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Pirates of Penzance

Cover to D'Oyly Carte Opera Company Recording

or The Slave of Duty

Music by Arthur Sullivan; Lyrics and Libretto by W.S. Gilbert

Bijou Theatre, Paignton, Devon - 30 December, 1879
Opéra Comique, London - 3 April, 1880
Savoy Theatre, London - 23 December, 1884
Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York - 31 December, 1879

The Story

(The coast of Cornwall)

The pirates of Penzance (a rather tender-hearted band, made up exclusively of orphans and unable to harm anyone of similar background) are celebrating Frederic's coming of age and subsequent release from his apprenticeship to them. He joined the pirates as a child owing to a mistake by Ruth, his nursemaid, who misheard his father's instructions to apprentice him to a pilot. She has remained with Frederic ever since and now harbours a desire to marry him.

However, Frederic has met and fallen in love with Mabel whose sisters the pirates have claimed as their future brides. Their father, the General, is horrified at this prospect and declares himself to be an orphan, knowing that this will effect their immediate release. As an ex-pirate, Frederic now feels that his duty is to society and he wastes no time in assembling a police force to capture the pirates. He is, therefore, dismayed when he learns from Ruth and the Pirate King that, due to the fact that his birthday is on 29th February and only occurs once every four years, he has in effect only had five birthdays; the terms of his apprenticeship state that he is bound to the pirates until his 21 st birthday.

Consequently, feeling that his loyalty is now to the pirates again, he reveals that the General is not really an orphan. The Pirate King is furious that he has been tricked and he plots to capture the General, his daughters and the policemen and take his revenge. This task proves no problem to his band of men until the Sergeant demands that they surrender in the name of Queen Victoria. This is too much for them and they yield to the request. However, as they are about to be taken into custody Ruth reveals that they are not really pirates at all, but noblemen who have gone astray. On hearing this, the General orders their release, restores them to their rightful ranks and offers them his daughters in marriage.

Principal Characters

(plus Chorus)

Major-General Stanley
The Pirate King Samuel (his Lieutenant)
Frederic (the Pirate Apprentice)
Sergeant of Police
Mabel, Kate, Isabel and Edith (General Stanley's Daughters)
Ruth (a Pirate Maid of all Work)

Musical numbers

Act I

  1. Pour, oh pour, the pirate sherry (Samuel and Chorus of Pirates)
  2. When Fred'ric was a little lad (Ruth)
  3. Oh, better far to live and die ...I am a pirate king! (Pirate King and Chorus of Pirates)
  4. Oh! false one, you have deceiv'd me (Frederic and Ruth)
  5. Climbing over rocky mountain (Chorus of Girls)
  6. Stop, ladies, pray (Edith, Kate, Frederic, and Chorus of Girls)
  7. Oh, is there not one maiden breast? (Frederic and Chorus of Girls)
  8. Poor wand'ring one (Mabel and Chorus of Girls)
  9. What ought we to do? (Edith, Kate, and Chorus of Girls)
  10. How beautifully blue the sky (Mabel, Frederic, and Chorus of Girls)
  11. Stay, we must not lose our senses ... Here's a first-rate opportunity to get married with impunity (Frederic and Chorus of Girls and Pirates)
  12. Hold, monsters (Mabel, Major-General, Samuel, and Chorus)
  13. I am the very model of a modern Major-General (Major-General and Chorus)
  14. Finale Act I (Mabel, Kate, Edith, Ruth, Frederic, Samuel, King, Major-General, and Chorus)

Act II

  1. Oh, dry the glist'ning tear (Mabel and Chorus of Girls)
  2. Then, Frederic, let your escort lion-hearted (Frederic and Major-General)
  3. When the foeman bares his steel (Mabel, Edith, Sergeant, and Chorus of Policemen and Girls)
  4. Now for the pirates' lair! (Frederic, Ruth, and King)
  5. When you had left our pirate fold (A paradox) (Ruth, Frederic, and King)
  6. Away, away! My heart's on fire! (Ruth, Frederic, and King)
  7. All is prepar'd; your gallant crew await you (Mabel and Frederic)
  8. Stay, Fred'ric, stay ... Oh, here is love, and here is truth (Mabel and Frederic)
  9. No, I'll be brave ... Though in body and in mind (Reprise of When the foeman bares his steel) (Mabel, Sergeant, and Chorus of Police)
  10. Sergeant, approach! (Mabel, Sergeant of Police, and Chorus of Police)
  11. When a felon's not engaged in his employment (Sergeant and Chorus of Police)
  12. A rollicking band of pirates we (Sergeant and Chorus of Pirates and Police)
  13. With cat-like tread, upon our prey we steal (Samuel and Chorus of Pirates and Police)
  14. Hush, hush, not a word! (Frederic, King, Major-General, and Chorus of Police and Pirates)
  15. Finale, Act II (Ensemble)


(Total number of books = 21)

3 Violins I; 3 Violins II; 2 Violas; 2 Cellos; 1 Double Bass; 1 Flute; 1 Oboe; 1 Clarinet; 1 Horn; 1 Trumpet; 1 Trombone;
1 Timpani; 1 Percussion; 1 Piano (optional - annotated vocal score); 1 Full Score