“Oh, better far to live and die,
under the brave black flag I fly,
than play a sanctimonious part,
with a pirate head and a pirate heart.”

—The Pirate King
The Pirates of Penzance
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company’s Production of

The Pirates of Penzance, or the Slave of Duty

November 4 to 20, 2022

The Pirates of Penzance Program

The Pirates of Penzance 2022 Cast

Our production of The Pirates of Penzance was dedicated to the memory of company founder, Stage Director, Music Director, Set Designer and leading man Dick Fishel.

Directors

Stage Director: Gary Briggle
Music Director: Dr. Randal A. Buikema

Director’s Notes

“A New and Original Melo-Dramatic Opera in Two Acts”

The First Night was New Year’s Eve, 1879, at Ford’s Fifth Avenue Theatre, 45 East 20th Street, in New York City. (There had been a hastily devised “premiere” the previous afternoon in Paignton, Devonshire, formed by a touring company of H.M.S. Pinafore) This extraordinary American premier was the first production by Richard D’Oyly Carte’s new opera company, intended to secure the copyright, a firm legal response to the countless “pirated” productions of H.M.S. Pinafore all over the United States, which were not earning the triumvirate of G & S and D’ C. any money.

Our production pays homage to that auspicious occasion by restoring the original second act finale, which includes a nod to Pinafore, a hymn to nobility, and a reprise of the Major-General’s patter song. There are also a few subtle edits to the libretto and score in accordance with the traditions of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company … as well as a couple of surprises to keep the aficionados on their toes!

Perhaps most significant in this production is the beautiful set, designed and painted by Wendy Waszut-Barrett, an internationally renowned expert in the lost art of “dry pigment techniques” from the 18th and 19th centuries. She masterfully created a “model theatre” like that which W.S. Gilbert used to envision his meticulous geometrical staging. Our set is complete with manually operated scenic panels, a roll drop, and luminous portraits of our beloved composer and author.

This rare opportunity to evoke the Fifth Avenue Theatre in all its 19th century glory inspired us to research the original costume designs, so you will undoubtedly be transported by the spectacle of fashionable young ladies in bustled dresses, bonnets and peignoirs, all “lace and dimity”, dutiful men in their appropriately impressive uniforms, and rollicking pirates in swashbuckling style, with some surprising but authentic touches!

Finally, I want to call your attention to Sullivan’s superb score, a masterpiece of elegant variety, even though the maestro forgot the first act In London and had to desperately reconstruct it from memory over many a sleepless night in his New York hotel room. Resurrecting a spritely chorus from the failed “Thespis” for the entrance of the ladies, and penning “Come, friends who ploughing the sea”, the birth of our folk song “Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!”, Sir Arthur was never more delightful, nor Gilbert more cleverly inspiring to him.

As Sullivan wrote to his mother after that exhilarating, exhausting First Night: “The new year opens auspiciously for me.” Indeed, it did. And how supremely fortunate we are that for the next seventeen years, and the creation of fourteen comic operas, he and Gilbert built a legacy that we continue to enjoy today!

Gary Briggle

 

Seth Tychon Steidl as Frederic and Anna Maher as Mabel

Seth Tychon Steidl as Frederic and Anna Maher as Mabel

Waldyn Benbenek as The Pirate King and Seth Tychon Steidl as Frederic

Waldyn Benbenek as The Pirate King and Seth Tychon Steidl as Frederic

The Pirates of Penzance Reviews

         Stages of Minnesota, by Rob Dunkelberger

         Cherry and Spoon, by Jill Schafer

         Play Off the Page, by Mary Aalgaard

         PhenoMNal Twin Cities, by Stephanie Kwong

 

Two excellent internet resources for information about The Pirates of Penzance:

Wikipedia – The Pirates of Penzance

The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive – The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance 2022 Show Poster

Show Poster

Poster design by Tom McGregor and Mary Olson
The Pirates of Penzance 2022 Company Photo

Company Photo

Photography by Ellie Herringshaw, Twin Cities Headshots

“Poor wandering ones!
If such poor love as ours,
can help you find,
true peace of mind,
why, take it, it is yours!”

—The Full Company
The Pirates of Penzance