Programme cover for The Pirates of Penzance

Programme cover for The Pirates of Penzance

This programme for The Pirates of Penzance at the Opera Comique is illustrated with some of the characters and scenes in the opera. In the top left, one of the Major General’s daughters, Mabel, is shown with the police who she encourages to capture the pirates in the central roundel, the Major General’s daughters are seen with him in the night-wear costumes of Act II and below that is the coast of Cornwall with the Major General in military uniform standing above the pirates and his daughters. On the far right are Mabel and Frederic, while the Pirate King on the left is recognisable from his skull and crossbones hat. The Pirates of Penzance, or the Slave of Duty, was inspired by nautical melodrama, popular in Gilbert’s youth, and by the fact that Gilbert and Sullivan’s works were being ‘pirated’ in America. In an attempt to copyright the correct version on both sides of the Atlantic, two of D’Oyly Carte’s companies performed the work for the first time in America and England a day apart, in December 1879.