Sullivan: The Pirates of Penzance

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: The Pirates of Penzance
PERFORMER: John Mark Ainsley, Rebecca Evans, Richard Van Allan, Donald Adams, Richard Suart, Gillian KnightWelsh National Opera Orchestra & Chorus/Charles Mackerras
‘It’s a joy economical, very’, as they sing in another Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. The Pirates of Penzance is offered here on a single CD with nearly 80 minutes of music, a follow-up by Telarc and Mackerras to their version of The Mikado in similar format. Once again the overture is omitted (no great loss). The dialogue is likewise left out, so it seems a Gilbertian paradox that the booklet prints what we already have in song, rather than the speech we lack.


In this effervescent, excellent performance Mackerras balances the demands of music and comedy really well, not (as with The Mikado) milking the music for an excess of detail. Alongside singers seasoned in the style (Richard Van Allan and Richard Suart unbeatable as the Sergeant of Police and the Major-General), John Mark Ainsley crosses over from Baroque and produces not only the right kind of ringing tenor for Frederic, but the goofy moral earnestness as well. Less happily cast (the role of Mabel needs a lighter voice) is Rebecca Evans, lately the heart-winning heroine of Welsh National Opera’s Cendrillon: as the notes rise, her words lose clarity, and more than a hint of squeak invades her gratuitous top E flat.


The WNO chorus and orchestra contribute splendidly to a resonant recording with an appreciably wide ‘sound-stage’. Arthur Jacobs