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PAUL McSHANE: More than any other G&S opera, Patience has grown on me. I didn't think all that much of it to begin with, but since then (apparently) I have been idealized. I have been trying unsuccessfully to rationalise this gradual change, and would like to hear from any others who might feel the same way about Patience.
J. DERRICK McCLURE: This one's my second favourite not quite the one I actually rate second best, but the one with the second closest place in my heart. It's got the second most heart wrenching musical number in the canon: "I hear the soft note" is one of those pieces at which you just lie back with eyes closed and float into an ecstasy.
PAUL McSHANE: For me, the most emotional music in the canon is "I hear the soft note". I want that played at my funeral.
J. DERRICK McCLURE: It's got two of Gilbert's best comic characters in Bunthorne and Grosvenor, both individually and in their glorious confrontation. It's got, in Bunthorne's downfall, the most clever comeuppance Gilbert ever administered to a disagreeable character (except, by a long way, the case of Griffenfeld in His Excellency). It's got one of Gilbert's wittiest strokes in the second act officers' trio, and it's got a beautiful and dramatically very unusual soprano mezzo duet is there anything else in the canon quite like "Long years ago"?
MARC SHEPHERD: I do think that Gilbert's satire takes, if not a step forward, at least a step sideways; the aestheticism theme allows him to broaden his scope. Instead of making fun of class distinction, he makes fun of fads and blind devotion to figureheads. These themes make the opera still popular today, even though most people in the audience no longer know what aestheticism was all about.
I've said on the net before that Patience is my least favorite G&S opera. One reason for this is entirely selfish the virtual disappearance of the male chorus in Act II. I also find not a single admirable character in the entire piece, except for Patience herself, who spends more than half the opera in misery.
Bunthorne is a poseur and a hypocrite. Grosvenor is the Savoy canon's greatest egotist; I can scarcely imagine a more boring social companion. The soldiers are at least normal people, but frankly, if I were them, I'd go girl hunting elsewhere before adopting aesthetic garb. As for the ladies, except for Patience herself, they seem utterly devoid of romantic principle, so willing are they to transfer their affections en masse. I do realize that some of these things are very funny, but the overall lack of admirable characters is an obstacle for me.
There is also a lot of great fun in Patience; remember, as I have said in the past, mediocre G&S is still better than most other things. But, Patience is not at the top of my list.
ANDREW CROWTHER: Act II of Patience surely contains one of the great sure fire comic sequences of the operas: the series of reversals and twists which start with the Bunthorne/Lady Jane scene ("So go to him"), goes on through the soldiers' transformation into aesthetes (a marvellous sight gag), continues with the climactic confrontation of the poets, and concludes with Grosvenor donning his prismatic checks (another great sight gag). This is Gilbert's comic skill at its best, always keeping ahead of the audience but never losing it, pushing the plot into areas of carefully controlled extravagance.
J. DERRICK McCLURE: On the debit side, the main thing that's wrong with it is that the second act fails completely to use the chorus, especially the male chorus, in a way that measures up to the splendid use made of it in Act I. This is the first opera where G&S use a device that became one of their most individual tricks: a strong musical, dramatic and visual contrast between the male and the female choruses. In Act I this leads up to one of the best long musical scenes, including the very best double chorus, in the canon. But in Act II there's only one scene for the female chorus and nothing at all for the men what a waste! That's the reason why I can't objectively rate Patience quite as high as I'd like to.
ED GLAZIER: I think it suffers a bit in that the men's chorus is unused in Act II and there is no real solo for the Duke except in the midst of the Act I finale. The Major has little or no help from Gilbert either in dialogue or lyrics to distinguish himself from any of the other dragoons. For that matter, Angela and Saphir are sort of cookie cutter rapturous maidens. A creative director and inventive performers could do something to flesh out these roles, though.
DAVID DUFFEY: I have orphan complained that the male chorus in Patience has NOTHING to do during Act II. In fact when I was a Patience chorister I was taught to play bridge during a fortnight of Act II's, which has certainly added to my enjoyment of life.
However, male and female choristers have wonderful opportunities to patter in Patience: listen to the first John Reed recording and hear the ladies' chorus out articulate him in "Such a judge of blue and white". "Now is this not ridiculous" lets the men get their tongues around their teeth; and I think "The soldiers of our queen" is the most uplifting entrance in the whole canon.
NICK SALES: As a tenor (who has not yet played the Duke) I'm in no desperate hurry to take part in Patience; but I know that when (and if) the time comes, I shall love it. It's one of my most favourite "listens", and I certainly don't like Patience any the less for its lack of a decent "meaty" tenor role, nor do I think that makes it a "defective" opera.
It has always struck me as a little odd that the Colonel should have two songs, both with male chorus, so close together. Not that I don't like them (far from it, they're two of my favourite musical numbers), but it just seems to make things a little "lopsided".
LOUIS WERNICK: Perhaps the two songs serve different purposes. After all, Patience is an operetta which may have music which some people consider relatively unsophisticated, but the plot line, on careful consideration, is certainly extremely sophisticated. The entrance song is a classic entrance song using references to the time period of Wilde and Swinburne, where the operetta is distinctly set and where some Savoynetters also feel it is best costumed as well. However, the second song indicates the Colonel's assumption that by putting on certain gentleman's wardrobe, he has a fascination to the ladies which he assumes will automatically outclass the lures of a gentleman with a castle who carries a lily in public and recites poems about colocynth and calomel.
J. DERRICK McCLURE: Another interesting thing about Patience is that it has the first of the distinctive mezzo or soubrette roles that are such a hallmark of most of the canon had G and S decided that Jessie Bond had won her spurs and earned a good individual role? The Sorcerer, interestingly enough, has no fewer than four important female parts, but in Pinafore Hebe (as the part ended up) is just a cipher, and in The Pirates Edith, though she has some good things to sing, is completely undeveloped as a character. Lady Angela is not a patch on the later Jessie Bond parts, but she's at least a good secondary part: a charming cameo of an earnest, intense girl full of romantic dreams, gracious and kind (as befits a lady to a milkmaid) in her role as Patience's mentor.
PAUL McSHANE: I was kinda hoping that somebody might have wondered exactly where Castle Bunthorne and its nearby "glade" might be located.
First of all, like the brilliant "Act III" of Patience suggests, were the 35th Dragoon Guards really based in Aldershot? Did Aldershot exist as a military barracks in 1881? Was there really a 35th Dragoon Guards, and if so, where was its Headquarters?
Secondly, how far from the Guards' HQ can Castle Bunthorne be? Not too close, I suspect, but within marching distance "The 35th Dragoon Guards have halted in the village, and are even now on the way to this very spot".
Thirdly, Castle Bunthorne is adjacent to a village (see above quote), and not a town or city.
Fourthly, it can't be too far from London "We're Swears & Wells young girls, etc."
Maybe someone with a knowledge of military matters and the location of 19th century castles can have a stab at locating Castle Bunthorne for us...
LOUIS WERNICK: On the Surrey Hampshire border, people often walk from the military base at Aldershot (Hampshire) to Castle Guildford in Surrey. Could the 35th Dragoon guards be stationed in Aldershot, Grosvenor walking over from a cottage in Surrey (say around Jane Austen's home in Chawton), and the provincial country ladies all living around some large castle such as Guildford which might be Castle Bunthorne?
Page Created 21 August, 2011