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

From Western Mail, Monday, February 28, 1881.


The "Pirates of Penzance" is announced for performance to-night at the Cardiff Theatre, and if adequately given should not fail to draw good houses during the week.

It may be matter of regret to some that Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan (whose names seem as inseparably linked as those of Erckmann-Chatrian, or Meilhac and Halévy) should not turn their attention to more important work, and give us a National English Opera that should raise the opinions of musicians, both in England and on the Continent, as to the capabilities of Englishmen to produce work worthy to stand side by side with other examples of contemporary musical art. This latest work from their pens differs but slightly from their former productions. There is the same quaint distorting of modern life (as if Mr. Gilbert saw it reflected in a concave mirror), the same sort of good-natured satire, the same delight in the incongruous and the absurd, the same witty allusions to current foibles and follies, and the same disrespect for the old-fashioned legitimate drama.

Dr. Sullivan's music is characterised by the piquant orchestration that has before charmed us, and made us almost forget that his melodies do not err on the side of glaring originality. The tout ensemble of picturesque scenery, bright dresses and faces, fun, frolic, and sparkle has, as heretofore, drawn all London, and the opera is now having a victorious march throughout the provinces.

The principal characters are Major-General Stanley, who has an estate in Cornwall, and who is "the very model of a modern major-general," although he confesses that his "military knowledge has only been brought down to the beginning of the; century;'' his daughter Mabel, an impressionable young lady, whose mission in life seems to be to reclaim poor wandering pirates, and who falls in love naturally with the youngest and handsomest one of the horde that infests the neighbourhood of her father's abbey; Frederic, the aforesaid young and handsome pirate, who should have been apprenticed to a pilot by his nursery maid Ruth, but she "didn't catch the word aright through being hard of hearing," and unfortunately found, when too late, that she had doomed both herself and him to the vile lot of piracy. The Pirate King and the Sergeant of Police also play important parts, and the chorus is formed of pirates, police, and General Stanley's daughters, who take the place of Sir Joseph Porter's sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts in the "Pinafore."

The most popular numbers are the song of the Pirate King, Mabel's waltz, the General's patter song, and the finale in the first act, and the chorus of policemen, whose "lot is not a happy one," in the second act. The overture is a clever medley of the principal airs, and in the concerted music Dr. Sullivan has displayed all his usual skill.

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