MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University's music department will present The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of duty, April 25-27.  Performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. in Forest Roberts Theatre.

Pirates was the fifth' opera produced by the creative duo of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.  It premiered in New York in 1879 and has endured as one of their most popular collaborations.

"Gilbert's librettos poked fun at 19th century British conventions and society, but the human foibles he mocked then still exist today," said Robert Engelhart, NMU music professor and director of the production.  "Those who are powerful and put themselves on pedestals will always be targets for satire.  But the great charm of Gilbert's writing is that he pokes fun at British society with such obvious affection.  These operas seem to gain appeal as time goes on."

The plot rests on a miscommunication: Frederic's boyhood nurse, Ruth, was told to apprentice him to become a pilot.  She mistakenly apprenticed him to a band of pirates, remaining with them herself as a maid-of-all-work.

Act I opens on Frederic's 21st birthday.  Today he is legally freed from his apprenticeship.  He informs the pirates that he will henceforth devote himself to the extermination of piracy.

The beautiful daughters of Major-General Stanley arrive.  Mabel, the youngest, is particularly attracted to Frederic, and he to her.  The pirates return and capture the remaining maidens, intending to marry them immediately, but they are thwarted when the Major-General shows up and wins their sympathy with a lie; he claims that he is an orphan.  The pirates are touched and release the maidens.

In Act 11, the Major-General is wracked with guilt for having lied.  Frederic has summoned a band of police to attack the pirates and the daughters encourage the timid

police to "go to death and slaughter." To his horror, Frederic discovers that, since he was bom on February 29th , he is really only 5 years old (in terms of birthdays); he is still officially a pirate!

The pirates learn about the Major-General's orphan fib and are about to take revenge, but the police order them to stop in Queen Victoria's name.  They comply immediately, of course.  Ruth reveals that the pirates are in fact "noblemen who have gone wrong," and the Major-General gives them permission to marry his daughters in a merry ending.

In the day of Major-General Stanley, Gilbert parodies the fewly-rich

In the pirates, he mocks the idea that nobility comes with birth.  And all of the characters are shown to be "slaves of duty."

"Gilbert was a very clever writer and this is funny, funny material to work with," Engelhart said.  "And Sullivan's music is so appealing.  I've wanted to do this show for a long time because it contains such terrific main characters and provides a perfect opportunity for our students in the supporting roles."

Students from NMU's University Choir serve as the chorus.  Engelhart cast his music department colleague, Floyd Slotterback, as Major-General Stanley.  "I knew he would be perfect for the part.  When he agreed to take it on, that sealed it for me," he added.

Engelhart also looked to graduate artistic interns in the theater program and NMU staff to round out the roster of performers.

Cast members filling major roles include the following: Orion Couling (The Pirate King), a Kincheloe native and senior theater major; Lindsay Harman (Mabel) of Carroll, Iowa, a graduate artistic intern; Ben McKibben (Frederic) of Bucyrus, Ohio, also a graduate artistic intern; Doug Sams (Sergeant of Police), NMU's new head football coach; and Kathy Seville (Ruth), an instructional technologist at NMU.

"Tickets can be purchased at all NMU outlets.Ê Prices are $9 for adults and $6 for NMU students and children under 12. For more information, contact the NMU music department at 227-2563."

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director