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To secure an American copyright—so as to avoid pirated American productions, the like of those that had followed English production of H. Pinafore —the work premiered with a single performance in Paignton, Englandon December 30,and in New York City on December 31, One of the most famed of all Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, it contains the brisk and comic type of rhymed aria known as a patter song.
The Pirates of Penzance was written in haste but nonetheless was carefully crafted.
Sullivan writes leading lady Mabel as a very light coloratura sopranoa characteristic that helps her stand out from the many other women in the cast. He also uses some Bach -style techniques with utterly different melodies sung and played simultaneously; though they sometimes have different metres for example, three beats set against fourhe manages to make everything fit.
The Pirates of Penzance is set during the reign of Queen Victoria.
Act I of the operetta occurs on a rocky seashore on the coast of CornwallEngland. Act II is set in a ruined chapel by moonlight. Now celebrating his 21st birthday, Frederic was in his youth indentured to a band of pirates. Having come of age, Frederic announces that he loathes piracy and, since his term of indenture is complete, he will be leaving.
Almost as soon as Frederic goes ashore, he happens upon a group of young women, wards in chancery to Major-General Stanley. At first, the girls are cautious of Frederic, but one—Mabel—receives him more kindly, and romance is born. While Frederic has been chatting with the girls, the pirates have crept up, intent upon finding their own sweethearts. They are on the verge of abducting them all when the opportune appearance of Major-General Stanley saves them. His recitation of his notable skills derails their plan, and, when he declares himself to be an orphan with no one in the world but these court-appointed daughters, the pirates depart empty-handed.
Themselves orphans, they have pledged never to harm other orphans. The Major-General, having admitted to the girls that, in fact, he is no orphan, is pleased to hear from Frederic that the young man wants to a band of policemen against the pirates. Before Frederic can do so, however, Ruth and the Pirate King come to inform him of a new discovery. Frederic, it seems, was born on Leap Day February 29a day that occurs every four years, and so, though he has lived 21 years, he has had far fewer birthdays. The policemen hide as the pirates approach. Having learned that Major-General Stanley diverted them with a lie, the pirates assault his house and pounce upon the Major-General and his daughters.
The Major-General gives the girls in marriage to the various pirates, though Mabel is reserved for Frederic. The Pirates of Penzance. Additional Info. Print print Print. Table Of Contents. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.
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Full Article. Poster for The Pirates of Penzancec. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Each of her three collections of Spanish-language songs— Canciones de mi… …. The chief modern functions of Penzance are as a tourist base for the region and as a local service centre.
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