AT the Opéra Comique the genial melody of Mr. Sullivan is again wedded to the words of Mr. W. S. Gilbert. The Pirates of Penzance has succeeded to Pinafore, and certain incidents of its story and some points of its humour show that, as far as Mr. Gilbert is concerned, the memory of Pinafore has been “too much with him” while planning the new piece. One or two distinct allusions to Pinafore are not inappropriate, such as the remark that the pirates are “nearly all” noblemen who have gone wrong; but if between General Stanley and the First Lord there is no particular resemblance, the multitude of women put upon the stage as “General Stanley’s daughters” recals [sic] the First Lord’s relatives – “his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts.” That the same slightly cynical humour is to be found in both pieces is not to be wondered at. And it is a characteristic of Mr. Gilbert that whether it be in comedy or in extravaganza he paints us all as no better than we ought to be, and leaves us under the impression that it is a very good thing that we are not. The very suggestion of sentiment is to Mr. Gilbert as offensive as it became to Sir Peter Teazle when Joseph was clearly proved to have paraded sentiment too much. But the not disagreeable cynicism of Mr. Gilbert will not be to most playgoers the most noticeable thing in The Pirates of Penzance. The piece makes a welcome after-dinner amusement. Our weaknesses are satisfied to the accompaniment of very taking music, and the stage business (with which we believe Mr. Gilbert much concerns himself) is capitally managed, and the dresses are bright. The piece, moreover, is well played by Mr. Rutland Barrington, Miss Lillian Larue, Miss Hood, and others. The last-named lady is a débutante, and very promising. Her delivery of much of the music is unmistakeably effective.
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 9 November 2000