HMS Pinafore (Vintage Collection), by Gilbert & Sullivan, performed by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company
About the only negative thing I have to say about this album is that it only includes the songs from the HMS Pinafore and not any of the dialogue, but that is something that the disk itself warns the listener of, so that it is not a surprise. And even here it is more a matter of trade-offs, as the songs are the most memorable part of a Gilbert & Sullivan effort anyway, for the most part, and the songs here are very good. Also, including just the songs and no dialogue allows the material to fit on a single disk, which is probably a lot more convenient for everyone involved. There are no doubt versions of this particular opera that include the full dialogue as well, but that would almost certainly end up being two or three disks. Those versions deserve attention as well, but if you are looking for the music of the HMS Pinafore, this is a very good collection and sure to draw some laughter as you listen to it. I know that I probably looked like a crazy person laughing to the music in the car, but it’s worth it.
This particular album is a bit more than seventy minutes long and contains 35 songs from the opera HMS Pinafore. Included in them are a fair amount of standouts. The overture is gorgeous, for example. The madrigal “A Nightingale Sighed” is certainly gorgeous as well. “I Am The Captain Of The Pinafore” launched the catchprase “No never. Well, hardly ever,” and deservedly so as it is a wonderfully comic effort. “When I Was A Lad” gives a hilarious exposure of the empty posturing of Sir Joseph, a man who ended up being the ruler of the Queen’s Navy despite never having been at sea and only achieving success through various political machinations as an ambitious landlubber clerk. “The Hours Creep On Apace” is a gorgeous tune written apparently in honor of Mendelssohn and “He Is An Englishman” is very English and there is nothing wrong about that. Like in many good operas and other works of musical theater there are some reprises, especially towards the end, and the topsy turvy nature of the plot is generally pleasing even if there is at least one potentially uncomfortable element in that the Captain and lowly born sailor Ralph are supposed to be the same age, swapped at birth, while Ralph is in love with the Captain’s (presumably much younger) daughter. Oh well.
Can you really go wrong when it comes to listening to Gilbert & Sullivan? The only time I’ve ever gone wrong with Gillbert & Sullivan is by watching Topsy Turvy when I was young, but even that was not a bad movie, just a lot more risque than I was expecting. By and large, this duo created immensely enjoyable popular opera during the late 19th century that still endures and pleases audiences to this day. And while the HMS Pinafore is by no means as well known as operas like “Pirates Of Penzance” or “The Mikado,” it is still a pleasing opera that includes some sharply witty writing and a suitably emotional story arc. The cast itself does a great job capturing the right tone in the various songs, and this is certainly a version I would want to see live or even on dvd. While I am by no means enough of an expert on Gilbert & Sullivan to say that this is the definitive version of the opera the way that the blurb on the back cover states, this is certainly a pleasing version that ought to at least introduce someone to the greatness that is HMS Pinafore and give someone a few new songs to get stuck in their head. You can do a lot worse than that.