, most loved for its comedic libretto and strong musical score, is the fifth collaborative work between Sir William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. Verily, I found myself ecstatic to have the opportunity to see a touring production on campus. Although I was prepared for the comedic silliness, the tale of this opera was alien to me.
Frederic, a young man and slave to duty, celebrates his final birthday as an apprentice. No longer tied to his master The Pirate King, Frederic follows his unfailing sense of duty to exterminating the pirates. Upon leaving, Frederic stumbles onto a beach party of beautiful maidens and meets Mabel. However, the tryst is cut all too short when the pirates arrive and claim the girls.
Although a pretty sober sounding affair, it soon progresses to the realm of ridiculous as Major-General Stanley bounds in with his introduction, “I am the very model of a modern Major-General.” The harassment of the pirates quashed, Frederic, happily betrothed to Mabel, thinks himself free.
Then, in the beginning of Act II, The Pirate King returns to impress upon Frederic the true situation at hand. Although by years Frederic’s indenture should be void, the wording of his apprenticeship stipulates his 21 birthday is when he shall be loosed. As Frederic was born on a leap year, the pirates claim he has had fewer than a half-dozen birthdays, and still owe them his service.
Forever still the slave of duty, Frederic returns to the life of piracy. While the finale may not precisely stop (in the name of Queen Victoria) the show, the heartwarming conclusion does provide a lovers’ reunion.
I believe it would make my point to pontificate on this performance of The . Gilbert and Sullivan have created the skeleton of an immortal beast, but it requires the flesh of talented musicians, singers and actors to animate it.
This performance has such talent. Having the talent of The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players was a wonderful perk for the stage of the Ferst Center. A few of the notable voices and character from the opera deserve individual recognition.
Foremost of these would be the baritone of Stephen Quint as Major-General Stanley. His performance may have been most ludicrous of any, but I was enthralled by each of his comedic solos.
The bizarre bits were perfectly in theme with the character, whereas I perceived The Pirate King’s behavior was humorously deficient despite his perseverance.
In short, David Wannen’s portrayal as The Pirate King was not to my liking. Perhaps Wannen’s The Mikado would suit him better.
Colm Fitzmaurice, as Frederic, did not affect me much, but his tenor voice was strong enough to compensate. The ranges of all vocalists were quite large as necessary for the libretto from Sir Gilbert.
I believe Mabel and the nursemaid Ruth were the most requiring in shear potency. Both Michele McConnell’s Mabel and Angela Smith’s Ruth wowed the audience with booming notes of power. I suppose this is due to Sir Gilbert’s ironic twist to the usual feminine voices.
However, in the category of musical entertainment I would have to champion the night’s orchestra. Their musical performance was spectacular. I was quite pleased with the overture and the rising orchestra pit allowed the musicians to take the stage with great ease. Upon seeing the entire pit, I was most astonished a Gilbert and Sullivan opera could actually be completed with so few musicians.
Each one gave exceptional work and some were even called upon to play a secondary instrument. Fortunately, all performers and players received a standing ovation from a very appreciative audience.
Overall, I found an interesting tale deserving of its century of circulation and accolades. Its music was stirring and the moments humorous, if a bit old-hat. Fall-gags may be timeless, but I was hoping there would be a certain refinement in 19 century English comedy.
Then again, I would cite myself as overly cynical or sober when it comes to rudimentary humor on many occasions.
I still find myself glad to have spent that evening at the Ferst Center and hopeful for the many more groups to set up stage on Tech’s campus. Also, I leave a recommendation for any new productions with the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players.