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UNT Opera Theatre/Courtesy photo
In Pirates of Penzance, young lovers Frederic and Mabel try to steer their love through the rough waters of the English class system and family dysfunction.
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UNT Opera Theatre sets sail for English comedy in ‘Pirates’

Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta Pirates of Penzance goes down like tiramisu — it’s a light, fluffy amusement that means to make its audience smile.

And yet its easy-on-the-ears libretto is full of technical flourish and puts a vocalist through his or her paces.

Paula Homer, director of the University of North Texas Opera Theatre, said Pirates is a starter opera — perfect for the newbie who likes classical music, but isn’t ready to compete with a Wagnerian plot and lots of supertitles.

“I think in particular this Gilbert and Sullivan opera has number after number that is a delight,” Homer said. “It’s terrific, and it’s funny.”

The story goes like this: Frederic has been indentured to a band of soft-hearted pirates (pillaging might be too bruising for this bunch). Mabel is the daughter of the Major-General Stanley. Frederic and Mabel fall in love in the midst of a mess made up of the major-general’s meddling and the antics of Mabel’s siblings.

The opera is a comedic love story wrapped in a playful slap at the English class system, pitting the Cockney accents against the proper Queen’s English of London.

The elements of farce make Pirates an approachable project. That W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan were chief song-crafters in British light opera of their age means the opera will be performed in English.

The UNT Concert Orchestra will be conducted by Stephen Dubberly. Dubberly will also give an informal lecture before each performance for ticketholders.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and March 1, and 3 p.m. this Sunday and March 3. Performances are at the Lyric Stage at the Murchison Performing Arts Center, located alongside Interstate 35E. Tickets cost $15 to $35, depending on seating. For reservations, call 940-369-7802.

— Lucinda Breeding


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