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Concert Program Cover

Fourth Concert of the 69th Season

The Pirates of Penzance
or
"The Slave of Duty"

May 2-4, 2008
Cordier Auditorium
Scott Strode and Debra Lynn, Directors

  Cast List  
  Richard, Pirate King David Moan  
  Samuel, his lieutenant Ben Martin  
  Frederic (a pirate apprentice) Nicholas Kenny  
  Major General Stanley (of the British Army) Andrew Suhre  
  Edward, Sergeant of Police Aaron Hostetler  
  Mabel (General Stanley's youngest daughter) Najah Monroe  
  Kate (General Stanley's daughter) Jackie Dobbert  
  Edith (General Stanley's daughter) Kira Hawkins  
  Isabel (General Stanley's daughter) Katrina Kardys  
  Daughter Kaitlin Hughes  
  Daughter Caitlin Haynes  
  Daughter Brooke Pratt  
  Daughter Katie McCann  
  Ruth (a piratical maid-of-all-work) Kathy Hawkins  
  Pirates Anna Emrick, Ayana Brown, Zach Blatz, Nathan Driscoll, Joel Waggy, Gabe Hoagland, Robert Bucher, Austin Freels, Kurt Foster, Katy McFadden  
  Police Andrew Haff, Charles Lovett, Zach Blatz, Kurt Foster, Austin Freels, Robert Bucher  
  Daughters' Friends Amanda Foust, Rachael Heath, Olesya Savinkova, Anna Harvey, Heidi Gonyea, Lindsey Baugh, Tiffany Berkebile, Tedra Tague, Katherine Allen, Megan Bucher, Cheryl Huntington  
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Libretto by Sir W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
 
 

The names Gilbert and Sullivan go together as easily as Rimsky and Korsakov. We think of them almost as one person. Certainly, they conjure up a notion of a distinct type of operetta. We sometimes speak of a Gilbert-and-Sullivan sort of music. Together, they produced thirteen comic operas, representing perhaps the greatest collaboration between composer and librettist in history.

So, what do Gilbert and Sullivan operettas have that mark them as a distinct genré? They are irreverent, satirical, absurd, tuneful, and feature "patter-songs." These are comprised of tongue-twisting, alliterative, rhyming phrases that are sung very rapidly, with each word punctuated by a single note. An excellent example of the patter-song comes early in Pirates, when the major-general introduces himself as "... the very model of a modern major-general."

Although the origin of the patter-song goes back at least to Mozart, it now is associated with Gilbert and Sullivan the way mobiles are associated with Alexander Calder, in spite of the fact that other artists have made them, too (but not as well). The aria Largo al factotum, from Rossini's The Barber of Seville is, of course a patter-song, but if you ask people to define one, they will almost certainly refer to Gilbert and Sullivan.

But the G&S operettas are not simply a matter of words and tunes; they are often highly critical of British behavior: particularly, the excessive reverence for the class system, the exaggerated sense of honor, and the emphasis on tradition. In The Mikado, for example, there is a great deal of social criticism of the English, which the public swallowed because the setting was Japan. Had the work been set in Britain, it is possible that the public would have been offended. One thing all the operettas have in common is spoofing of pomp.

Sullivan's early career was dedicated to serious music. He wrote incidental music to plays by Shakespeare, many choral works, a symphony, a cello concerto, and many overtures and chamber works. These early works were very successful, and brought him into contact with such luminaries as Charles Dickens, Tennyson, Rossini, Millais (who did a famous portrait of him, now in the National Portrait Gallery in London), and he became a close friend of the Duke of Edinburgh.

His career took a sudden change of direction in 1871, after a performance of his first comic opera, Cox and Box, when Sullivan was introduced to the writer, W.S. Gilbert. Their first collaboration was Thespis, followed four years later by the more successful Trial by Jury. Once Sullivan realized his gift for humor, he all but abandoned an interest in serious concert music, and the result is that his earlier music which had marked him as a very promising composer is now almost forgotten. His symphony (The Irish) still has much to recommend it.

The public seemed to be more taken with Gilber's words than Sullivan's music, a matter which he considered unfair. Clever, the words may be, but a close attention to the way in which those words are set to music reveals just how inventive Sullivan was. He was careful to provide the women choruses with gay and lively tunes that contrasted nicely with the masculine swaggering music of the men. He developed the "tune combination," where two groups sing simultaneously in different rhythms. For examples, in Pirates, shortly after Frederick makes his appearance as the ladies are about to go wading, while Mabel and he are singing romantically to onw another in waltz-time, the girls are chattering, sotto voce in 2/4 time.

After a successful run of some eight operettas with Gilbert as librettist, Sullivan began to think that he had been investing too much effort in works that were, basically, trivial. he thought he should apply himself to more worthy projects, and there was a falling out between the two partners. Neither Gilibert nor D'Oyly Carte, the producer (and contract-holder) of their operettas could persuade Sullivan to change his mind. That is, until 1884, the year of the Japanese Exposition in London. Gilberrt was excited by the exoticism of the Japanese, and persuaded Sullivan to join him in another production: The Mikado. That was enormously successful, and renewed the partnership which produced five more operettas.


 
       
  SYNOPSIS  
 

The Pirates of Penzance was produced before the break-up of the pair. It remains one of the three or four most beloved of the thirteen operettas they wrote together. It opens with the twenty-second birthday of Frederick, who had been indentured to a pirate ship by his nanny, who had misunderstood her instructions. She had been told to apprentice him to a pilot, not a pirate.

Frederick has been waiting for his twenty-two years to run out so that he can become a law-abiding citizen. As soon as he is free, he will not only be a good citizen, but he swears to devote himself to exterminating the pirates. He had been a good pirate. As he says, as a child he was apprenticed to the band of pirates, and he was duty-bound to serve them well. The subtitle of the opera tells it all: The Slave of Duty.

The king of the pirates is very understanding, and tells Frederick that he must always follow his conscience. Since Frederick believes he is duty-bound to destroy his erstwhile friends, they can all understand that perfectly. The pirates are just as bound by duty as anyone else. In fact, they are inept pirates, since they are so tender-hearted that they never attack anyone weaker than themselves. As a result, they are always trounced. When they do succeed in taking prisoners, they always release them when they are told that the prisoners are orphans (because they are orphans, themselves). It strikes them as only slightly odd that all the prisoners they have ever taken claim to be orphans.

Frederick goes ashore with the intention of taking up an honest life, and meets on the shore a large group of sisters. They are at first frightened, but Mabel, hearing of his past and his intentions, melts and a romance begins. The girls' father, the major general, comes on the scene as the pirates surround the group. He is freed when the king of the pirates is told that the major general, too, was an orphan.

Frederick is put in charge of a group of policemen, and intends to trap the pirates. There is a confrontation between him and the king of the pirates and his nursemaid, who reveal an interesting fact: Frederick had been born on February 29th, so that although he had lived twenty-two years, he is technically only five years old. They have a great laugh over this, until the king tells Frederick that his indenture is not yet up, and that he is still a pirate. Frederick protests that he has served his twenty-two years, but the king reminds him that the contract says he is indentured until his twenty-second birthday, which won't come until 1940. Since he is bound by duty, he regretfully tells his sweetheart that he will have to go with the pirates, but will return for her in ninety-six years. She says she will wait.

This is enough of a plot outline to show why the work is subtitled The Slave of Duty. Suffice it to say, things are worked out to the satisfaction of all, they way they always do in the operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan.


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin I
Dessie Arnold, Concertmaster
Linda Kummernuss
Rob Morrison
Moo Il Rhee
Liisa Wiljer

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Heather Hufgard +
Jennifer Iannuzzelli +
Paula Merriman

Viola
Naida MacDermid *
Jessica Jacoby +
Julie Sadler

Cello
Brook Bennett *
Rosemary Bond +
Erica Hedges +
Cori Miner +

Bass
Darrel Fiene *

Piccolo
Jena Eichenlaub

Flute
Sarah Curry +
Jena Eichenlaub +
Oboe
Nyssa Gore +
Deana Strantz +

Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Mark W. Huntington
Amy Reidhaar +

Bassoon
Erich Zummack *

Horn
Nicole Anderson +
Brittany Cook +

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Joe Peloza

Trombone
Jon Hartman *
Tom Airgood

Percussion
Michael Holler +
Joshua Faudree +

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student