H.M.S. Pinafore, Gilbert & Sullivan

Title H.M.S. Pinafore or The Lass That Loved A Sailor
English Title
Composer Arthur Sullivan
Librettists William Gilbert
Language English, Dutch translation available
Genre Light opera. Two acts
First performance May 25 1878, Opéra Comique, London
Time of action First half of the 19th century
Place of action A sailing-ship’s deck, first by day-light, later by night
Main parts
  • Josephine, the captain’s daughter, soprano
  • Ralph Rackstraw, able seaman, tenor
  • Captain Corcoran, commanding H.M.S. Pinafore, baritone
  • The Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., First Lord of the Admiralty, comic tenor
  • Mrs. Cripps (Little Buttercup, a Portsmouth bumboat woman), contralto
  • Dick Deadeye, able seaman, bass
  • Bill Bobstay, boatswain’s mate, bass
  • Hebe, Sir Joseph’s first cousin, contralto
Prominence of chorus Large
Orchestra 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani/percussion, strings
Special demands Four-part male choir
Full score and orchestral parts Available
Level Not difficult
Length About 2 hours in all. Two acts

Typically Sullivan, lovely ensembles. By turns lyrical and satirical (e.g. the pattersong, sung by a First Lord of the Admiralty who has never been to sea). The choruses sound fresh as a sea breeze.


As in most works by Gilbert & Sullivan the story is about class-difference: A common sailor is in love with his captain’s daughter and the captain is in love with a bum-boat woman. In the end the sailor and the captain turn out to be of high and of low birth respectively, so there is nothing to prevent a happy ending for all.

Costumes Sailors, officers, ladies; no dress-changes
Link Wikipedia

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Tags: Gilbert | Sullivan | Knoppers