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Photo of Frederick Hobbs, James Hay and Bertha Lewis in The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan, 1919. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Leipzigers discover Gilbert and Sullivan

in Opera/Opinion/Reviews by

When you live in a city that for decades was imprisoned behind a wall (not directly, of course, like Berlin, but you know what I mean), it gives you joy to witness how it slowly opens up to the world and discovers things you had known and enjoyed all your life. (Even if you yourself haven’t actually experienced the isolation and lack of freedom.)

"Die Piraten" at Musikalische Komödie. Photo: Lito Seizani
“Die Piraten” at Musikalische Komödie. Photo: Lito Seizani

This is not a statement meant haughtily. But being from Greece, I must say that I was shocked to hear the other day that even Greek mythology was frowned upon by the socialist regime. Who knows why the ancient Greek gods and heroes were considered harmful to the citizens of the GDR?

So, it was with great joy that I saw the audience in Leipzig discovering my favourite musical obsession of all times, namely Gilbert and Sullivan.

Die Piraten is the German version of the British duo’s comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. It is currently playing at the Musikalische Komödie of Leipzig.

It was an excellent performance, with superb singing and acting. In the beginning, I was a bit curious to see, or rather to hear, how Gilbert’s verses would sound in German – and especially how the Major General’s monologue would be translated.

But I should not have worried. It was great, and so was the “most ingenuous paradox” and all the other arias and choruses of this opera.

It is usually a full house when German or Austrian operettas or even well-known American musicals are being played at the Musikalische Komödie. Unfortunately, this was not the case with The Pirates, and it is a pity because it is really good.

Anyway, I am sure that slowly the Leipzigers will warm up to my beloved duo of Gilbert and Sullivan and will learn to appreciate the fine British humour and the wonderful music.  In Greek, we have the saying “all beginnings are hard,” and I think it applies here.

"Die Piraten" at Musikalische Komödie. Photo: Lito Seizani
Photo by Lito Seizani

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Die Piraten
Musikalische Komödie
06 Nov. 2016 / 26 Nov. 2016 / 27 Nov. 2016 / 25 Dec. 2016 / 18 Feb. 2017 / 19 Feb. 2017
Details

P.S. I went to Die Piraten a second time. Still not so many people in the audience, there were a few empty rows again. But this is not all. Today, a month and a half after I wrote this text, I discovered in the book Gilbert & Sullivan and their World by Leslie Baily that the composer Arthur Sullivan had actually been to Leipzig himself in 1858 on a scholarship for three years! His first major work, The Tempest, was even heard at the Gewandhaus of that time. And he wrote: “I took lessons in counterpoint in the very room where Bach wrote all his works when in Leipzig, so you can imagine the atmosphere of that room as being impregnated with counterpoint and fugue”. So, to amend my title, it seems that, after all, at least some Leipzigers discovered Sullivan a long time ago.

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