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23 October 1878


Those who saw the "Sorcerer" last spring must have hailed with pleasure the announcement that the company which represented that charming little comic opera here with so much acceptance, was to pay us a return visit. In the interval, however, several changes have occurred; some of the old faces have disappeared, and new ones have taken their place; still, the standard of efficiency has been maintained, and though we may miss our former acquaintances, we cannot be blind to the merits of those who have stepped into their shoes.

The week's programme was opened on Monday night with the production of a new piece by the authors of the Sorcerer, Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan, whose alliance has proved such a happy one. Mr. W. S. Gilbert's fanciful libretto, wedded to Arthur Sullivan's taking music, had achieved such a measure of success as to induce the authors to try another joint venture, the result of which we have now before us. H.M.S. Pinafore, which, as the name implies, is a naval sketch, contains various clever touches of humorous satire in its libretto; and some of the hits are not far wide of the mark, particularly those that take off the peculiarity in our naval arrangements which selects for responsible posts at the admiralty men who have had the least possible means of acquiring the experience appropriate to the position.

The dialogue is piquant enough, and in some passages it is really very clever; and it goes without saying that Mr. Sullivan's music is of a very pleasing cast all through. It has not, however, the same amount of originality that characterised the Sorcerer music. A considerable number of the most attractive airs suggest some reminiscences we have heard before, and both words and music at times forcibly recall the familiar Trial by Jury. Though this be the case, the present work, notwithstanding, has many claims to success on its own merits; if some of its plumes be borrowed, it arranges them to the best advantage, and the result is a very amusing production. We are made to laugh at the grotesque inversion of ranks and stations that takes place on board this particular member of "Her Majesty's Navee," the tender relations of the captain and the bumboat woman, of the captain's daughter and the foremast man, and the irresistibly funny picture of the First Lord, accompanied on all his tours of inspection by "his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts;" and the scenes and situations are managed with a skill worthy of the experience and stage-knowledge of the playwrights.

Of course, novelty or intricacy of plot is not looked for in a comic opera, and the plot of H.M.S. Pinafore is slight enough. The captain's daughter falls in love with a common sailor and vice versa. She is sought in marriage by the First Lord of the Admiralty and, to escape her father's importunities, plans a runaway marriage with her sailor lover. This scheme, however, is betrayed by a shipmate of the enamoured tar, and things look bad for the lovers; in the end it turns out, luckily for them, that owing to an interchange of children in the hands of a baby farmer, the captain is the common sailor, and the common sailor is the captain. Naturally enough, when this discovery is made, the First Lord sheers off, and the lovers unite and live happily ever afterwards.

There are few very taking solos, but some of the duets and concerted pieces are very good. Mr. J. H. Ryley, as Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., has not such a prominent part as he had in the Sorcerer, but it is not a bad one, and does not suffer in his hands. Mr. M. Dwyer as the captain is excellent and Mr. C. J. Campbell, as Ralph Rackstraw, the A.B. who falls in love with his captain's daughter, is very successful also. Both sing well, and act also with finish and ability. Miss Duglas Gordon is good as ever as Josephine, the captain's daughter; her singing is pleasing and her dress and acting charming. Miss Fanny Edwards, as Buttercup, the bumboat woman, makes one of the big hits of the piece; and Miss Theresa Cummings and Mr. Arthur Rousbey also deserve special mention, the duet between the latter and the captain being particularly good. The chorus and band are well proportioned and complete, and get along very harmoniously together; both are much beyond those of the companies that have lately attempted the department of regular opera in Aberdeen. H.M.S. Pinafore has the further advantage of being admirably put on the stage; only one scene is required, but that is pretty nearly perfect in all its appointments, and the dresses are very pretty and tasteful.

The evening's entertainment concludes with a farce from the pen of Mr. J. H. Ryley entitled Congenial Souls. It is full of fun, and forms a very apposite wind-up to the programme. Mr. Ryley himself plays the leading part in it with great energy and comic power, and is well supported, especially by Miss Florence Trevellyan as Seraphina Miggs, the maiden lady in search of an eligible partner in life; a congenial soul, in fact.

Altogether an evening may be very enjoyably spent at Her Majesty's with the present bill; and a change is promised for the latter part of the week, which will be no less attractive, the Sorcerer being then to be reproduced, when we doubt not those who have seen it before will be eager to renew their acquaintance with it, and those who have not cannot fail to desire to see a piece that has become so universal a favourite.

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