A musical journey from Rossall to Penzance...

Richard Suart, from Blackpool (also pictured below), in Pirates of Penzance.
Richard Suart, from Blackpool (also pictured below), in Pirates of Penzance.
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Most of those who’ve seen The Pirates of Penzance will have the same favourite bit.

Just before the end of the first act, the Major General song –probably the most famous composition of Gilbert and Sullivan’s career.

Richard Suart, from Blackpool, who is starring in Pirates of Penzance.

Richard Suart, from Blackpool, who is starring in Pirates of Penzance.

Well, those heading to Manchester’s Opera House next month to watch one of the best loved musicals of all time should take extra interest – for it will be performed by a chap born and bred in Blackpool.

Richard Suart is one of the most respected opera singers in the country, touring the world and specialising in the comic roles of Gilbert and Sullivan operas – hence his upcoming part in Scottish Opera’s version of The Pirates of Penzance.

But it all started at Rossall School, where Suart grew up in a house on the grounds. His father was a music teacher.

“It was wonderful and I’ve got some great memories from childhood,” said the 61-year-old, who was born at the Vic. “Our house at Rossall was right next to the chapel, about 100 yards from the beach, and that’s what I remember most – spending the majority of my time on the seashore.

“In fact I rather long for it now. I remember I used to look at those people who park facing the sea and sit in their cars eating some sandwiches and reading a newspaper and I’d think ‘what on earth are they doing?’

“Now I understand because it is a lovely coastline and a big part of me does miss it.”

Suart didn’t actually go to Rossall, attending school in Sedbergh instead. “The headmaster there was a huge Gilbert and Sullivan fan and that’s what sparked my interest in that kind of music,” he said. “My dad was a church organist so that’s all I’d listened to. Then I discovered there was something else.”

Suart went on to study at St John’s College, Cambridge, and then the Royal Academy of Music.

Since then he has had a glittering career, appearing in a wide variety of operas all over the world.

But what is perhaps best about him is the fact he has remained such a down-to-earth and likeable chap.

“What I do is entertainment, I don’t think there’s any point in pretending it’s anything more than that,” he says, with a refreshing honesty and lack of ego (must be his Blackpool roots).

“We are just giving people a good night – you can take your granny or your child and no one will be offended during the evening. It is just something to please the ear and the eye.”

As for his role in Pirates, he is looking forward to it. “I love playing the major general, not least because pretty much all the girls on stage are my daughters ... I must be a very fertile man,” joked Suart, who, in real life, has two children, both in their 20s. “I also get to sing that song - I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General – which is an extraordinary song and one the audience know and look forward to. It’s hugely fun part to play.”

Suart brought his family back to Blackpool and Rossall a few years ago. “They liked it - it was great and I must get back again soon,” he added.

The Pirates of Penzance is on at Manchester’s Opera House from Tuesday 11 to Saturday 15 June. Tickets start at £17.90. Go to www.atgtickets.com for more details.