It is a little more than 19 years since Patience was transferred in the middle of its run from the Opera Comique to the theatre newly built for its accommodation. That it has not been revived is the meantime like the other notable successes of the Gilbert and Sullivan series is, no doubt, due to the fact that the “æsthetic craze” it satirizes so well was still rather a sore point with some people, and could not heretofore claim the reverence due to antiquity. The Maudles, Postlethwaites, and Cimabue Browns have now long joined the majority of ancient types, and Bunthorne and Grosvenor seem to have reached a shadowy land where the mirth of their presentment may procure them immortality.
It is only the minority among the audience of last night who can have remembered that there existed individuals who flopped and posed as Bunthorne is made to do, and of whose eccentricities he was a scarcely exaggerated sample. The craze itself, like all things of the kind, passed away, but the movement of which it was the least estimable feature has conquered so completely that even its adherents can afford to laugh with the rest of the world, and those who have forgotten the existence of the absurdity can find plenty of excruciatingly funny things in the comic opera founded on it, even apart from the antics of the poets and their attendant “love-sick maidens,” whose number has been increased from the original 20.
Almost every quip and tune is remembered and welcomed, and it has not been found necessary to bring the book up to date in more than a very few instances, of which the happiest is perhaps the change of “a threepenny-bus young man” into “a twopenny-tube young man.” The work has worn unexpectedly well, and its presentation compares favourably in nearly all respects with the original production.
The two figures most sorely missed are Miss Jessie Bond and Mr. Rutland Barrington; the Lady Angela seems hardly anything of a part now, though Miss Blanche Gaston Murray makes what she can of it; and though Mr. Henry Lytton is a most presentable Archibald Grosvenor it is impossible not to regret the “blandly passionate” demeanour of Mr. Barrington. Mr. Walter Passmore’s rapid advance in finish makes him very nearly as good a Bunthorne as Mr. Grossmith, and in the title part Miss Isabel Jay is quite as charming as Miss Leonora Braham. Miss Rosina Brandram manages to look almost as massive as her predecessor in the part of Lady Jane, and she gets a great deal more fun out of her part, which she plays with admirable conviction; her singing of the solo with the double-bass obbligato (the instrument used partakes about equally of the characteristics of the violoncello, the viol-da-gamba, and the double-bass) is as artistic as all she does.
Miss Jay’s voice suits the music of Patience excellently, and the song with waltz-refrain, a type which was a sine qua non in 1881, goes with much effect. Miss Agnes Fraser has little to do but lead the pretty sextet, but she does it well. Of the three officers, Mr. Jones Hewson is the only one who can quite manage the “flop” which was the great success of the trio in the second act, but Mr. Robert Evett is, though a little lacking in distinction, quite acceptable as the duke, and acts with rather more skill than is usual among tenors. The singing of all the concerted pieces was admirable, and such things as the sextet, or the clever finale à la Verdi to Act I., went to perfection; the whole performance, directed by Mr. François Cellier, comes up to the high level of excellence which is a tradition of the house; and the mounting, stage-management, and scenery are as usual admirable. The first scene is a more or less faithful representation of the castle of Neu-Schwanstein.
Of course there were innumerable encores. “The Magnet and the Churn” as well as the duet between Bunthorne and the Lady Jane – with its strange remembrance of a well-known theme of Nicolai – had to be twice repeated. At the close there were enthusiastic calls, to which Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Carte responded.
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