The Esperanto Pirates

Review by J. Donald Smith
General-Majoro StanleyC. Lewis Brooks
La Pirata RegoRobert Turner
Frederiko, La Pirata MetilernantoWilliam Pepper
Sergento de PolicoPhillip Phillips
Filinoj de la Generalo
MagdaJanet Higgins
EditaMargaret Small
KatjaChristine Lardon
Rut, Pirata ServistinoMargaret Small

The Esperanto Opera Company

Accompanist and Music Director: Mary Towersey
Chorus Master: John Brownlee
Narrator: Norman Lock
Translation: Reto Rossetti
(Policeman's Song by Harry Holmes)
Concert Version: Phillip Phillips and Norman Lock

Presented at the British Esperanto Congress, Cheltenham, Easter, 1979,
in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the first production.

This most unusual of recordings is taken from a live concert at the Cheltenham Town Hall in 1979. The recording sounds as if the opera was done complete, but the subsequent commercial release had the dialog and most of the recitative replaced by narration which is clearer and generally comes through much better. Overall the tempi are a bit slow, as befits a performance for which comprehension was no doubt at more of a premium than strict adherance to "traditional" tempi. Some of the musical cuts (elaborated below) seem a bit strange, but made either to fit onto a 90 minute tape, or perhaps because some of the recording was inadequate for reproduction purposes.

The performance was done with piano accompaniment and omits the overture. Most of the solists are quite strong and would no doubt grace any traditional G&S production. The Pirate King is here more of a light baritone than one is used to but has among the best diction in the cast. Overall, the Sergeant of Police is the strongest performer, but Frederic, Mabel and Ruth are also quite strong singers. The Major-General has, unfortunately, rather weak projection, so that much of his singing, except obviously for Modern Major General, is cut.

What are missing from the recording, although present in the libretto are:

  • 'Oh men of dark and dismal fate' up to 'Although our dark career'
  • Ruth's part in the Act I Finale
  • 'Dry the glistening tear'
  • 'A rollicking band of pirates we' up to 'With cat-like tread'
  • 'Hush, hush., not a word' up to 'You triumph now'

My only quibble is that the performing version has, in several places, been considerably modified from the accompanying libretto, making following along rather difficult. It is a recording well worth having — if one can find it. It is now out of print.

Issue History
1979 PJS Cassette 79