|Pirates of Penzance > Reviews > E Company in Portsmouth
""THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE"
AT THE THEATRE ROYAL.
Mr. D'Oyly Carte's Company re-appeared at this house on Monday evening in the "Pirates of Penzance," to fulfil an engagement of four nights only. This popular comic opera is well known, and as it has been already criticised in our columns further comment on it is scarcely called for. To the discerning eyes of our all-judging musical and dramatic critics it would seem that the happy collaboration of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan has resulted in a school of comic opera the most distinctive and meritorious, as well as the most popular, ever seen in England.
Amid the general chorus of wholesale approbation, a dissentient voice has been raised in a literary journal of some repute. Reviewing a volume of plays, the joint work of the distinguished composer and the eminent literary humourist — a volume which includes "The Pirates of Penzance" — the writer expresses his opinion that the popular appreciation of these productions does not give a lofty idea of the pabulum required by the theatre-going British public. The note of sentiment struck in them is false and artificial; the comic part is mere drivel, and the only one of the series the reviewer had seen on the stage — "H.M.S. Pinafore" — bored him almost beyond endurance. Most of us can agree with Sterne in pitying the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba and cry "'Tis all barren," and the man who can find nothing to admire or to laugh at in the series of brilliant works which began with "Trial by Jury" and ends, for the present, with "Patience" may, perhaps, not be what Dr. Johnson would term "a barren rascal," but he is evidently deficient in a certain class of perceptions which generally afford much pleasure to their possessor; and is as little qualified to appraise the works in question as the late Dean Stanley, who could not tell "Rule Britannia" from "God Save the Queen," would have been to criticise Beethoven's "Choral Symphony," or a man afflicted with colour blindness to pass judgement on the Cartoons of Raphael, or the corregiescity of Corregio. But, considering that the comic operas of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan are the fashion of the hour, and that to be, ignorant of or to fail to appreciate them is almost a social delinquency, we must admire the courage of this critic, whatever we may think of his taste.
No competent judge, however, would deny to Mr. Gilbert great powers of comic invention, of subtle and incisive satire, and a humour both rich and peculiar, any more than he would dispute the fertility of Mr. Sullivan's genius and the brightness and melody of his numbers. That their compositions will achieve more than an ephemeral popularity we do not believe; but in the judgment of all those who prefer solid pudding to empty praise they possess the superlative merit of exactly hitting the humour of the time and bringing the ducats to the theatrical exchequer. To this an overflowing audience bore emphatic testimony on Monday evening.
The opera is well put on the stage, and the scenery is very effective. The company, which is a moderately good one, contains one or two performers who appeared in the same parts a few months ago. Mr. W. Greyling is now, as then, the adequate impersonator of the impotent imbecilities of Major-General Stanley, and his rendering of the idiotic patter song assigned to that gallant officer is as hugely ridiculous and as keenly appreciated as before. The piratical maid of all work, Ruth, finds an excellent embodiment in Miss Fanny Harrison. She has a capital voice and admirable elocution, and her acting is full of intelligence and spontaneity. The representative of General Stanley's daughter, Mabel, is Miss Henschel, the owner of a pretty face and a pretty voice. She is an actress of charming promise; but at present her apposition with the representative of Ruth is expressive of the distinction between rawness and ripeness. Mr. Federici looked sufficiently picturesque and truculent as the Pirate King, and his acting was full of character, while Mr. Bolini's assumption of the part of Frederick, the pirate apprentice, was undoubtedly praiseworthy in a dramatic sense. Of the vocal capabilities of these gentlemen it may be said that the voice of the former is powerful but not uniformly pleasing, and that of the latter is very pleasant but deficient in power. Some of the songs were encored. The choruses were wonderfully effective, and several were redemanded; notably the concluding chorus of the first act, which was given with smoothness and verve.
The first piece is a whimsical operetta entitled "Six and Six" at which the audience laughed consumedly. The "Pirates of Penzance" will be repeated to-night and to-morrow, and the Theatre will be closed on Friday and Saturday. It will be re-opened on Monday, the 22nd of August, when Dion Boucicault’s "Forbidden Fruit" Company will take possession of the boards.
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