Opera Scotland

H M S Pinafore 1878Comedy Opera Company

Read more about the opera H M S Pinafore

H.M.S. Pinafore enjoyed a startling success at its London premiere, and went on tour quickly, with a staging that reached Scotland within six months.  Its London predecessor, The Sorcerer, also received three performances each week,

The after-piece performed every evening, following both Pinafore and The Sorcerer, was a farce by J H  Ryley, entitled Congenial Souls, presumably with only incidental music, or less likely, none at all.  Ryley was better known as a comic actor and playwright.

Arthur Rousbey set up his own company a few years later, touring serious opera, and Charles Campbell spent several seasons with Carl Rosa.

The conductor Hamilton Clarke would divide his time between the Bernard and D'Oyly Catre companies.  His greatest claim to fame is that as Sullivan's assistant he would be credited with the arrangement or composition of the overture to The Mikado in 1885.

Cast details are from The Comet in the Lamb Collection 253 (5) in Dundee City Library.

Performances in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen to be confirmed.


Dundee Advertiser: Tuesday, 29 October 1878    (p5)

Theatre Royal - Performance of HMS Pinafore

'Whatever may be thought of comic opera as a branch of legitimate musical art, there can be no question about its increasing popularity in this country.  Estimated at its lowest value, it is a source of much enjoyment to most people, and there seems no good reason why even the best of composers should not engage in its production, with the double view of gratifying and exalting a now widely-spread taste.  Until very recently this taste for the lighter class of opera subsisted chiefly on diet which, if palatable, was not quite so wholesome as could be wished. French dramas of facile morality, set to French music of flimsy texture, have been served up with such modifications to story and action as conventional respectability on this side of the Channel demanded. But even thus “toned down”, some of these works are not so well-conditioned as to beget the unqualified approval of thoughtful-minded people, who are yet quite susceptible to the pleasures of genuine humour. Verily, there is room for improvement here.

'Something better than Offenbach and his school have yet furnished there must be if comic opera is to become a thing of respectability in this country. The amendment has indeed begun, for HMS Pinafore, which was given for the first time in Dundee last night, and in The Sorcerer which comes on with the latter half of the week, we meet with two comedy operas of which “music and morals” are alike free from dubiety.  In them Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan have embodied talent of a very high order, and devoted it to excellent purpose, and thus laid the foundation of an English school of humorous opera which it is to be hoped their united genius will still further extend.

'No words can describe the wit, the humour, the fun wrapped up in the book and music of HMS Pinafore as disclosed in the graceful and elegant performance of this admirably-equipped Comedy Opera Company. That must be experienced, and those who cannot attend the remaining performances may be certain that they have yet to know what a thoroughly good comic opera is.  The best as well as the fairest review of the performance we can give is to note the fact that of the twenty-one numbers the opera contains seven drew forth encores from all parts of a well-filled house.

'What with the superior style in which the piece was put on the stage, the great ability displayed in the acting, the intelligent and tasteful singing not only of the principals but of the large chorus, the smart dialogue, full of “quips and cracks”, the singular appropriateness of the music, in which Dr Sullivan preserves the nautical character in a manner that justifies the highest encomiums that can be offered to a musician’s artistic skill and temperament, the interest never flagged for a moment.  We heartily commend this operetta to the attention of everybody in Dundee - musical and non-musical - under the conviction that, besides the intrinsic value of the piece, which is indeed very high, the exhilarating character of the entertainment will refresh the mind and whet the taste for comic opera of the purest class.'


Dundee Advertiser: Wednesday, 30 October 1878   (p5)

Comic Opera at the Theatre Royal

'Evolutionists declare that the ancestors of man before they possessed articulate language had recourse to warbling for the fascination of females. It is thus permitted us to imagine that operatic music originated in the powerfully emotional hymns of popular humanity. Even now music remains the natural language of love.  Our readers who doubt this may be convinced this very night by listening to the impassioned strains with which that “splendid sailor” Ralph Rackstraw woos the daughter of the “well-bred captain of the ‘Pinafore’”.  Passion, escaping from the frigid trammels of mere speech, instinctively bursts into song.  If we thrill with delight at the high notes of the heroic tenor, and shudder with terror as the basso growls forth his hate, it is, if Darwin is to be believed, because heredity has imprinted in our intellectual and moral organisation a vague remembrance of the musical language of our speechless but tuneful fathers.

'And so in the works of the greatest composers and in the efforts of the most gifted cantatrices we but listen to the echo of the melodies by which mute humanity hummed forth its loves and hates, its quarrels and combats, its jealousies, sorrows and joys.  It therefore clearly follows that to assist as hearers at the representations now nightly proceeding at the Theatre Royal is an act of veneration for our far-removed ancestors.

'This duty has been devoutly fulfilled by the music-loving public of the town.  The audiences have been large and enthusiastic.  The piquant sarcasm, the rare humour, and the tuneful measures which set them off have commanded unflagging applause.  In Pinafore the weaknesses of humanity are unquestionably ridiculed, but the auditors, while enjoying the fun, are not sent away with a too depreciatory estimate of their neighbours.  Judgment is only temporarily circumvented and captivated by Gilbert’s paradoxical nonsense, which, helped by the musicianly strains of Sullivan, saturates the mind with mirth.

'All sorts of playgoers are pleased.  The humourist is delighted with the clever and sometimes startling manner in which the problems of society are treated.  Who can resist the delicate satire of the introspective school which is conveyed in the captain’s appeal to the moon for an explanation of the sixish and sevenish state of things in this world, or refrain from laughter at the egotistical autobiography of that monarch of the sea Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, and at the metaphysical and physiological jargon in which Ralph Rackstraw urges his suit.  The students of music have their ears regaled with good sound harmony, and the lovers of the picturesque their eyes fêted with a bright and lively scene, gemmed with ever-varying groups of charmingly attired performers.  The dressing of the piece is really a work of art, and reflects the highest credit on Mr Austin, the manager of the company.  The colours are chosen with taste and discriminately allotted to the performers, while the grouping of the figures is arranged with a nice sense of the effects of contrast.

'As Pinafore will not again be performed during the present engagement those who have not seen it should not miss to-night’s representation.'


Dundee Advertiser: Thursday, 31 October 1878    (p2)

Comic Opera at the Theatre Royal

'HMS Pinafore sailed from the Theatre Royal last night on the billows of applause, and every auditor hoped full surely that her future voyage to other theatrical ports will be as successful as it has been here.  To-night The Sorcerer will be performed.  This work is even fuller of Gilbert’s characteristic fun than Pinafore, and the vocal and orchestral scoring contributed by Mr Sullivan are equal to the happiest efforts of either.  The plot is soon told, and is ingenious in its simplicity.  The hero is so delighted with love that he deploys the chief partner of the firm of J W Wells & Co, the old established Family Sorcerers in St Mary Axe, London, to administer a philter to the gentry and peasantry of the county.

'The Sorcerer arrives, and after a laughable incantation scene, à la Der Freischütz, which is the great episode of the work, the philter is administered in the tea dispensed at a fête champêtre.  When the potion operates the effect is to make everybody fall in love with the first person he or she meets.  The mirth produced by this may readily be conceived.  The characters are finally restored to their senses by the sacrifice of the Sorcerer, who sinks through the stage amid red fire.

'As the booking has already begun briskly, those who desire seats should secure them at once.'

Performance Cast

Little Buttercup Mrs Cripps, a Portsmouth Bumboat Woman

Fanny Edwards

Bill Bobstay Boatswain's mate

Richard Cummings

Dick Deadeye Able Seaman

Arthur Rousbey

Bob Becket Carpenter's Mate

Mr E Frith

Ralph Rackstraw Able Seaman

Mr C J Campbell

Captain Corcoran commanding H.M.S. Pinafore

Michael Dwyer

Josephine the Captain's Daughter

Duglas Gordon

Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, KCB First Lord of the Admiralty

Mr J H Ryley

Hebe Sir Joseph's First Cousin

Theresa Cummings

Performance DatesH M S Pinafore 1878

Map List

Theatre Royal, Dundee | Dundee

28 Oct, 19.30 29 Oct, 19.30 30 Oct, 19.30

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