© 2024 Interlochen
CLASSICAL IPR | 88.7 FM Interlochen | 94.7 FM Traverse City | 88.5 FM Mackinaw City IPR NEWS | 91.5 FM Traverse City | 90.1 FM Harbor Springs/Petoskey | 89.7 FM Manistee/Ludington
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Classical Sprouts: Linda Ronstadt and the anatomy of a musical joke

Linda Ronstadt as Mabel in the 1983 film of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance"
Linda Ronstadt as Mabel in the 1983 film of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance"

Last week, we explored Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta "The Pirates of Penzance." Take a listen to that episode if you haven't already!

Soft-hearted Pirates! Fast-talking Major-Generals! Love, insomnia, battles, and love for the Queen! We’re heading to the shores of Cornwall, England with our pirate costumes as we explore the Gilbert and Sullivan favorite, "The Pirates of Penzance!"

The recording we used for that episode featured American singer Linda Ronstadt as the role of Mabel, who played the role both on Broadway and in the 1983 film.

But she wasn't known as an opera singer.

She was widely known for performing and recording rock, pop, country and even Latin music!

Her first album was released in 1969, and by the end of the decade was considered the the top-selling female singer of the 1970s!

Some of her biggest hits include: "Long Long Time," "When Will I Be Loved," and "You're No Good."

So how did she use this pop/rock stardom to her advantage when singing the role of Mabel in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, "The Pirates of Penzance?"

Traditionally, the role of Mabel is sung in a sweet, soprano, flute-like voice.

She's portrayed as dainty, posh and lady-like.

But when Linda Ronstadt brought her strong, full, non-operatic voice and passion to it, the meaning behind some of the songs changes a bit!

In this episode, hear Kate break down the song, "When the foeman bares his steel," from the second act of "The Pirates of Penzance" and listen to how Linda Ronstadt changes the meaning of Mabel's feelings based on how she sings the words!

Be sure to subscribe and follow @classicalsprouts on Instagram to join our inclusive community.

Help Sprouts grow! Support IPR for more classical music fun, just tell us in the comments that your donation is for Classical Sprouts.

Classical Sprouts is produced by Emily Duncan Wilson.

More from Classical Sprouts:

Kate Botello is a host and producer at Classical IPR.
Emily Duncan Wilson is IPR's digital content manager and is the producer of "Classical Sprouts" and "Kids Commute".