Original Australian Cast
Saturday, March 19th, 1881
Initial run: 42 performances

The Pirate King

Guglielmo (Signor) Verdi


Mr. Armes Beaumont

Major-General Stanley

Mr. J. A. South

Sergeant of Police

Mr. J. C. Williamson


Mr. T. Bergin


Miss Maggie Moore


Miss Cora Gwynne


Miss Fanny Liddiard


Miss Acton Blair


The first production of any musical or dramatic work in our city deservedly attracts public attention; the production of an entirely new and original comic opera within a year of its first performance in London is as rare in colonial annals as it is credible to those who shew such enterprise in their provision for public amusements. The bare fact is sufficient to make last saturday night an important one in theatrical records, and yet the fact forms but a small share of that which will make the night a memorable one.

On entering the theatre a pleasant surprise awaited all in the prettily designed and novel programme, no sensational advertisements, no huge sheet of paper (with ink so wet that our fair companion soils her white glove, or her still whiter finger visible beyond the lace mitten), but a well-printed and illustrated playbill; the first page gives three pictures from different portions of the opera; the second and third pages contain the list off characters and the names of the artists by whom they are undertaken, with interesting particulars of the scenery, costumes, and properties; the fourth page has a view of what proves a most effective scene in the opera, and serves as a capital stimulant to our imagination. The innovation is most agreeable. The theatre was inconveniently crowded, the day had been excessively hot and the atmosphere before the entertainment began was stifling; the rustle of the fans, the hum of the voices from contending parties as to the lawful possession of chairs, the exuberant spirits and boisterous tongues of many who climb to the theatrical Olympus and from Jove's quarters hurl forth the Saturday night paean, combined to render the overture nearly inaudible, and a second an third hearing will be necessary to realise the effect of this and of the instrumentation throughout the opera.

"The Pirates of Penzance" is the third of the works emanating from the united powers of Messrs. W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, the former familiar by his powerful satires in prose and verse, the latter one of the most popular, prolific, and capable of English composers. The libretto of "The Pirates of Penzance" has in many features a striking affinity to "Pinafore", though there is a greater variety, and the fun in the dialogue has the advantage in kind and in amount. In the music, too, there is a general family likeness, but the advance corresponds with the improvement in the book.

The title tells the locale, and the picturesque attractions of the neighbourhood have found an admirable exponent in Mr Gordon, who has furnished truly beautiful scenery for each act. For the first, "The Pirate's Lair", a cavern surrounded by apparently inaccessible rocks; from its entrance the calm sea is visible, lines of rock stretch on either side; on the right the rocks end in one projecting pillar sinking into the ocean bed, and through the natural arch thus formed, the sun is apparently setting, and casting its warm golden and roseate tints around. The picture is very beautiful, though, as the story begins at 11.30 a.m., the colouring is too warm, and the sun too low; but then, as in "Pinafore" everything is "at sixes or at sevens".

(There follows a lengthy description of the opera - much emphasis on the costumes and not so much on the singing.)

For the concluding tableau Mr. Gordon has painted and arranged a ship, with the divinity Britannia standing, colossus fashion, on the prow of the ship, a shield on her left arm, her right hand grasping a trident; one supporter stands behind, on her right; and under the shade of the sail, on which the Royal arms of England glitter in the sun, another figure reposes. Signor Verdi stepped forward, flag in hand, and gave out "Rule Britannia" in grand style, and brought to a close a performance which throughout had gone without a hitch.

The applause throughout was frequent and universal, the several artists were welcomed enthusiastically, and at the conclusion of the first act all the principals were summoned in front of the curtain. The "imp" Ginger, with his attendant spirit, the little cousin Hebe, made considerable fun.

It is all so new and is so well done that we shall have much more to say. After the first representation, we can warmly congratulate the enterprising manger on the success of the venture, and the public on having a good work, and one of the latest novelties, put upon the Sydney stage in a style hitherto unapproached in magnificence. The principals, chorus, orchestra, and conductor all did their best to ensure the result which reflects such credit on all engaged.

Sydney Morning Herald. Monday March 21th, 1881.


M. Kowalski's season at the Gaiety Theatre terminated on Friday evening, and on Saturday the Sweatnam Minstrel Company occupied the boards. Amongst the members of this company are several old Sydney favourites, while there are also some new faces. The company had a very good reception at the hands of the large audience, and their admirable programme was gone through in a most successful manner. The curtain rose punctually at 8 o'clock upon the time-honoured musical and jocular introduction, and the overture from "La Perichole" was given by the orchestra in excellent tune and taste. Mr. C.S. Fredericks sang a very pretty ballad in good style, and Mr. W.H. Bent, the tambo of the troupe, gave, in a most comic manner the "Lardy-dah" song, which was all the rage in Melbourne during the currency of the pantomimee at the Theatre Royal in that city. Hewass compelled to submit to an encore. Mr. P.J. Shannon made his first appearance before a Sydney audience with "Kiss me to sleep". Mr. Shannon is a decided acquisition to the ranks of minstrelsy in Australasia, as he has a fine tenor voice of goodcompasss; he created avery favourable impression, and in response to a loud demand, repeated the last verse of his song. Mr. Sweatnam is a genuine comique, and during his song "Nobody knows the trouble I see", the laughter from all parts of the theatre was loud and long. Three different timeswass he compelled to give the audience some more, and even then some of them did not appear half satisfied. Mr. Beautmont Read then sang, in his old sweetstylee, "The peasant's return", and was vociferously applauded, in acknowledgement of which he repeated the last verse of his song. The first part of the programme was brought to a close with the "Old Kentury Home", theprincipall characters being taken by Messrs. Sweatman, Bent, Gilmore, and Keenan. In the second part there was some first class dancing by Messrs. Gilmore and Keenan, with some comic business of character very much superior to that usually seen; and the entertainment terminated with a laughable absurdity, entitled "Dodging the crowd". The programmee will he repeated this evening and during the week.

Sydney Morning Herald. Monday March 21th, 1881.

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