the various characters is an advantage, and at present there is only one important alteration in the cast.

This is the substitution of Miss Alice Barnett for the lady who first played Ruth, the middle-aged and mock-sentimental servant-of-all-work to the piratical band of Penzance. Miss Barnett is very tall, and stout in proportion, and the reference to Ruth, as a fine woman, is fully endorsed by the audience. The lady has a powerful voice, and, to all appearance, has not had a very long experience as an actress. Miss Barnett's stature may have had something to do with her being entrusted with this part. At any rate the audience see an excellent joke in her making love to the youth Frederic, whose inches must be considerably less than her own.

Miss Marion Hood is still the Mabel, but Misses Jessie Bard1 [sic], Julia Gwynne, and Mrs. Barlow are new in the subordinate characters of Edith, Kate, and Isabel. Mr. G. Grossmith plays the ridiculous Major-General Stanley with the blandness and quietude that made the part tell so strongly on the first night. Mr. Richard Temple is amusing as the pirate king, in some degree a burlesque of the "penny plain, and twopence coloured" school, and Mr. Rutland Barrington is still the sergeant of police. Mr. George Power is a rather inanimate lover.

The ladies of the chorus must be reminded that in looking about the house, they are not doing the best for themselves, the management, or the authors. It no doubt becomes monotonous to appear in the same scenes and situations night after night for months at a stretch, but stage discipline should never be relaxed. The very life of the scene in which Frederic and Mabel pace the sea-shore, in presence of the rest of the major-general's daughters, consists in the girls watching them intently. They should never take their eyes off the lovers while listening to their conversations, but seem to have become altogether forgetful of this obligation.

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