H.M.S Pinafore


Links to the different times
we have performed this show:

1975 1983 1994 1998 (Potted) 2002 2015
      (No program picture)    



The fourth collaboration between Gilbert & Sullivan was their first blockbuster hit: "H.M.S. Pinafore", or "The Lass That Loved a Sailor." This opera opened May 28, 1878 at the Opera Comique. It ran for 571 performances and became a huge fad in England, as well as in America, being copied illegally by dozens of performing companies in the US, as well as being presented there by Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte themselves. Pinafore is among the most popular Gilbert and Sullivan operas, perhaps because of its infectious tunes and generally well-constructed libretto.

Drawing on several of his earlier "bab ballad" poems, Gilbert embued HMS Pinafore with mirth and silliness to spare. The opera's gentle satire reprises and builds upon one of The Sorcerer's themes: Love between members of different social classes. The gentlemanly Captain of the Pinafore, who claims that he would never swear at his crew (What, Never?), does not know that his daughter has fallen in love with a common sailor serving on her father's ship. Meanwhile, the Captain has arranged for her to marry the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Joseph Porter. Sir Joseph himself has risen from humble beginnings to gain his office by political acumen, despite having never gone to sea! And the Captain himself fancies a poor bumboat woman. Fear not: it all works out in the end. Hip, hip, hoorah!

H.M.S. PINAFORE, or "The Lass that loved a Sailor", received only very modified praise in the Press and it seemed at first as if it were going to be a failure. Unfortunately, too, just at this critical time a heat-wave spread over England which adversely affected the takings to an alarming degree-theatres became stiflingly hot and were the last places the public wished to visit at such a time.

However, by a stroke of good fortune Sullivan played "Pinafore" at a Promenade Concert at Covent Garden and popularised it to such an extent that, the weather becoming cooler, people flocked to the Opera Comique to hear the real thing, and by the end of August "Pinafore" was the rage of London.

Gilbert, in the person of Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., caricatures W. H. Smith, who was M.P. for Westminster at that time-he represented Westminster from 1868 to 1885-and had risen from a newsboy to be head of the Admiralty-as First Lord; a post offered to him by Disraeli which he held from 1877 to 1880. William Henry Smith, P.C., born 24 June, 1825, an eminent statesman, married as her second husband, Emily, Viscountess Hambledon, and died in 1891.



We first meet the crew of H.M.S Pinafore singing happily of their life aboard ship, but they are soon interrupted by Little Buttercup who sings to them of the wares she has to sell. After a brief encounter with the disliked Dick Deadeye, Ralph appears on the scene. He is dejected and sad because the lady whom he loves is the Captain's daughter Josephine and, being a common sailor, he can never hope to marry her. At this point the Captain comes on deck, and after greeting his crew, extols his virtues, including the fact that "he never swears a big big D".

Josephine is betrothed to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Joseph Porter K.C.B. but she secretly loves Ralph as much as he loves her. She confesses to her father that she loves a "common sailor" but declares she will be resolute and he will never know of her affection.
Sir Joseph Porter is heard approaching together with his attentive crowd of sisters, cousins and aunts, and after introducing himself to the crew he withdraws with the Captain to discuss his intended marriage with Josephine.
Meanwhile Ralph has made up his mind he must speak to Josephine, and confess his love for her, but she rejects his affection utterly, and driven to despair he announces his intended suicide. At the last minute Josephine relents and they plan a secret wedding that night.
The Captain is heard by his secret mutual admirer, Buttercup, singing to the moon of his troubles with his wayward daughter and Sir Joseph. Josephine is in a quandary as to whom she should marry, but Sir Joseph unwittingly convinces her by declaring that "love levels all ranks". However, Dick Deadeye warns the Captain of his daughter's intended marriage, and the crew are surprised that night stealing away for the elopement. Although the Boatswain, Ralph and Josephine protest that "He is an Englishman" the Captain is not impressed, and in a fit of rage utters the unpardonable "why Damme it's too bad". Sir Joseph, horrified by the Captain's bad language, orders him to his cabin, but on hearing Ralph's explanation is further incensed and orders him to be thrown into the dungeon.

However, Little Buttercup saves the day by explaining that she had inadvertently mixed up Ralf and the Captain when nursing them as babies, Ralph appears as the Captain, and the Captain as a sailor, and they are both free to marry their respective lovers. Sir Joseph is united with Cousin Hebe who promises she will look after him. The opera ends with general rejoicing and happiness. Phew!!