Are you ready to delve deeper into the vast world of music nerdiness? Beware, you may find yourself watching an entire opera before you realize what just happened. Once you turn into a music nerd, there’s no going back (mwuhaha). The first step starts today: watching the first act of the Pirates of Penzance.

A lot of the great operas on YouTube have subtitles. Unfortunately, this one does not, but fortunately, it is in English. But if you want to follow along, here’s a PDF of the libretto (lyrics). Some of the lines and words are different from this performance we’re gonna watch (just an FYI).

Some of the other performances on YouTube are sung in a style that is more like a musical than an opera (music nerd problem). I personally prefer the more classical singing, because in the musical style versions they leave out some of the really high soprano notes (I may be biased being a soprano, sopranos LOVE high notes BTW). But no, seriously, I prefer the style of singing better. If you want to watch the other style feel free, but I challenge you to try this version first.

(Sorry about the sound quality, but this is the best version I could find)

(00:30) Overture- Introductory music containing excerpts from the opera

(07:58) “Pour, oh pour, the pirate sherry”- Here we are introduced to Frederic, the pirate apprentice. This song celebrates Frederic finishing his apprenticeship as a pirate (pun intended), they raise a toast (or two) in celebration. Frederic reveals that he had come to the pirates due to an error on account of Ruth, his nursery-maid.

(10:31) “When Fred’ric was a little lad”- Here Ruth explains what happened. Frederic’s father wanted him to be an apprentice to a pilot (pilot of a ship, this is the 1800s), but she:

“….did not catch the word aright, through being hard of hearing”

And instead:

“..took and bound this promising boy apprentice to a pirate”

So Frederic ended up with the pirates instead of with a pilot. Ruth didn’t want to face Frederic’s father to tell him the mistake she made, so she joined the pirates.

(14:32) Between songs, Frederic says the pirates are “too tenderhearted”, and make a point never to attack orphans, thus “every one we capture says he’s an orphan” (remember this for the next post, it’s important). They thought it was sketchy when they found an ship “manned entirely by orphans.”

Frederic asks the Pirate King if he will leave the Pirates and lead a normal life, so naturally he has to sing about it.

(18:14) “Oh, better far to live and die …I am a pirate king!”- The message of this song is: “It is a glorious thing to be a Pirate King!” He feels the need to sing at length about it.

Frederic and Ruth continue to discuss Ruth’s attractiveness. Frederic says a man of his age usually looks for a wife that is 17. Ruth is 47. He questions her to try to figure out if she is attractive compared to other women. Then suddenly, he is distracted by seeing a group of “beautiful maidens”, who are more attractive than Ruth, even the plainest looking one.

(23:06) “Oh! false one, you have deceiv’d me”- Frederic was deceived. He now finds Ruth “plain and old”, her “face is lined, her “hair is grey”, and Ruth tries to convince him otherwise.

Frederic leaves, and must hide himself, as the maidens might be frightened, seeing a Pirate.

(26:10) “Climbing over rocky mountain”- The girls sing about the scenery and how lovely it is:

Far away from toil and care,
Revelling in fresh sea-air,
Here we live and reign alone
In a world that’s all our own.

To find out what happens next, come back next week (or keep watching if you got time for that).


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