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The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   Pirates - Second Revival 1900


As it is 20 years since the first production of The Pirates of Penzance in London, and 12 since its only revival at the Savoy, it was clearly time for it to be seen again. By good luck “topical” allusions of the piece are not of a kind that become antiquated, as in the case of some of the Savoy series, and though the stage pirate of the older melodrama is only a memory to playgoers in the present day, younger students of the drama are perfectly familiar with him as a type, and the melodramatic spirit that is parodied all through Mr. Gilbert’s witty libretto has, alas, not disappeared from our stage.

The “policeman’s lot” has not become so much happier as to blunt the point of the famous chorus by which the opera is best known; and there was wonderfully little that struck the audience of Saturday night as being in any way old-fashioned. The only alteration of the book is that the “chassepôt rifle” has become a “Mauser,” and the only joke that does not quite hit the mark is the major-general’s allusion to “that infernal nonsense, Pinafore,” the point of which lay in the long run of that opera just before the Pirates was brought out.

As the only member of the former cast, who figured, indeed, in the original performance in America in 1879, Miss Rosina Brandram deserves mention in the first place; her Ruth is a masterpiece of melodramatic intensity, and her singing is as beautifully finished as ever, while her reception of those copious allusions to her looks which are far too common in the earlier operas of the series made them seem doubly inapposite.

Miss Isabel Jay is quite charming as Mabel, and sings the pretty valse, “Poor wand’ring one,” with exquisite vocalization and neatness. The pure quality of her voice adds much to the effect of the pretty ballad, “Oh, leave me not to pine,” where Sir Arthur Sullivan’s taste and skill in the assumption of the pure harmonies of a past day are most apparent.

Though the female chorus has been admirably trained, the subordinate soloists are not up to the Savoy level; Miss Lulu Evans is a very faint reflection of Miss Jessie Bond in the tiny part of Edith. Mr. H. A. Lytton succeeds Mr. Grossmith in the part of Major-General Stanley, and is very nearly as good as his predecessor; his delivery of the patter song in the first act is astoundingly clear, and he sings the more sentimental song in the second act with much skill.

Mr. Passmore is hardly pompous enough for the sergeant of police, but he is, of course, very funny in it, and it is a capital idea to give every encore of the second verse with a different accent, “haw-haw,” American and German in succession, except that it takes it rather too much for granted that the succeeding audiences will want to hear it four times over. Mr. Robert Evett sings very well as Frederic, and Mr. Jones Hewson is a fine Pirate King in the “twopence-coloured” style.

Mr. François Cellier conducted, and almost every number was encored; he, with the author and Mr. D’Oyly Carte, was called before the curtain at the close of a most successful revival.

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