This song, With Cat Like Tread, is from the comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance, first performed in 1879. The music was composted by Arthur Sullivan and the libretto (the text) was by W. S. Gilbert. Gilbert and Sullivan refers to their theatrical partnership and to the works they jointly created. The two men collaborated on fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which The Pirates of Penzance is one of their best known. Generally, Gilbert and Sullivan plots, while farcical, are satires on Victorian society, and make fun of human foibles.
A comic opera is a musical play with some spoken dialogue and a light or amusing plot. This story follows Frederic, a pirate’s apprentice, who falls head-over-heels in love with Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley. Frederic is due to be released from his apprenticeship on his 21st birthday, but there’s a snag. Born on 29 February, Frederic discovers that he is technically still a youngster. His contract specifies that he remain apprenticed to the pirates until his “twenty-first birthday”, meaning that he must serve for another 63 years!
In the clip above, the pirates (who are only pretending to be scary) are coming to take revenge on the Major-General for lying to them about being an orphan – he had done this to stop the pirates attacking him and taking all of his daughters as their wives. The police (who are completely incompetent) are lying in wait for them, but are too frightened to come out.
Here is a photo from another production of The Pirates of Penzance. Do any of you recognise Mabel?