Company:Dayton Opera
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performance datesmatinee
Saturday, March 2, 2019
Sunday, March 3, 2019
The Pirates of Penzance
Composer: Sir Arthur Sullivan

Librettist: William S. Gilbert

Premiere Date: Wednesday, December 31, 1879
Act I
A rocky seashore on the coast of Cornwall, England (1873)
The pirates are toasting Frederic, who has finished his apprenticeship and is now a full-fledged pirate. Some years earlier, Ruth, Frederic’s nurse, accidentally bound him to serve a pirate instead of a pilot. Frederic abhors this occupation, but due to an absurdly over-developed sense of duty he refused to leave until his contractual obligation was met. Now he invites the pirates to return to civilization with him, but their King points out that piracy is comparatively honest when contrasted to respectability.

Frederic has never laid eyes on any woman other than the middle-aged and very plain Ruth who has remained by his side, and whom he thinks of as beautiful. He is soon met with reality when he spies the daughters of Major-General Stanley arriving for a picnic on the beach. Frederic begs one of them to take pity on his lot and marry him. He finds a most willing accomplice to this plan in Mabel Stanley.

The pirates return, kidnap the girls, and declare their immediate intention of being “conjugally matrimonified,” a situation that is averted by the arrival of the Major-General. Knowing one of the pirates’ weaknesses, he throws himself on the mercy of the pirates, declaring that he is an orphan, and the tenderhearted pirates agree not to take away his daughters.

Act II
A ruined chapel by moonlight
In the ruins of a chapel that the upwardly-mobile Major-General Stanley has purchased to boost a sagging family reputation, his daughters are trying to comfort him. He has a guilty conscience because he lied to the pirates about being an orphan and has brought shame upon his ancestors who lie buried in the nearby graveyard. Frederic, now associated with the Major-General because of his alliance with Mabel, declares his intentions to exterminate the pirates, a change of view that again stems from his sense of duty, this time to Mabel and her family and to society in general.

The Pirate King and Ruth return to tell Frederic that he must rejoin their band, because a slight error in calculation in his pirate apprenticeship was made and he is not yet free from his indentures. The wording in the contract that bound him to the pirates stipulates his twenty-first birthday, not his twenty-first year. Frederic was born on the 29th of February in a leap year, and will not reach his 21st birthday for another 67 years.

Mabel agrees to wait for him until he is once again free and resolves to lead the police expedition against the pirates herself, and against Frederic whose sense of duty has once again brought about a change of alliances. The police arrive and quickly lose a battle with the pirates; however, the pirates promptly surrender when the name of Queen Victoria is invoked by the police.

Ruth saves the day by revealing that the pirates are really misguided noblemen. Realizing the boost this could give to his social position, the Major-General urges the ex-pirates to resume their legislative duties and marry his large family on the spot, thus affecting a happy and tuneful reunion for all of the couples.

Courtesy of Lyric Opera of Kansas City
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