Thursday, 16 August 2012

Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance: A Review of the First Performance at Paignton

A few weeks ago I posted a couple of reviews of the premiere of Gilbert & Sullivan classic opera The Pirates of Penzance along with a brief overview of the reasons why the performance took place in Paignton. I did not include this review from The Glasgow Herald. I do not believe that the reviewer actually witnessed the performance. However it is worth quoting for completeness. I include a picture of the vessel which brought the score from New York.
Yesterday afternoon [1] Messrs. Sullivan and Gilbert’s new extravaganza The Pirates of Penzance was announced to be performed for the first time on any stage at the theatre of the little town of Paignton, in Devonshire. The representation was, of course, a purely formal one, and was in compliance solely with our curious copyright law, which declares that, to secure the various rights attending to it, a work by English subjects must be first performed in England.
Therefore one of Mr. D’Oyley Carte’s [2] travelling companies was ordered to come across from Torquay, and, although the score was only expected by the Bothnia from New York yesterday, the provisions of the law will have been duly complied with. The new piece, which will not succeed H.M.S. Pinafore in this country till Easter, is a burlesque upon the sensational stories and the sensational melodramas of the present day. The bold pirate is represented as a very effeminate individual, who woos the daughter of a Major-General — a part, by the way, destined to be played here by Mr. George Grossmith. A policeman, a former nurse of the pirate, and two or three subordinate buccaneers also figure in the dramatis personae. The piece will be produced next Saturday [3] at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York — Mr. Arthur Sullivan conducting.
Glasgow Herald January 2 1880 From our London Correspondent, London, Wednesday 31 December 2012 (with minor edits)

[1] Tuesday 30th December 1879
[2] This is a spelt wrongly: it should read Mr.[Richard] D’Oyly Carte.
[3] It was in fact first heard at the Fifth Avenue Theatre on the evening of Wednesday 31 December.

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