Adventures on the High C's

All singing! All dancing! All seafaring!

Suppose you're in the mood for some vicarious nautical adventure, but don't feel up to hard-core carousing with costumed men—a comfy seat in a darkened theater is more what you had in mind. As it happens, two of this summer's major opera productions are set aboard ship, with some rousing music for sailors that will splash a little salt spray in your face.True, The Pirates of Penzance would have been more apropos, but the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society's annual offering is HMS Pinafore. In this 1878 tunefest, set entirely on the title vessel, the captain's daughter and a lowly sailor fall for each other. With a score full of hornpipes and shanties, and a villain, Dick Deadeye, who's the next best thing to a pirate (if they do him up right, he'll come fully equipped with eye patch and guttural R's), Pinafore should be as rousing a spectacle as anything you'll see in the Seafair parade. The Society's productions are marked by deep affection and scholarly detail, but also an imaginative flair for clearing the cobwebs from G&S shows while staying true to their satirical spirit. (An open house for the Society's new home at Crown Hill Center, 9250 14th Ave. N.W., will include highlights from Pinafore, 7 p.m. Tues., June 8.)A second summer show also presents star-crossed lovers on the high seas, but the flavor, and the outcome, are very different in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, based on Norse legend. She's an Irish princess, he's a knight tasked with transporting her to wed, against her will, the King of Cornwall. Despairing, she downs what she thinks is poison, though her maidservant has switched it for a love potion, which he also quaffs. Oops! (Admit it, this is as silly as anything W.S. Gilbert ever wrote.) Three hours later, it's Fate 2, Lovers 0—but that's OK, because in the meantime there's some of Wagner's most astonishing music, and that's saying something. Oceanic swelling and heaving is the sonic metaphor Wagner drew on for T&I's turbulent, elemental, but unconsummated passion—both their music and their yearning find no resting place until Isolde finally expires on a becalmed B major. Clifton Forbis and Annalena Persson will tackle the title roles, some of the most endurance-testing ever written, while Seattle Opera's new staging will hopefully purge some of the unintentional laughs earned by their previous performance of this opera in 1998, fondly remembered by connoisseurs of operatic bad ideas. Most notorious, and something the company will never live down, was the trapdoor that dropped now and then to reveal a ship's hold full of rowers—way more undressed, oiled, and buff than any Irish Sea ship's crew ever was.

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