Come aboard for the big adventure, meet THE PIRATES!
Funny, brilliant, lyrical, bubbling like champagne!
A comic opera in three acts by Stephen Storace (1762-1796)
to a libretto by James Cobb
Soloists of the Israeli Opera’s Meitar Opera Studio
The PHOENIX Ensemble on period instruments
Conductor & Music Director: Myrna Herzog
Stage Director: Shirit Lee Weiss
Score Reconstruction: David Sebba
Performed in English with Hebrew surtitles
This adventurous, entertaining and well-humored British opera was written by Stephen Storace, one of the major British composers of the 18th century. Premiered on November 21, 1792 in London, The Pirates “created quite a furore” being performed 23 times during the season 1792-93 and mounted for King George III in 1794.
After the orchestral score was burnt in 1809 at the Drury Lane Theatre fire, the opera ceased to be staged. It is now brought back to life, with its score reconstructed for the first time by David Sebba and presented in a delightful and colorful performance staged by Shirit Lee Weiss, with the soloists of the Meitar Opera Studio (The Young Artists Program of the Israeli Opera) and the PHOENIX Ensemble playing on period instruments, conducted by Myrna Herzog.
Our hearty thanks to Prof. Jane Girdham, author of the great study on Storace "English Opera in Late Eighteenth-century London: Stephen Storace at Drury Lane", and to David Ward, the artistic director of the Northern Opera Group, for their invaluable help.
The Pirates, a comic opera in 3 acts by Stephen Storace and J.Cobb is considered as Storace’s masterpiece. First staged on 21 November 1792, The Pirates “created quite a furore” being performed 23 times during the season 1792-93 and mounted for King George III in 1794.
The plot revolves around a Spanish Don Altador who is in love and would like to marry a Spanish lady, Dona Aurora, an orphan, who is also in love with him. But she has a guardian, the Italian pirate Don Gasparo, who has other plans for her: he brings her to Naples to marry her to his nephew, Guillermo, the commander of a pirate ship. With the help of his servant Blazio and Aurora's maid Fabulina, Altador hopes to rescue the Spanish lady from this unkind fate.
The composer, Stephen Storace (1762-1796) , was born in England of a British mother and Italian father, the double-bassist Stephano Storace. Stephen was sent at age 12 to receive a musical training in Naples, at the famous Conservatorio di San Onofrio. This stay would have a significant impact on the composer's life, and not by chance he would choose the city as the scenery for The Pirates. Storace was also a talented painter, and “the picturesque scenery [of The Pirates] was from designs made at Naples by the composer himself”.
During the years 1785 -1787 Storace lived in Vienna, where he met Mozart and had his first two operas successfully performed. He returned to London and enjoyed growing fame as a composer for the King's and Drury Lane theatres. The most popular of his 15 English operas were "The Haunted Tower" (1789), "No Song, No Supper" (1790), "The Siege of Belgrade" (1791), "The Pirates" (1792), "The Cherokee" (1794), and "The Iron Chest" (1796).
Considered Storace's finest work for the stage, "The Pirates" is credited with introducing the "grand finale" to English opera. It stood out also for the excellence of the writing for voices, "indebted to the vocalization of Stephen's sister, the famed singer Anna/Nancy Storace", who created the role of Susanna in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" and appeared in a number of her brother's operas.
Another innovation, this time in the visual concept of the opera, was the use of the inventive 18th century technology of the lanterna magica (an early type of image projector that dazzled audiences), with some characters disguised as travelling lanternists (named Savoyards for coming supposedly from the Savoy region in France).
The Young Artists Program of the Israeli Opera
The actual curriculum of the Meitar Opera Studio is aimed at enlarging the experience of the participating singers and enabling them to gain musical and dramatic knowledge on a personal level and even more so as part of ensemble work. At the end of first 17 years of the Opera Studio program, the 70 singers who were part of the program have between themselves performed around 140 roles in various Israeli Opera productions, side by side with participating in numerous concerts and performances in which they performed a very wide repertoire.
Singers who have graduated from the Opera Studio program continue to perform in Israeli Opera productions on a regular basis as well as perform with orchestras all over Israel. All Opera Studio members performed most successfully in the Israeli Opera production of La traviata both in Tel Aviv (October 2001) and on a most successful tour to Wiesbaden, Germany (May 2003). In the fall of 2005, all members of the Opera Studio participated in a production of Dido & Aeneas which was performed in Tel Aviv and in Stuttgart. In the summer of 2010, all Opera Studio singers participated in the world premiere of Alice in Wonderland (David Sebba). Opera Studio singers also performed in concerts in Switzerland, Great Britain, Australia and South Korea. Notable Opera Studio productions include Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart) with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA as well as with the Israel Sinfonietta Beersheva and as La boheme (Puccini), Werther (Massenet), Die Fledermaus (J. Strauss), Don Pasquale (Donizetti), Dido and Aeneas (Purcell), Suor angelica (Puccini), The Telephone and The Medium (Menotti), Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte (Mozart), I Capuleti ed i Montecchi (Bellini) and others.
Opera Studio alumni Hila Baggio, Ira Bertman, Hila Fahima, Noa Danon, Dana Marbach, Ana Virovlanski, Shiri Hershkovitz, Rachel Frenkel, Na'ama Goldman, Anat Czarny, David Bizic, Oded Reich, Daniela Skorka, Tal Ganor and others perform regularly leading roles with the Israeli Opera as well as in major opera houses around the world.
The Music Director of the Opera Studio is David Sebba.
Naples, the music capital of Europe
During the baroque period, Naples was considered the music capital of Europe: as Blazio, a character in Storace's The Pirates says, "sir, the people here are all born musicians. The little children cry in tune!".
This was thanks to the huge number of talented musicians born in the city - and thanks to its four excellent music conservatories which gave them an outstanding musical education. It is for this reason that in 1774 Stephano Storace sent his 12 year old English son Stephen all the way from from London to study at Sant'Onofrio a Porta Capuana, one of those four conservatories.
Sant' Onofrio dates from 1578, and among the composers who learned or worked there, we find Don (Nicolò) Francesco (de) Rossi (Bari 1627 - ca 1699) and Cristofaro Caresana (c.1640-1709) who at some point were also its directors; Pietro Andrea Ziani (1616-1684), Niccoló Jommelli, Giovanni Paisiello, Niccolò Piccinni, Antonio Sacchini (four of the great names in the 18th century Neapolitan music) andof course Stephen Storace (1762-1796).
The original building still stands, very near to Porta Capuana, just across the street on the north side of the old Vicaria, the tribunale, the Naples Hall of Justice. It is presently occupied by the Police, which does not allow visitation.
Charles Burney (1726-1814) described a day in S. Onofrio, Wednesday, 31 October 1770:
"...This morning I went with young Oliver to his Conservatorio of St. Onofrio, and visited all the rooms where the boys practise, sleep, and eat. On the first flight of stairs was a trumpeter, screaming upon his instrument till he was ready to burst; on the second was a french-horn, bellowing in the same manner. In the common practising room there was a Dutch concert, consisting of seven or eight harpsichords, more than as many violins, and several voices, all performing different things, and in different keys: other boys were writing in the same room; but it being holiday time, many were absent who usually study and practise there together.
The beds, which are in the same room, serve as seats for the harpsichords and other instruments. Out of thirty or forty boys who were practising, I could discover but two that were playing the same piece: some of those who were practising on the violin seemed to have a great deal of hand. The violin-cellos practise in another room: and the flutes, hautbois, and other wind instruments, in a third, except the trumpets and horns, which are obliged to fag, either on the stairs, or on the top of the house.
The only vacation in these schools, in the whole year, is in autumn, and that for a few days only: during the winter, the boys rise two hours before it is light, from which time they continue their exercise, an hour and a half at dinner excepted, till eight o’clock at night; and this constant perseverance, for a number of years, with good teaching, must produce great musicians."