|Patience > D Company on tour in Dublin
From Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin, Ireland), Tuesday, September 27, 1881; Issue N/A.
"Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride," by Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan, was produced last night before a crowded audience. The fame, or at least the name, of the work has become familiar enough to the Dublin public. It was first presented on the London stage about six months ago, and the interest which its performance there created has made its representation here an event looked forward to with much curiosity.
Its principal peculiarity is that it is intended as a satire upon the æsthetic craze which we are told is one of the prevailing passions of the period. What this æsthetic mania really is would be difficult enough properly to define. That artists and poets whose genius and works entitle them to be so-called are to be included under the head of "æsthetes," as the phrase is now accepted, would scarcely be the fact, and it would appear that Mr. Gilbert's design was rather to hold up to ridicule those wild and weak-minded youths, who aping whatever personal peculiarities poets may possess, and by singularities of dress, language, and manners, seek to fix admiring attention upon themselves, but who in reality only succeed in making themselves supremely ridiculous. Fortunately the æsthetic business cannot be said to have reached, or at least to have secured, any foothold on this side of the Channel, and in a sense this fact is rather against the chances of "Patience" being appreciated here to the very fullest extent — in fact, one or two of what Mr. Gilbert would very possibly consider the best points quite missed their mark last evening, for this reason.
Readers of "Punch" will have perceived that Du Maurier and Burnand have long since occupied with marvellous effect the ground now taken in a vocal form, and have held up to laughter and contempt the antics and the jargon of this latest development of English fashion and folly. It was, indeed, a splendid subject to be handled by Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan, who may be called the Siamese twins of satire and song, and in "Patience" they have worked with harmony and a success which must be particularly galling to those languid ladies and gentlemen whose æstheticism is, in their own phrase, so "consummately utter," and so "earnestly precious."
Before speaking of the merits of the work and its performance, it might be well to say a word or two about the plot, although, indeed, to apply the word plot at all under the circumstances savours somewhat of absurdity. Reginald Bunthorne is an æsthetic poet — a "fleshly poet" he is called. He is surrounded by rapturous maidens, who are usefully employed playing lutes, mandolines, and other musical instruments. They are in the "last stage of despair," for they all love Reginald, and their love is hopeless. These fair ones are dressed in fantastical æsthetic costumes, and flop about like "drooping lilies." Bunthorne describes his view of the tender passion by saying that it is simply a form of indigestion "curable by colocynth and calomel." He moreover makes love to Patience, a dairymaid, who, however, does not appreciate his raptures, and who, having heard that love should be unselfish, declines to marry him, inasmuch as to do so would entail no self-sacrifice. One of the æsthetic maidens tells her that if she has never loved she has never known true happiness, to which Patience replies — "But the truly happy seem to have so much on their minds — the truly happy never seem quite well." This statement is answered by another of the fair maidens in the following exquisite and convincing form — "There is a transcendentiality of delirium — an acute accentuation of supremest ecstasy which the earthy might mistake for indigestion. But it is not indigestion — it is æsthetic transfiguration."
Archibald Grosvenor, an "idyllic" poet and another type of æsthete, comes on the scene. He has made the simple and pastoral his speciality, and a specimen of his style delivered to the enraptured maidens commences —
Bunthorne is so persecuted by the ladies that he at last puts himself up to be raffled for, but Patience declares that she now loves him because he is ugly, and the ladies then, without much ado, transfer their affections to Grosvenor, and Bunthorne, who has grown jealous of him, insists upon his giving up æstheticism, and threatens, in the event of a refusal, to hurl upon him "a nephew's curse." Grosvenor consents to become like other mortals, whereupon Bunthorne expresses his joy in song —
A body of bold dragoons who have been engaged to the maidens supply much o the fun. They have been rated by the ladies for being so unæsthetical — for failing, in fact, to be "Empyrean, de la Cruscan" or even "Early English;" but in the second act the colonel, major, and lieutenant discard their uniforms and assume the garb of æsthetes, by which plan they gain the hearts of the fair ones, who are glad to recognise that the heroes have at length become "perceptibly intense and consummately utter." The colonel determines to "act up to his blue china," gives the word of command "By sections of threes — Rapture."
The "massive Lady Jane" is the only maiden who for a while remains true to Bunthorne, and impressively alludes to what she describes as "the wealth of golden love stored up in this rugged old bosom of mine." Grosvenor marries Patience, Lady Jane gives her hand to the Duke of Dunstable, who selects her because she is "distinctly plain," and the lean and languid Bunthorne is left out in the cold.
Now for the way in which the strange absurdity is worked out. Neither Mr. Gilbert nor Mr. Sullivan can be said to have in "Patience" accomplished anything from a literary or musical point of view surpassing, if, indeed, they have equalled, their previous performances. It would, however, have been scarcely possible to have handled the subject much better. The keen sense of humour which pervades every line of Mr. Gilbert's text renders it quite irresistible. It contains some very spicy, and indeed very clever, parodies of the Swinburnian style of poetry, and one or two bits that are so silly as to be clearly intended as an indication of what Wordsworth might have done. Then there are some passages that in the drollest imaginable way caricature the peculiarities of melodrama. One scene indeed irresistibly suggests one of the many melodramatic incidents that in "Paul and Virginia" recently convulsed a Dublin audience.
No doubt many of the songs are worded so much in the same style as songs in "Pinafore," "The Sorcerer," "The Pirates," and "Trial by Jury," that they may all be said to bear the very closest possible family likeness — the likeness of twin brothers and sisters in fact. Indeed that is the one fault to be found with the work of Gilbert and Sullivan — the absence of variety. The same old kaleidoscope gets a turn, and we have familiar old friends back again in a new form or dress, but still our old friends.
In "Patience," as in the previous operas, Mr. Sullivan has made it his object to mould his music to the peculiar shape and meaning of the text, and he certainly has succeeded to a marvel. As Mr. Gilbert has given us some clever parodies of the poets, Mr. Sullivan has done likewise for the music of the masters. Take the finale of the first act, for example: it is a wonderful caricature of the conventional operatic finale, though indeed to call it a caricature in any sense is almost a misdescription, for it is really as clever from a purely musical point of view as the work which it may be supposed to imitate. The overture, it should be mentioned, is made up of themes from the opera very ingeniously strung together. Most of the music recalls unmistakably what we have heard from the composer in his previous works. But there is some of it far and away better than anything he has done of a similar kind, and much too good for the subject. Perhaps the prettiest melody of all is the song for Patience in the second act, "Love is a plaintive song," and then she also has a charming air, "I cannot tell what this love may be." The duet for Grosvenor and Patience, "Prithee, pretty maiden," is also very clever, and a solo for Lady Jane, "Silvered id this raven hair," [sic] is one of the most characteristic numbers. It is preceded by a recitative with violoncello accompaniment, and is clearly a caricature of the style peculiar to grand opera. A very humorous song, "When I go out of door," is sung by Bunthorne and Grosvenor, and took wonderfully with the audience, and was encored, as indeed were most of the principal airs.
Of the performance it may be said that each part was capably filled. None of the performers displayed very exceptional powers, but all were satisfactory. Miss McAlpine was extremely good as Patience, and Miss Cameron and Miss Edwards as Lady Angela and Lady Jane respectively sang fairly and acted with grace and intelligence. Mr. Rousbey both vocally and otherwise was excellent as Bunthorne. In some respects Mr. Thorne was a very satisfactory Grosvenor.* He sang generally very well, suggesting ain a remarkable manner the voice of Mr. Royce; but he takes quite a mistaken view of the part, and acted as if the character were Quilip or Uriah Heep.
The opera was received with applause throughout. It was most admirably mounted. The dresses were splendid — those of the dragoon officers being quite perfect. The scenic arrangements deserve a special word of praise. Nothing could have been better than the two scenes. The painting was perfect, and the details arranged with harmony and excellent taste. In conclusion, we recommend every one who would have a hearty laugh and enjoy good music to see and hear "Patience."
* Thorne played Bunthorne while Rousbey was Grosvenor.
From The Era (London, England), Saturday, October 1, 1881; Issue 2245.
GAIETY THEATRE.—Proprietor, Mr. M. Gunn. — The new æsthetic opera, Patience, by Gilbert and Sullivan, capitally represented by the members of Mr. D'Oyly Carte's company, has been in possession of the stage during the week.
Miss Ethel McAlpine is, vocally and histrionically, excellent as Patience. Miss Fanny Edwards efficiently interprets the role of the "massive" Lady Jane, and the other "rapturous maidens" are cleverly impersonated by the Misses Elsie Cameron, Marion May, Clara Deveine &c.
Mr. Geo. Thorne is an amusing exponent of the part of Reginald Bunthorne; Mr Arthur Rousbey acts admirably as Archibald Grosvenor; and Messrs Jas. Sydney (the Duke of Dunstable), G. B. Browne (Colonel Calverley), and J. B. Rae (Major Murgatroyd) are excellent in their respective parts.
The opera has been placed upon the stage with every attention to detail, and the band and chorus, under the direction of Mr. Geo. Arnold, leave nothing to be desired.
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