Don’t miss ‘Pirates of Penzance’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I am very happy to write about the Natchez Festival of Music’s upcoming production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”

Considered among the duos “hit three” operettas, along with The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore (seen at the Festival in 2012 and 2014 respectively), Pirates has all of the wonderfully familiar ingredients audiences know and love about Gilbert and Sullivan — famous melodies, witty dialogue, a zany plot with rich characters and, of course, confused identities and mixed up love affairs.

Keeping with the long-standing tradition of including local references in the dialogue, our production is sure to make Natchez audiences feel at home.

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“The Pirates of Penzance” has the distinction of being the only Gilbert and Sullivan production to premiere in the United States. It was first performed at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York City in 1879. I have a long history with this show, not as far back as 1879, but the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire is important to me. I’m proud to have been a part of so much Gilbert and Sullivan throughout the United States over the past 25 years, including both recent Natchez productions.

My experience with Pirates and all of the fantastic Gilbert and Sullivan operas is that they never fail to make audiences smile. These operettas are a terrific way to introduce newcomers to opera. The show is written and performed in English. It’s a light-hearted comedy, and the music is tuneful and accessible.

Everyone will easily recognize a few of the tunes in the show, including the famous “Major General’s Song” which has been widely parodied in American culture, and the melody of “Come friends who plow the sea,” better known by the words “Hail, hail the gang’s all here.”

Our production features a remarkable cast of young artists selected through a competitive audition process by Festival Artistic Director Jay Dean. Audiences may recognize several cast members from last year’s H.M.S. Pinafore production, to which many fond references are made. But don’t worry if you didn’t see that show. You’ll enjoy this year’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance.”

My partner in crime Beth Everett conducts the orchestra. She and her merry band, to use a Gilbert and Sullivan term here, will enhance the evening from the pit and actually take part in the comedy along the way. Bring your friends. Bring a date … guys, can you think of a better way to impress a young lady than by taking her to an opera? The Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center is a historic venue, full of charm and the lingering warm spirit of the learning and teaching done there over the years, and later all of the opera, musical theater, and jazz performed under the Festival’s auspices.

I hope you’ll take an evening to learn something about our production of “The Pirates of Penzance” on May 16. Get your tickets, come early, and get ready to laugh. See you at the opera.

“The Pirates of Penzance” will be performed on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center on Homochitto St in Natchez.

Other events this weekend include A Tribute to John Alexander, Mississippi Native and Metropolitan Opera Tenor at Waverly Plantation at 790 Hwy 61 South, at 7 p.m. Friday and BLUES and BREWS Craft Beer Tasting at 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Magnolia Bluffs Casino on the banks of the Mississippi River in Natchez (must be 21 or older to attend).


Paul Houghtaling works with the Natchez Festival of Music.