Pirates at the Opera!

Pirates of Penzance
Vancouver Opera
Dec 1-9, 2012
Pirates were roaming the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in the lobby, prior to Vancouver Opera’s wonderful production of Pirates of Penzance.  I went on Tuesday evening and the crowd was still buzzing from Saturday’s opening.  It was a lovely touch to have some of the chorus members interacting with the audience prior to the show.

Gilbert and Sullivan is not often performed by serious opera companies.  And to me, it often represents Victorian colonial values, which I have tried to rebel against in the quest for post-modern multicultural Canada.  But Pirates of Penzance was also written as social satire, critiquing the values of the day.  And with more multicultural inclusion of global pirates such as Chow Yun Fat in the Pirates of Penzance: End of the World movie,  I think I can allow myself a little more enjoyment.

This version of Pirates of Penzance is a lot of fun!  The cast and the orchestra are having fun.  We know this because the pirate king pointed his pistol at conductor Jonathan  Darlington, who also during the final applause sported a pirate hat.  And the audience was having fun… there was lots of laughter from the audience at appropriate moments, as they followed the actors and staging.

If you remotely like Gilbert and Sullivan – you will love this production.  If you have never before experienced G & S, then you will like this production.  If you were not raised in a country of the British commonwealth, then you will learn about the culture and history of the realm, and understand better about British humour, the evolution of British Music hall tradition and Broadway musicals, and maybe why the sun set on the British empire.  The program notes are by my former English teacher from Capilano College Graham Forst, who now teachers literature, philosphy and opera history at both UBC and SFU, and just happens to be married to opera star mezzo-soprano Judith Forst, who plays “Ruth” in this production.  He dares the audience to not leave the theatre humming some of the songs for this light opera.

Most G & S productions I have seen are usually by small or amateur opera/theatre companies.  So to have Vancouver Opera give Pirates a lavish treatment on the huge stage is a wonderful treat.  But then to ask Vancouver’s celebrity and theatrical Shakespearean star actor Christopher Gaze to pay Major General Stanley, and ask him to direct – is an opportunity for both the audience and Gaze, who said he “jumped at the chance.

– More to come….

Christopher Gaze was a wonderful and the very model of a modern major general, as Major-General Stanley.  We congratulated him on his performance following the show.

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