OPERA-COMIQUE. The Musical Times 1878 June 1 19(424): 329 [unsigned review]

    THE production of the new comic Opera on the 25th ult., called "H.M.S. Pinafore, or The Lass that loved a Sailor," the libretto by Mr. W. S. Gilbert, and the music by Mr. Arthur Sullivan, confirms us in the opinion we expressed in noticing "The Sorcerer," that this firmly cemented union between author and composer is detrimental to the art-progress of either; however, they may succeed in satisfying the temporary taste of an Opéra-Comique audience. Offenbach has shown us how merely lively and pleasing tunes can attract the general public; but Auber has proved that something higher is demanded for what is understood as "comic opera;" and that Mr. Sullivan has in him the true elements of an artist, which would be successfully developed were a carefully framed libretto presented to him for composition, can scarcely be doubted. Having thus conscientiously discharged our duties as art-critics, let us at once proceed to say that "H.M.S. Pinafore" is an amusing piece of extravagance, and that the music floats it on merrily to the end. The story which turns on the love of a young sailor for his Captain's daughter, a happy dénoûment being brought about by the declaration of a bumboat-woman that, having two children to nurse, she "mixed them up," and that the Captain should be the common sailor, and the common sailor the Captain lends itself very well to the musical treatment it has received; and the serious manner assumed by the Captain (excellently played by Mr. Barrington), and the imperturbable official bearing of Mr. Grossmith, jun., as Sir Joseph Porter (First Lord of the Admiralty), materially enhance the effect of the concerted pieces in which they are concerned. amongst the best of these we may name the opening solo, with chorus, of the Captain, in which the responses of the crew are cleverly managed; the finale to the first act, ending with a tuneful dance; a trio for Sir Joseph, the Captain, and his daughter, Josephine, where each character is supposed to be ringing the wedding-bells; and a portion of the ensemble, in which the young lover, Ralph Rackstraw, is warmly congratulated by his companions on the fact of his being an Englishman all these pieces being enthusiastically encored. A duet, too, in which the morose member of the crew, Dick Deadeye, informs the Captain of the intended elopement of his daughter, is full of character, and was also redemanded. As a rule, the acting was better than the singing; but Miss Emma Howson, who made her first appearance in London as the Captain's Daughter, created a highly favourable impression, the whole of her music, especially the ballad, "Sorry her lot who loves so well," being given with much purity of style. A printed apology was circulated for Mr. Barrington, who was evidently suffering from a severe cold, but he manfully sang the whole of his music. Mr. Power as Ralph Rackstraw, Mr. R. Temple as Dick Deadeye, and Miss Everard as the bumboat-woman, thoroughly entered into the humour of their parts, and the Chorus seemed to have been well drilled. The first song of Sir Joseph, detailing the manner in which he had gradually risen to his exalted station, was redemanded; but the unaccompanied glee, for Ralph, Boatswain, and Boatswain's [sic] Mate, was too imperfectly sung to warrant us in speaking of its merits. The Opera was carefully placed upon the stage, and Mr. Sullivan, who conducted, was called for at the conclusion, and appeared, accompanied by Mr. Gilbert.


transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 20 November 2000
updated 18 March 2007