The Pirates of Penzance was the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera to have its official premiere in the United States. At the time, American law offered no copyright protection to foreigners. After their previous opera, H.M.S. Pinafore, was a hit in London, over a hundred American companies quickly mounted unauthorised productions, often taking considerable liberties with the text and paying no royalties to the creators. Gilbert and Sullivan hoped to forestall further “copyright piracy” by mounting the first production of their next opera in America, before others could copy it, and by delaying publication of the score and libretto. They succeeded in keeping for themselves the direct profits of the first production of the opera by opening the production themselves on Broadway, prior to the London production. They also operated U.S. touring companies. However, Gilbert, Sullivan, and their producer, Richard D’Oyly Carte, failed in their efforts over the next decade, to control the American performance copyrights over their operas.
Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here!
The “stage business” is not properly conveyed by mere reading or listening but is faithfully transmitted by our modern minstrels from the debut on New Year’s Eve 1879.
All y’all can clap now, we are aft the rudder post.