'''''The Pirates of Penzance; or, The Slave of Duty''''' is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. The opera's official premiere was at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City on 31 December 1879, where the show was well received by both audiences and critics.Perry, Helga. [http://www.savoyoperas.org.uk/pirates/pp2.html Information from the Savoyoperas.org website], Savoy Operas, 27 November 2000, accessed 25 July 2009 Its London debut was on 3 April 1880, at the Opera Comique, where it ran for 363 performances, having already been playing successfully for over three months in New York.
The story concerns Frederic, who, having completed his 21st year, is released from his apprenticeship to a band of tender-hearted pirates. He meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley, and the two young people fall instantly in love. Frederic soon learns, however, that he was born on 29 February, and so, technically, he only has a birthday each leap year. His indenture specifies that he remain apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday and that he must serve for another 63 years.This figure assumes that Gilbert was ignoring the fact that there was no leap year in 1900. Otherwise, the action of the play would take place in 1873 instead of 1877, and the figure would be 67 years. See Bradley (1996), p. 244 Bound by his own sense of duty, Frederic's only solace is that Mabel agrees to wait for him faithfully.
''Pirates'' was the fifth Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration and introduced the much-parodied "Major-General's Song". The opera was performed for over a century by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in Britain and many other opera companies and repertory companies worldwide. Modernized productions include Joseph Papp's 1981 Broadway production, which ran for 787 performances, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, and spawning many imitations and a 1983 film adaptation. ''Pirates'' remains popular today, taking its place along with ''The Mikado'' and ''H.M.S. Pinafore'' as one of the most frequently played Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
- Category: 1879 operas
- Category: Cornwall in fiction
- Category: Drama Desk Award winning musicals
- Category: English comic operas
- Category: English-language operas
- Category: Operas
- Category: Operas by Gilbert and Sullivan
- Category: Operas set in England
- Category: Penzance and Newlyn
- Category: Piracy in fiction
- composer: Arthur Sullivan
- librettist: W. S. Gilbert