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Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance

From London's Coliseum, a new ENO production of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Pirates of Penzance, directed by Mike Leigh. With Claudia Boyle, Robert Murray and Andrew Shore.

The Pirates of Penzance tells the story of Frederic who, having turned 21, is released from his apprenticeship to a group of soft-hearted pirates. Frederic falls in love with Mabel, the Major-General's daughter, and all seems well until he discovers that he was born on 29 February and only has a birthday every leap year. Poor Frederic is now faced with being an apprentice to the pirates for another 63 years! Bubbling over with keen wit and catchy tunes, is directed by award-winning film-maker Mike Leigh in his operatic directorial debut and features an exceptional cast. Presented by Martin Handley.

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance in a new production from English National Opera.

Major-General Stanley ..... Andrew Shore (Bass)
The Pirate King ..... Joshua Bloom (Bass)
Frederic ..... Robert Murray (Tenor)
Sergeant of Police ..... Jonathan Lemalu (Baritone)
Mabel ..... Claudia Boyle (Soprano)
Ruth ..... Rebecca de Pont Davies (Soprano)
Samuel ..... Alexander Robin Baker (Baritone)
Edith ..... Soraya Mafi (Soprano)
Kate ..... Angharad Lyddon (Mezzo-soprano)
English National Opera Chorus
English National Opera Orchestra
David Parry (Conductor).

3 hours, 15 minutes

Synopsis

ACT I

A rocky seashore on the coast of Cornwall

The pirates offer a toast to Frederic. Now that Frederic is twenty-one and his apprenticeship is over, the men assume that he will join their band permanently. Ruth, a ‘piratical maid of all work’, explains that, as Frederic’s nursery maid, she had been instructed by his father to have the small boy apprenticed to a pilot, but she misheard and instead took Frederic to a pirate. Her shame upon realizing her error led her to join the pirate band herself.

Now that his obligation to the pirates has ended, duty compels Frederic to devote himself to destroying them. When the men admit their inability to make piracy pay, Frederic explains that they are themselves slaves to their tender hearts, particularly regarding their refusal to take advantage of anyone they believe to be an orphan.

Ruth longs for Frederic to take her with him when he leaves. He has never had an opportunity to compare her with other women, but when he decides that she should remain with the pirates, they reply that they cannot deprive him of his beloved. Frederic wishes he could bring the pirates back to a respectable life, but the Pirate King rejects that possibility. Alone with Ruth, Frederic admits his reluctance to marry her, though he is satisfied that, despite her age, she is beautiful. But when he sees a group of lovely young women approaching, he rages at her for deceiving him.

The girls descend to the shore, delighting in their surroundings. They are astonished to encounter Frederic and horrified to hear that he is a pirate. He assures them that, having just abandoned that profession, he now wants only to love one of them. They all reject him except Mabel, who reproaches her sisters for being deaf to pity. The girls distract themselves, so that Frederic and Mabel can have a few moments alone. The pirates suddenly surprise the girls and anticipate soon becoming their husbands. Mabel reminds them that their father is a major‑general. The Major‑General enters and objects to the girls being married against their wills to pirates. He lies his way out of the situation by claiming to be an orphan. The girls are released from the pirates’ clutches, as Mabel and Frederic – ignoring the pleas of Ruth – look forward to their marriage.

 

ACT II

On Major-General Stanley’s estate: a ruined chapel by moonlight

The girls comfort the Major-General, who is upset because he believes his lie has shamed the family name and he fears the consequences. Frederic will soon march against the pirates accompanied by the police, who now arrive. They eventually leave to attend to the business at hand, but only after repeated urging by the Major‑General.

Alone, Frederic contemplates atoning for his years with the pirates. Ruth and the Pirate King enter. They explain that Frederic was to be apprenticed until his twenty‑first birthday; having been born in a leap year on 29 February, he is officially only five. The Pirate King insists that Frederic respect his own sense of duty, whereupon the obedient young man informs him that the Major‑General lied about being an orphan. The Pirate King and Ruth swear vengeance.

Frederic informs Mabel that he will not reach his twenty-first birthday until 1940. Convinced that he can ignore the pirates’ claim, she begs him to remain with her and swears to be faithful, even though he is a slave of duty and feels compelled to re-join the pirates. After he leaves, Mabel tells the policemen that Frederic has returned to the pirates, praising him for his sense of duty. The Sergeant laments the difficulties the constabulary faces. The policemen hide as soon as the pirates arrive. Afflicted by insomnia, the Major‑General enters. The girls chide him for leaving his bed so late at night. Frederic and the pirates seize the Major‑General and overcome the police. When the Sergeant implores the pirates to yield in the Queen’s name, Ruth reveals that they are in fact peers of the realm. With this revelation, they are pardoned by the Major-General, who rewards them with the girls’ hands in marriage.

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