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3.9 out of 5 stars
88
3.9 out of 5 stars
The Pirates of Penzance [DVD] [1982]
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on 13 July 2017
very good
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on 10 June 2017
happoy with product
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on 9 September 2013
Great set of DVDs includes some of their light operas rarely seen in live performance nowadays - Great performances highly recommended
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on 10 November 2003
A good film in it's own right, the singers are good and professional, but the acting leaves much to be desired, starting off with a 21 year old Frederick who looks more like he's 35! The maidens are typically played by older women trying to look young and Ruth looks younger than all of them (including Mabel!) unfortunately this is a very visual play, and needs the acting that the UK turned American version had... I originally got this because I had not realised there was more than one version out.. only to find out that the Kevin Kline Angela Lansbury version has been deleted from the UK!!! *cries* Anyone can help me get hold of the best copy out there? please tell me! I canm't get it from America as my TV doesn't support NTSC which would be required...
Anyway the actual performance isn't bad.. although as already stated by someone else, the props are rather bad for a tv screening. And the actual music and some of the reactions from the background cast are quite funny, the way Frederick wriggles his eyebrows while singing is also amusing.. although I'm not sure if this is deliberate or not...
All in all al right if you've never seen the better version but really if possible get the Kevin Kline and Angela Lansbury one.
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on 14 July 2007
I agree with much the previous reviewer wrote, On first viewing this series I was a little dissappointed, having in memory the (vocal) renditions of earlier, familiar, artists. However, after replaying the discs a time or two, one begins to warm to the unfamiliar casts and, in general, the result is an enjoyable voyage into the "Topsy-Turvey" world of Gilbert and Sullivan!

One has, I feel, to be a fan of Frankie Howerd to appreciate his performances, especially as Sir Joseph in Pinafore, which, for me at least, was the the poorest of the set. Otherwise, with a couple of viewings (via a pair of headphones, preferably!) I find the compendium most enjoyable! June 2007.
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on 4 January 2012
As I worked on this series, you may be interested in some of the history. The first five operas (Pirates, Pinafore, Gondoliers, Iolanthe and Mikado) were shot at Twickenham Studios on reel-to-reel videotape at a time when the audio quality on videotape was not good, and there were a lot of problems with the sound. As the operettas were shot out-of-sequence like a film, but with live singing rather than prerecorded, there were hundreds of edits and editing stereo sound on videotape in the early 80s was crude to say the least. For the later series, shot some 18 months later at Shepperton, the sound was far more sophisticated and the masters existed on 24 track tape.

The original videotapes (referred to as gold masters) were complete with the missing songs that others have commented on. They were then cut down for US transmission which is when songs like 'Rapture Rapture' from Yeomen hit the editing room floor. That was also when the dreadful Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. intros were added. As I said, the audio quality on one-inch videotape was by no means perfect and a lot of quality was lost at this stage and even more at subsequent generations. Pirates and Pinafore were later remixed from the original tapes, but as far as I am aware, only for release on laserdisc in Japan.

It is a great pity that the producers of theses DVDs didn't go back to the gold masters (if they still exist) and the original 24-track tapes to remaster the audio.

G.B.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 23 July 2010
First of all, there is a lot to be grateful for; all the major works (with the exception of "Utopia Limited" and "The Grand Duke"), the stagings are, for the most part at any rate, traditional, production values are generally high and the casts contain some of the leading British opera singers of recent times. There is no comparable series of recordings and most others are records of specific productions, in the main captured "live." At under £4 per DVD, this represents a tremendous bargain. So why do I regard the series with a sense of regret? Well, the sound quality is not of the finest and one or two "fluffs" suggest haste in recording. My major grievances, however, concern the regrettable omission of some musical items and some "stunt" casting. The films were made, it appears, primarily for American television and all have been "trimmed" to fit an allotted time-span. This entails the excision of certain numbers, which not only robs the viewer of expected musical delights, but also has a detrimental effect on continuity. (Not all of the operas suffer in this regard, but the cuts to "Yeomen" are particularly grievous). It is even more galling that time is wasted on each disc by unbelievably cheesy introductions by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.; their omission would have at least allowed the reinstatement of a couple of numbers. What is more, I suspect that these had actually been recorded and as evidence I would offer the casting of appropriately voiced singers in parts that are here bereft of their music. The "stunt" casting is, presumably, for the (American) TV market. The fact that some of these performers are themselves American does not in itself offend, it is simply that, with a couple of honourable exceptions, they are at best ill-suited and at worst embarrassing; the parts could have been cast to better advantage with "straight" singers who act and sing so delightfully elsewhere in the series. What a pity, as this collection could have been well nigh definitive. As it is, it is very much a missed opportunity, enjoyable as many of the films are.
I will review the operas individually in the order they were first performed.
COX AND BOX (*****)
This is wholly delightful. All three performers sing and act especially well and Thomas Lawlor in particular is very funny as Bouncer.
TRIAL BY JURY (****)
Ironically, this is actually padded out by the inclusion of the Di Ballo overture. Kate Flowers and (especially) Ryland Davies (luxury casting!) sing well as the Plaintiff and the Defendant, Roger Bryson is a sonorous Usher and Brian Donlan makes much of little as the Foreman of the Jury. On the debit side, however, Tom McDonnell is an over-emphatic Counsel and although Frankie Howerd does, of course, have his moments as the Judge, including a choice intervention in "A nice dilemma," he is not up to the part vocally, even though he actually sings more of the notes than he does in "HMS Pinafore." A "proper" singer would have been better; as it is, it becomes the Frankie Howerd Show and spoils what could have been a perfect production.
THE SORCERER (****)
This is pretty good as well. There are no grievous cuts and for once the non-operatic performers, Clive Revill and David Kernan can be counted as an almost total success, the former in particular giving a marvellous portrayal of the title role. The rest of the cast sing and act well and it is especially welcome to encounter the great Savoyard Donald Adams, this time as Sir Marmaduke.
HMS PINAFORE (**)
The wonderful Della Jones as Little Buttercup notwithstanding, this is just about capsized by the participation of the two "guest stars." Frankie Howerd is, well, Frankie Howerd and as such is always entertaining, but he stumbles through Sir Joseph's words and music, while the antics of Peter Marshall, an American game-show host apparently, are simply embarrassing, much as he seems to enjoy himself. The romantic leads are dull, but Alan Watt is an appropriately villainous Deadeye and Gordon Sandison makes a great deal of the Bosun; a pity that he had not been cast as the Captain!
THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE (***)
Another one almost spoilt, I'm afraid, by "celeb" casting. Keith Michell is fine as the Major General, but Peter Allen (one of Liza Minnelli's ex-husbands) offers a Pirate King from a wholly different, inappropriate tradition, camp and excessively "Broadway" in approach. This is a pity, as the romantic leads sing well and we have the redoubtable Gillian Knight as Ruth. Paul Hudson is a lacklustre Sergeant of Police.
PATIENCE (****)
This is very good and all the better for being based on a real production (Sadlers Wells/ENO) which I saw when I was at school and which featured many of the performers here. Derek Hammond-Stroud and the late, great Anne Collins make a wonderful double act as Bunthorne and Lady Jane, while Sandra Dugdale is a delectable (and very funny) Patience. John Fryatt is, perhaps, a little long in the tooth to play Grosvenor, but he too is very funny and sings well, while the military men are in the capable hands of the incomparable Donald Adams, Roderick Kennedy and Terry Jenkins, an hilarious Duke. A joy from beginning to end.
IOLANTHE (****)
Another film which benefits from being cast entirely with opera singers. Derek Hammond-Stroud is an exemplary Lord Chancellor, well supported by David Hillman and Thomas Helmsley, even though the latter at this stage of his career no longer commanded the required resonance for "When Britain really ruled the waves." Kate Flowers is a charming Phyllis and Alexander Oliver an amusing (tenor) Strephon. Richard Van Allan is luxury casting as Private Willis and Anne Collins, as ever, makes her mark as the Fairy Queen. Most enjoyable.
PRINCESS IDA (***)
The film takes the form of a performance of the opera in the grounds of a country house, but is otherwise pretty traditional and quite effective. The casting of the American actor and impressionist Frank Gorshin as King Gama does not detract too much from the pleasure, even if he offers no special insights. Nan Christie sings well in the title role and the other female singers do well, as do Lawrence Dale, Bernard Dickerson and Richard Jackson as Hilarion, Cyril and Florian. That fine singer Neil Howlett is a resonant King Hildebrand, but the role of Arac is seriously undercast.
THE MIKADO (****)
This is an enjoyably traditional production with attractive, well-sung romantic leads and a marvellous comic performance by Clive Revill as Ko Ko, a role he had recorded with distinction for Sadlers Wells some years previously. He is abetted by the splendid Anne Collins as Katisha. The other "non-singer," William Conrad as the Mikado, is nothing special, but does no real harm, while Gordon Sandison is very funny as Pish Tush and Stafford Dean's is the best sung of all Pooh Bahs.
RUDDIGORE (****)
This is great and only some dodgy back projection and a couple of cuts prevent this from being a 5-star production. For once, the "celeb" casting pays off. Keith Michell revels in both incarnations of Robin Oakapple/Sir Ruthven and sings all the notes. Vincent Price is inspired casting as Sir Despard; he isn't much of a singer, of course (although he does make an effort), but it would be hard to imagine the part better played and with such élan. The other parts are splendidly cast too; Sandra Dugdale sings and acts wonderfully as Rose Maybud, as do Ann Howard and Johanna Peters as Mad Margaret and Dame Hannah, while it is good to encounter the young John Treleavan (now an eminent Wagnerian) as Dick Dauntless. If this were not enough, we have the added bonus of Donald Adams in one of his best roles, offering us a marvellous "When the night wind howls." A treat.
THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD (**)
This is all but ruined by the omission (see above) of several crucial musical items. David Hillman's fine Colonel Fairfax suffers particularly in this regard. The "straight" singers all give exemplary performances; this is indeed casting from strength. Elizabeth Gale is a lovely Elsie, Claire Powell a spirited Phoebe and Elizabeth Bainbridge and Geoffrey Chard are perfect as Dame Carruthers and Sergeant Meryll. Of the "non-singers, " Joel Gray may not be to everyone's taste, but he is nevertheless a moving Jack Point, while it seems churlish to describe Alfred Marks as a "non-singer," as he fields a voice of operatic quality and acts magnificently as Shadbolt; he is the best exponent of the part on any of the recorded media. If this film exists in a complete form, it would be well worth searching out.
THE GONDOLIERS (***)
There's nothing seriously wrong with this, but somehow it never seems to catch fire. Keith Michell is miscast as Don Alhambra, but otherwise it is cast from strength, right down to the very smallest parts. Francis Egerton and Tom McDonnell are not my ideal pairing as the two gondoliers, but I have fond memories of John Brecknock and Thomas Allen on a BBC production in the 70s, which I would love to see issued on DVD....
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on 29 September 2017
This "Pirates of Penzance" from the 1980s is one of the better ones produced by Brent Walker. The acting & singing are generally excellent (see below for exceptions!) & the staging full of sly fun & clever touches eg the sudden arrival of music stands for the hymn parody "Hail Poetry!" The Act 1 setting's a bit unconvincing & looks thrown together, but the Act 2 Ruined Chapel is genuinely atmospheric. As in all this series of DVDs, the choral singing & acting is first rate, & for once the formulaic dancing isn't overdone. The cast's a strong one, led by Janis Kelly, a radiant Mabel. Gillian Knight is the best Ruth I've seen, quite different from the way she played it in her D'Oyly Carte days. Keith Mitchell is a well characterised Major-General, though for an actor famous for his singing, he sounds vocally thin & toneless. Nothing like as bad, though, as the imported American "star", one Peter Allen, who is totally miscast & embarrassing as the most lightweight Pirate King imaginable. Kate Flowers & Jenny Wren are particularly good as two of Mabel's sisters & the policemen are wonderful, with their own little syncopated dancing march that matches the music perfectly!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 4 September 2015
I’ve already reviewed the box set collection of the operas, but as the works are available individually, I thought that posting individual reviews might be useful.

As with HMS Pinafore, the resolutely traditional stage direction is courtesy of Michael Geliot. It is effective enough and the production is very attractive visually, even if the second act, set at night, is inevitably rather dark.

The experienced team of British opera singers is augmented by a couple of non-operatic guest artists, one of whom is an almost unreserved success, while the other certainly isn’t.

The success is Keith Michell, an enjoyably dotty Major General, who wields a musical if hardly operatic baritone. Peter Allen, the Pirate King, is certainly a lively performer and he sings all the notes, but both vocally and histrionically he is a million miles away from the appropriate idiom. The rest of the cast is much better, from the experienced Gillian Knight as Ruth, the rather glum Sergeant of Police of Paul Hudson and the prissy Frederic of Alexander Oliver to the delightful Edith of Kate Flowers and Janis Kelly as Mabel; Miss Kelly is one of the few performers here still active and she has always been a shining, if underrated, star of the British opera scene over the past couple of decades.

The short documentary which accompanies the opera offers little in the way of either interest or insight and Douglas Fairbanks’ introductions to each act are toe-curlingly embarrassing, unless (like me) you take a perverse pleasure in the way he tries to sound as if he is making up his obviously scripted utterances and his cringe-inducing nods and winks to the camera.
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on 21 November 2004
This is a remarkable achievement in many ways. The Brent Walker Organisation announced these recordings back in the early 80's and for a time it was intended to film the stage presentations of the old D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. However, with yet another refusal by the Arts Council to inject funds into that organisation, the company had to disband and George Walker had to re-think.

12 operas are presented, the 11 Gilbert and Sullivan works from TRIAL BY JURY (1875) to GONDOLIERS (1889)plus Burnand and Sullivan's COX AND BOX, sadly UTOPIA and GRAND DUKE were missed out. At the heart of these films is Alexander Faris (himself a guest conductor at D'Oyly Carte from time to time) and he undoubtedly draws some magnificent performances from the London Symphony Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. These performances are all the more enjoyable now as the digital re-mastering has not only enhanced the magnificent picture quality, but has provided the soundtracks in three different stereo formats.

The one real sadness of the series is the production of YEOMEN. Not only do the producers advance the action to the time of Charles I (making the costumes for the Yeomen themselves rather less spectacular), but there are numerous cuts; Phoebe loses the 1st verse of her opening number, the act one trio and Fairfax's ballad are both missing, Fairfax's act two ballad, "Strange Adventure", "When a wooer goes a-wooing", and "Rapture, rapture" are absent. The excuse for this was that the piece needed to run no longer than two hours for the purposes of television broadcast, and yet when it was first broadcast on the BBC, much of the missing material was present. Strange too that, although not the longest of the works, none of the other operas in the series suffer cuts of a similar magnitude.

On the plus side, the DVD version of RUDDIGORE includes much material that was actually cut from the VHS tape. This has the effect of making the opera virtually complete in terms of the standard Norris/Toye version of the work that was current at the time of filming. There is in fact only one cut - the second verse of the madrigal "When the buds are blossoming".

Some of the productions that seemed unacceptable in 1982, now are quite charming. Once you get past some of the so-called "star" performers. Frankie Howerd is dreadful as Sir Joseph (PINAFORE) but quite charming as the Learned Judge (TRIAL). The production of PRINCESS IDA seems now quite delightful as a play within a play and even Frank Gorshin as King Gama is really quite acceptable, whilst the musical production now fully revealed, is stunning, although it has to be said that the lack of Lady Blanche's "Come mighty must" has to be regarded as a black mark.

The gems of this series have to be COX AND BOX (presented in its full-length 1866/7 version), THE SORCERER and PATIENCE (the latter taken almost entirely from the English National Opera production. Ex-D'Oyly Carte performer Donald Adams makes an invaluable contribution to SORCERER, PATIENCE and RUDDIGORE. It is a pity that his MIKADO was not preserved, but William Conrad (Cannon) gives a surprisingly good performance in the role.

Sadly, no attempt has been made to credit singers who were missed in the credits on the sleves of the original tapes. For example, I still don't know who plays the Notary in SORCERER or Tolloller in IOLANTHE.

Each DVD comes with a copy of the 'production' libretto, missing out the dialogue but giving the lyrics, although it is not wise to rely too heavily on these as certainly as far as RUDDIGORE is concerned the lyric for "I shipped d'ye see" is missing, whilst the number itself is performed. One is able to skip the dreadful (and often inaccurate and embarrassingly patronising) introductions by Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, there are bonus features about the making of some of the films, picture galleries, and the ability on each DVD to play the musical numbers as if they were a CD, allowing you to hear the music in the new glorious stereo without the dialogue or the picture.

All in all, twenty years on, this series comes into its own. Anyone who owns the original VHS tapes, I would urge you to ditch them and buy this set to replace them. After all, it is currently the only way to own 11 Gilbert and Sullivan Operas and COX AND BOX on film.
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