YORK Opera’s production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance is simply a joy from start to finish.

The opening orchestral overture bubbles with mannered processional dignity, humour and romance. The scene is set: place – Cornwall, period – starchy Victorian England and a celebration of Frederic’s apprenticeship with a (generally) politically-correct band of pirates!

James Woods’s performance of Pour, Oh Pour The Pirate Sherry is very good indeed with confident chorus support. The comic timing throughout is excellent, the dialogue clear and sharp (although perhaps it needs to be a tad quicker). Ian Thomson-Smith as the Pirate King is a delight; his performance, as with Hamish Brown’s Frederic and Rebecca Smith’s Ruth, is solid and dependable.

The girls’ chorus, Climbing Over Rocky Mountain, is one of the first act highlights. Enter Heather Watts’s Mabel, who is simply outstanding. Parody it may be, but this is the most difficult role in the ensemble and she doesn't put a vocal foot wrong. Her lyrical contributions are also very fine indeed.

Comic timing is very much to the fore in the second act with the introduction of the police reinforcement, entirely lacking courage and conviction of any kind whatsoever. A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One, sung by Anthony Garner and chorus, is utterly delightful. John Soper (Major-General Stanley) delivers a wonderful staccato solo of I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General, which is such a G & S tour de force.

As ever, in York Opera performances, the stage direction by Pauline Marshall and Hilary Dyson is superb, but ultimate accolades must be showered on musical director Alasdair Jamieson and the orchestra: they are outstanding.

The Pirates Of Penzance, York Opera, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday, 7.30pm and 4.30pm, Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk