|Patience > D Company on tour in Bristol
The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post (Bristol, England), Tuesday, December 6, 1881; Issue 10472.
Last night, a comic opera company, specially formed by that spirited and, we may add, very competent entrepreneur, D'Oyly Carte, commenced a six night's engagement at this house with Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's latest and, we think we may say, happiest æsthetic comic opera, " Patience," As the reader may suppose, the piece is a satire on a pervading modern craze. It must not be thought that Mr. Gilbert has any war with those who are really enthusiastic in their admiration of beauty in nature and art. His evident object is to hold up to ridicule those "Brummagem" pretenders to æstheticism, who invade society without improving it, and who by their tinselly affectation lessen the respect which would otherwise be felt for those in whom the feeling is genuine.
In its wit, fancy, and originality "Patience" will well bear comparison with any of its predecessors, whilst it soars in all those respects far above the great majority of the adaptations from foreign sources with which it has been the fashion of late years to supply the opera bouffe stage.
The story of the piece is, of course, extravagant in the extreme, but all its extravagance is on the side of good humour, and the mirth it provokes is all but ceaseless, Its name is derived from a central figure in the plot, one Patience, a milkmaid, The story, briefly told, runs thus:— When the curtain rises on the grounds of Castle Bunthorne, a score of "rapturous maidens," in æsthetic costume, and each grasping a lute, mandolin, or other ancient or mediæval instrument, are seen grouped about in various graceful attitudes. They are all hopelessly in love with Bunthorne, a "fleshly" poet of the type rendered familiar through the pages of Punch. Bunthorne, who has been impressed by the charms of Patience, does not reciprocate their devotion; and his admirers bewail the hopelessness of their love in song, the refrain of which, "Ah miserie!" is rendered with pathetic feeling.
Patience now appears with the information that the 35th Dragoon Guards have arrived in the village. The dragoons a year before had made a decided impression on the hearts of the fair ones of Bunthorne, but as the Lady Angela now declares, their tastes have in the meantime been etherealised and their perceptions exalted. The dashing officers, who have become "fleshly men of full habit" in the eyes of their former admirers, now enter. Presently Bunthorne, a slim, angular individual, appears, and, oblivious to the looks of devotion of the rapturous ones, he proceeds with the composition of his "purely fragrant" and "earnestly precious" effusions. By and by he proceeds to read his poem, a "wild, weird, fleshly thing," entitled "Oh, hollow, hollow, hollow," The æsthetic ladies are in raptures, and more disposed than ever to throw the redcoats overboard. The gallant dragoons are soundly rated for not being "Empyrean, Della Cruscan, nor even Early English."
When Bunthorne is left alone he admits that he is æsthetic sham and an egotist. He describes in a recitative how he neither loves lilies nor dirty greens, but that mediævalism, with its "stained-glass attitudes," pays. Bunthorne is now joined by Patience, who does not understand what the tender passion means. "What is love?" she queries when she has sent Bunthorne away discomfitted. "Utter unselfishness" is the definition given her by the æsthetic Lady Angela.
A second æsthete, Archibald Grosvenor, now puts in an appearance, and in him Patience beholds a "little boy" she loved in former years. The recognition is mutual, and the two without delay fall in love. But alas! Archibald, a poet of the idyllic school, is "incomparably beautiful in mind and body," and as true love is "utter unselfishness," it would never do for Patience to monopolise him, and they part in despair. Meanwhile Bunthorne, stung with Patience's rejection of his suit, has determined to put himself up to be raffled for in aid of a deserving charity. But, just as the lot is about to be drawn, Patience, "the slave of duty," interposes, and offers to marry Bunthorne because else detests him. The æsthetic ladies in a fit of spleen, pair off with the dragoons, but at that moment Archibald enters. The appearance of the æsthetic poet is too much for the fickle damosels, who crowd around him with undisguised admiration to the disgust of the dragoons. On this climax the curtain drops.
The second act opens in a rural glade, the Lady Jane, who alone remains faithful to Bunthorne, being discovered. She is joined by Archibald, followed by the admiring maidens. He, like Bunthorne, is in the throes of composition, but, being an idyllic poet, he pours forth "decalets," commencing, "Gentle Jane was as good as gold," and "Teasing Tom was a very bad boy." Archibald, like Bunthorne, is deaf to the expressions of adoration and sighs he hears around him. Much as he loves the milkmaid, he discreetly retires on the approach of his rival, Bunthorne, who is closely attended by the Lady Jane, a damsel of mature and highly-developed charms. She alone of the fickle once has proved faithful; but, despite her pathetic pleadings to secure her ere she be gone too far (she is already ripe), Bunthorne refuses to smile on her. His thought[s] are con[cen]trated on Patience.
The dragoon officers have meanwhile transformed themselves into æsthetic worshippers. Their long hair, quaint costumes, and angular attitudes prove irresistible, and the Lady Angela and the Lady Saphir at once succumb.
Frightened by a threat from Bunthorne, Grosvenor consents to cut his hair, to doff the garb of the æsthetic bard, and to appear as an every day young man. Patience, still utterly unselfish, transfers her affection to the now "steady and stolid-y, Jolly Bank Holiday, everyday young man." Lady Jane is rewarded by becoming the bride of the Lieutenant – "a duke with a thousand a day." The dragoons finally regain their uniforms, and Bunthorne alone is left unblest, and the curtain falls on his unavailing moan, "Single I must live and die; I shall have to be contented with a tulip or a lily."
There are minor complications in the plot, which, as provocatives of mirth, are irresistible, but the foregoing tells the main story. In fitting this amusing satire with music Mr. Sullivan has, we think, surpassed any of his previous efforts in the line. His march, indeed, is always an onward one, and "Patience" in real musical quality excels "The Pirates of Penzance" quite as much as the Pirates surpassed "Pinafore." It is not only that the numbers generally are bright and tuneful, but there are passages so refined and tender that they seem out of place in connexion with a theme so farcical and humorous. This, it will be remembered, was to an extent the case with the Serenade to the Moon and the Madrigal in "Pinafore," and with "Oh, leave me not to pine" and the unaccompanied chorus "Hail, Poetry!" in the Pirates, and it is more markedly the case with some of the numbers of "Patience." Some of the æsthetic maidens' choral passages are especially good, and so are the sestet in the first act, Jane's song, "Silvered is the raven hair," and some other passages. A noticeable feature in the music, likewise, is the success with which, in aiming to provide a characteristic setting for a work which deals so much with the past, the composer has caught the style of some of the mediæval composers. It need hardly be said of Mr. Sullivan that his orchestration leaves nothing to desire.
The overture, although to a great extent a reproduction of the airs in the opera, is bright and effective, and forms an acceptable prelude, and the accompaniments are admirable and full of character.
The opera is cleverly acted and admirably costumed. Miss Ethel McAlpine acts the character of Patience as well as she sings the music, and to that her nice mezzo soprano voice and excellent musicianship enable her to do full justice. The Lady Jane of Miss Fanny Edwards is also excellent. The parts of the Ladies Angela, Saphir, and Ella are scarcely as prominent, but in them Miss Elsie Cameron, Miss Clara Deveine, and Miss Marian May acquitted themselves very effectively. The rôle of the Fleshy Poet (Reginald Bunthorne) was filled, and most satisfactorily filled, by Mr. George Thorne, who must be well remembered as the Tinbad of one of our Christmas pantomimes. He may not be a great singer, but his dry, quaint humour suits him admirably in the part of the æsthetic sham. His reading of the mock æsthetic poem, "Oh, hollow, hollow, hollow," was so amusing that an attempt was made to encore it. Mr. Arthur Rousbey both acts and sings capitally as the Idyllic Poet (Archibald Grosvenor), and Mr. George Browne, Mr. J. B. Rae, and Mr. James Sidney very efficiently portray the three Dragoon officers. The scene in which they have assumed æsthetic garb and sing an æsthetic trio was irresistibly comic.
Wasted space compels us to draw our remarks to close, but we may say that there were several encores, and that the large and fashionable audience were exuberant both in their laughter and applause.
Page modified 31 October, 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.