The Pirates of Penzance opened on 3rd April 1880, two months following H.M.S Pinafore’s closure.
The innumerable versions of H.M.S. Pinafore which were appearing all over America vexed author, composer and manager alike. Not only did they dislike the idea of their work being misrepresented but they were also rightly resentful of the profits made by the promoters of these pirate versions, not a penny of which was reaching them.
Consequently, the Pirates of Penzance received its true premiere in New York at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, in order to secure the American copyright for themselves. This happened on 31st December 1879. To secure the English copyright, a simultaneous performance (bearing in mind the time difference) was given in England on the afternoon of 30th December, at the Royal Bijou Theatre in Paignton, Devon. The second Pinafore company were touring and that week happened to be in nearby Torquay. They presented the English premiere in their Pinafore costumes with handkerchiefs tied around their heads to denote piracy, and still carrying their parts in their hands.
The Pirates of Penzance played at the Opera Comique until 2nd April 1881.