W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan wrote 14 comic operas together within a period of 25 years. Sadly their works were hijacked by “pirates.” Unauthorized American productions could not be halted by British copyright laws. The pair attempted to route this by holding the world premiere of Pirates in New York on December 31, 1879. The show was a hit though “pirated” showings continued.
The Pirates of Penzance remains one of their most produced works alongside H.M.S. Pinafore and The Mikado. “A Modern Major General” is one of their most referenced and parodied songs. The story and score are accessible to fans of opera and musical theater.
Joseph Papp's musical theater-y Pirates managed to introduce a modern zaniness to the work while remaining (mostly) faithful to the libretto. Some felt it bastardized the source material but it gave me an appreciation for G+S I hadn't held before. If you want to see a bad modernization of G+S watch The Pirate Movie... Actually don't. Don't watch The Pirate Movie.