Beginning this weekend, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Houston sets sail with The Pirates of Penzance! This comic opera, among the most famous by the duo of librettist W.S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, first premiered in 1879.
The story follows the exploits of a crew of kind-hearted pirates, Major-General Stanley, and two young would-be lovers, Frederic and Mabel. Frederic, having been apprenticed to the pirates for 21 years, is set to embark upon a life without the pirates and their aptly named Pirate King, but the revelation of a linguistic loophole in his servitude may prevent him from doing so. Antics ensue.
This new production is the society’s first since 2015, and stage director Nicole Kenley-Miller has set out to have new sets, costumes, and even a jump forward in time from when the opera was originally set — going from the 1870s to the 1890s.
In the audio above, you can hear from Kenley-Miller about Gilbert & Sullivan’s influence on musical theater, their most famous “patter song,” and the difference a two-decade time jump makes on the setting.