Archive for the ‘The Pirates of Penzance December 2012’ Category


‘Pirates’ the very model of a modern operetta


For The Register-Guard

Published: December 31, 2012 12:00AM,Midnight, Dec 31, 2012

“The Pirates of Penzance” is an operetta that, as one 19th century critic declared, even a misanthrope would enjoy.

On Friday evening at the Hult Center, the Eugene Opera confirmed the enduring high spirits and fun that still can be found in W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s works. Dripping with Victorian costumes and punch lines, prettified by Don Carson’s updated cartoon sets and alive with active and sometimes hammy antics, the performance was a delightful start to the opera’s season.

Operetta is a theatrical form that includes spoken as well as sung lines, but more specifically it is a type of 19th century musical which began in France and reached its apex in Gilbert and Sullivan. It loved to make fun of contemporary situations and serious opera.

While Gilbert spoofed Victorian mores when he not so subtly equated the pirates with English noblemen, and Sullivan ribbed the Italian opera of Giuseppe Verdi and Gaetano Donizetti, poor “Il Trovatore” bore the brunt of Sullivan’s musical humor in “Pirates.”

Eugene Opera General Director Mark Beudert was in the spotlight Friday. He took on the added task of directing this show, and since he had been a chorister in Joseph Papp’s hit version in the 1980s, he knew what he wanted.

Beudert made this a lively show, full of expected but still humorous stage gestures. If that were all, he would have had a full plate, but Beudert also filled in for the ailing lead tenor: Joshua Dennis.

As he did several seasons ago, Beudert sang from the sidelines as Dennis did his best to act the part of Frederic in silence. Beudert sang admirably on short notice.

Dennis is expected to be singing tonight. The rest of the main cast could not only sing on their own but act well, too.

As the Pirate King, Mark Walters had all the swagger of a pirate as well as an exciting and rich baritone voice. Anne Allgood played the zany servant Ruth with excellent comic timing. Angela Theis was marvelous in the coloratura role of Mabel, Frederic’s beloved.

The key to spoofing opera is being able to sing like an opera star. And in her signature aria, Theis warbled as beautifully as any Lucia di Lammermoor. Her voice is light, but her flexibility and high notes carried the day.

Curt Olds as Major-General Stanley proved that he is a master of the patter song. Familiar names took on the minor roles with solid singing and acting. Sandy Naishtat was the lieutenant in the pirate band and Marco Valerio was the sergeant of police, while the trio of the general’s daughters was played by Brooke Cagno, Alyse Jamieson and Sophie Therrell.

The chorus, under John Jantzi, and orchestra, directed by Andrew Bizantz, continue to improve and now provide the solid musicianship that is required for any good opera company. The orchestra’s playing of the overture was impressive even though the piece was misplaced to precede the second instead of the first act.

Go, and take your funny bone with you.

Marilyn Farwell, a professor emerita of English at the University of Oregon, reviews vocal and choral music for The Register-­Guard.


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