Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pirates of Penzance

Today is the 29th of February, Leap Day. That is an important plot point in Pirates of Penznace. The lead character, Frederic was supposed to be apprenticed to a "pilot" until 21 but his nurse was hard of hearing and apprenticed him to some pirates. To make things worse, she apprenticed him until his 21st birthday. Frederic was born on February 29th so, even though he had been born 21 years before, his 21st birthday was still decades away.

The opera begins on Frederic's birthday which means that it is the end of February. As soon as he goes ashore, he sees a group of the Major-General's daughters out for a swim.

In February!

They grow them tough in Penzance.

Gilbert and Sullivan probably chose Penzance for its alliteration. It is a port on the far south-western tip of Cornwall. In the 19th century it was a seaside resort but in previous centuries its isolation had made it a frequent target for "Turkish pirates" - the Corsairs from the Barbary Coast. It was also sacked and burned by the Spanish in 1595.