By Omiko Awa
THE Shell Hall of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON), was filled this evening to capacity. A lot of people had come to watch Pirates of Penzance, an opera about a young man, Frederic, apprenticed to a band of pirates in error by the nanny, Ruth. The nanny misheard Frederic’s father’s instruction of apprenticing the son to a ship’s pilot instead of pirates. The truth begins to unveil when Frederic is about to reach his 21st birthday and concludes his long apprenticeship to the infamous Pirates of Penzance that his good-hearted and hard-of-hearing nanny, Ruth, reveals how she mistakenly apprenticed him to the Pirates of Penzance, when he was eight years old.
On the eve of his supposed 21st birthday and the assumed day of freedom, Frederick tells the Pirate King, who never preys on orphans since he is one, that his freedom will be devoted to exterminating all pirates and it will be better for the pirates to leave before midnight when his indentures are over. The pirates depart immediately and he is left alone with Ruth, the only woman he has seen in years.
Ruth had made Frederic to believe she is the only woman in the world and may likely live with him as wife. At 47, Ruth is afraid of losing Frederic to younger and more beautiful maidens and does all she knows to keep him away from the world; so, he could marry her. She pleads with Frederic to take her with him wherever he goes.
However, she loses out when a bevy of young and attractive ladies appear at the sea. Frederic, who had never seen such astonishing young women, admires them. He appeals to the girls to overlook his pirate apparel and his past profession and marry him, but no one listens until the most beautiful of them, Mabel, appears. Frederick and Mabel instantly fall in love. It is love at first sight.
On the trail of Frederic, the pirates run into the same group of beautiful ladies; charmed by their beauty, they propose marriage to all at once. Though their father, a major general, bluffs and chides the pirates, but the men of the underworld won’t let the girls go.
When the major general realises his entreaties won’t work, he lies that he is an orphan and would be lonely without his daughters. The pirates, orphans too, take pity on him and let go his daughters.
Saddened with guilt and shame for lying, Federic his accepted would-be son-in-law consoles him with a promise of rounding up his tormentors and bringing them to book. Assured that Federic would lead a troop of policemen to arrest them, the old soldier livens up.
Getting winds of the plot to attack the pirates, Ruth and the Pirate King stop Federic with a most ingenious paradox — Frederic was born on February 29, a leap year and his actual birthdays is only five instead of 21. By this, it means he has 16 more leap year to serve the group.
Slave of duty, Frederic rejoins his former associates to complete his indenture service, leaving the police to attack the pirates on their own.
Bitten by the bug of love, Mabel pleads with Fredric to stay, but he won’t. He insists that he has to fulfill his duty to the pirates until his 21st birthday, after which he would return to marry her. They both agree to be faithful to each other until then, though Mabel sees it as too long a time for a lady to wait for a man. She screws up courage and tells the police to go for the pirates.
Thinking they could overpower the outlaws, the police attack them, but were defeated. Not conceding defeat, the sergeant of police charged the raiders to surrender their arms in the name of Queen Victoria, the reigning ruler of England.
Filled with awe the pirates succumb to the appeal. Just about taking them away, Ruth appears and reveals that the pirates are in fact all noblemen who have gone wrong. This makes the major general to plead for their release, especially as they promise to lead a crime free life.
This was obliged to and the pirates let off the hook, but their eyes were never off the major general’s daughters. Aware that the pirates fancy his daughters, the old soldier allows them to marry and live happily afterwards.
Written by Gilbert and Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance revolves around commitment to duty, family obligation, bonding, patriotism and nationalism. Produced and directed by Emeka Nwokedi, the very impressive opera, aside from showcasing well-choreographed dance, employs recitatives, arias chorused by MUSON choir and dramatisation to pass its message across to the audience.