HMS Pinafore

How many of you are light opera or operetta lovers? I fell in love with the music of Gilbert and Sullivan when I first heard it in the operetta “HMS Pinafore”. Hollywood took their music and made a simple and delightful movie called “The Pirate Movie” which I greatly enjoyed. It was an Australian musical romantic comedy starring Christopher Atkins and Kristy McNichol. The movie was loosely based on the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera “The Pirates of Penzance”.

W.S. Gilbert and Richard Sullivan were an English light-opera team which was well received by audiences. On May 25, 1878, their operetta “HMS Pinafore” premiered at the Opera-Comique in London, England. It had a run of 571 performances. Gilbert and Sullivan started work on Pinafore in early 1878. 

The story was about a blowhard First Lord of the Admiralty who attempts to court and marry a British Navy captain’s lovely young daughter. However, she was in love with a lowly, enlisted sailor. As in true Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, the plot gets turned topsy-turvy. The lowly sailor was actually switched at birth with the captain making him the rightful suitor of the girl and making the girl no longer a captain’s daughter and under his social standing. Here is a video from the operetta and the same song “Modern Major General” is performed in the top video from “The Pirate Movie”.

Confusing as it may all be basically Gilbert and Sullivan operettas are lots of fun to watch and the music is always delightful. As much as critics weren’t too fond of the operetta it dealt with English patriotism and other subjects dear to all English people so it became a smash hit in London and went on to be an even bigger hit in the U.S. Since that time it has been performed many times in all different versions. Pinafore made it to cartoon fame as well. It happened in an episode of The Simpsons called “Cape Feare” when Sideshow Bob who’s a mortal enemy of Bart Simpson had his way with it.


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