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From the Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, May 17, 1881

New Theatre Royal

Last evening, Mr. D'Oyly Carte's selected company which in October last first introduced Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's humorous and tuneful comic opera to the provinces in our own ancient city, paid us a return visit with "The Pirates of Penzance," and received from a large audience a very hearty recognition. We had such ample opportunities of describing the piece when first it was performed here and since, that its leading melodies and harmonies have been so familiarized to persons in many ways that any detailed notice of the opera, either with regard to its story or its music, cannot be necessary. As most of our readers must be aware, it is not a dramatic representation of some piratical villianies, but one of those absurdities which Mr. Gilbert is so fond of producing. The Pirates of Penzance are discovered to be all noblemen in disguise, and they are, moreover, so imbued with the spirit of loyalty that on being charged to surrender themselves to the "Bobbies", who are engaged to arrest them "in Queen Victoria's name", they at once lay down their arms. The story of the work turns, it will be remembered, on the fact that one of the pirates has been apprenticed to this body by mistake, owing to the similarity of sound between "pirates" and "pilots," and the thing is altogether so replete with absurdities that to resist laughing at it is impossible.

The music, too, is so full of beautiful melodies and cleverly constructed and effective harmonies that it is quite as impossible to listen to it without the mind and ear being greatly gratified. The only feeling of disappointment to which it gives rise, if indeed it does to any, is that so much that is really fine in music and composition should not have been allied to some more reasonable libretto.

As we had anticipated, the seven or eight months' constant practice which the company has had since it was last with us, has had a very marked influence on both the acting and the singing. A thorough acquaintance with the words and meanings of the different songs and duets has enabled the singers to impart the fullest expression to them, whilst the concerted and choral music, some of which is exacting enough for grand opera, goes with faultless nicety and precision. The orchestration, too — always a feature in Mr. Sullivan's music — does justice both to the composer and the thoroughly efficient conductor, Mr. Stanislaus. Indeed, the opera, as a whole, went last night in a manner that left little or nothing to desire. The audience, to do them justice, seemed to be of this opinion, for they re-demanded almost everything. Some of the encores were, of course, declined, but others were too persistent to be resisted; and, in point of fact, fully a third of the opera had to be repeated.

There was no change in the cast from that when the company first appeared here. Miss Laura Clement again warbled the music of Mabel, winning encores by her rendering of the delicious waltz-song "Poor wand'ring one," and the tender pathos she infused into the exquisitely beautiful madrigal in the second act, "Oh, leave me not to pine". Miss Augusta Roche, whose fine contralto voice has gained in fulness, repeated her part of Ruth, gaining an encore for her opening scene, "When Frederick was a little lad," and singing and acting throughout in a manner that was thoroughly satisfying. Mr. G. Coventry once more filled the role of Frederick, and was encored with Miss Clement in the duet in the Abbey scene. Mr. Marnock repeated his robust portraiture of the pirate king, and was encored in his song of "The Pirate King." Mr. George Marler (whose reception showed how favourably he was remembered) gave a graphic and humorous portraiture of the sergeant of police, winning for the famous song "When constabulary duty's to be done" one of those tumultuous encores which can never be mistaken for mere common-place approval. Of course, the Major-General of Mr. David Fisher, jun., proved most welcome to the audience, who laughed heartily at his patter song, and warmly applauded him throughout.

The concerted music and choruses were rendered, we repeat, in a most effective manner, the opera was splendidly dressed, and Mr. Barraud's scenery was all that could have been desired, the "sets" in both acts being such as would have done credit to any theatre.

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