|Patience > No. 1 Company in Leicester
From Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, June 17, 1882; pg. 6; Issue 3718.
Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's æsthetic opera, "Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride," which, together with Mr. Burnand's comedy, "The Colonel," and the satire of the comic papers, has done much towards eradicating the once fashionable folly of æstheticism, was produced at the Opera House on Monday evening by Mr. D'Oyly Carte's company. There was an unusually full house on the occasion — which was to be expected — and that the audience fully appreciated the authors' work was shown by the keen and unflagging enjoyment manifested for Mr. Gilbert's share, and by all the chief numbers penned by Dr. Sullivan being encored. Mr. Gilbert has written many smart things, and has brought his humour to bear upon many objects in his time, but it is doubtful if he has ever dealt with anything so successfully and effectively as the craze which at one time threatened with its shams and hypocrisy to shake the foundations of true art.
So keen and incisive is his satire that it is no small wonder that æstheticism is no longer tolerated. His witticisms, however, are full of fun and point, and whilst never transgressing the bounds of good taste, keep the audience in continual laughter. Nothing so diverting has been experienced here before, and those who have not witnessed the performance will experience keen enjoyment from a perusal of the "book." It has been rightly said, by a well-known critic, that Mr. Gilbert "has refined, etherealised, and idealised the art of the satirist," for what charming stage pictures he presents to our notice whilst holding the actors therein up to ridicule.
What could be more delightful than the scene presented on the rising of the curtain? Twenty charming maidens, clothed in classical costumes, altogether unsuited to the climate of what Lord Dunraven calls "our sodden little island," are reclining in graceful attitudes, playing all kinds of ancient and mediæval instruments, and singing of their hopeless passion for Reginald Bunthorne, a fleshly poet, rich in this world's goods, but a slave to his appetite for admiration, who has succeeded in constituting himself the object of a cultus on the part of these fair votaries, whom he has duped by his well feigned "utterness."
An unsophisticated dairymaid named Patience is, however, the object of his love, but she declines to have anything to do with him, upon the broad ground that she does not know what love is. From one of the "rapturous maidens" whom she takes into her confidence she learns that "love is of all passions the most essential; the embodiment of purity; the abstraction of refinement; the one unselfish emotion in this world of grasping greed." Patience realises what a wicked girl she must be to "have lived all these years without experiencing this ennobling and unselfish passion," and determines that she will at once fall in love with someone.
Opportunely there arrives Archibald Grosvenor, a former playmate of Patience's, and whom she admits she loved "when he was a little boy." Grosvenor has become an idyllic poet, and being "gifted with a beauty which probably has not its rival upon earth" it is his destiny to be madly loved by every woman who sets eyes upon him. Patience and he renew their childish love, which, however, is speedily damped by Patience discovering that there would be no self-sacrifice involved in her loving a man who is the incorporation of human perfection, "a source of endless ecstasy to all who know him." He admits the force of her reasoning, and they part, Patience — conceiving it to be her duty to love some uncongenial person — offering herself to and being accepted by Bunthorne, who is on the point of being raffled for by the twenty lovesick maidens. These latter renew their acquaintance with the Philistines in the shape of some jolly officers of Dragoons, to whom they had been affianced before Bunthorne's advent, but whom they at once again desert for Grosvenor.
The Dragoons finding that the only way to gain their object is to adopt the æsthetic style, set to work to cultivate it, with screamingly funny results, but to the extreme gratification of some of the fair damozels, who describe them as "jolly utter" and "quite too all-but."
In the meantime Bunthorne's yearning for admiration has reassumed its sway, and he induces his rival, by the fear of his curse, to cut his hair, don prosaic tweeds, and become in fact "a common-place young man." Bunthorne's triumph is, however, short-lived, for Patience discovers that now that Grosvenor has no claim to perfection there is nothing to prevent her loving him, whilst the force of his example induces the changeable twenty to discard æstheticism, to resume ordinary attire, and to bestow their affections upon the long-suffering Dragoons. The Lady Jane, a massive elderly female, who has always been in close attendance upon Bunthorne, alone remains faithful to him, but even she deserts him for Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable, who volunteers to share his "thousand a day" with her. Bunthorne, completely "crushed," resigns himself to the monotony of single life, disconsolately admitting that he will "have to be contented with a tulip or lily." Thus the climax is brought about by everyone acting in a manner directly opposed to what one would imagine, but as this is a favourite practice with Mr. Gilbert we cannot express surprise, although like numberless other folk we wonder where "Bunthorne's bride" may be.
Mr. Sullivan has contributed some charming music to the two acts of which the piece consists. Although less lively and catching than that of "Pinafore" or "Pirates of Penzance," it is, from a musical point of view, superior to either, being far more refined and scholarly. There are numbers in it which are of high-class merit, both in invention and construction. The choral music for the rapturous maidens is sweetly melodious, particularly the opening movement, "Twenty love-sick maidens we," and the choruses "In a melancholy train" and "Let the merry cymbals sound." There are, nevertheless, numerous touches of genuine musical humour, notably in the song for Colonel Calverley, "If you want a receipt;" the recit. and song for Bunthorne in the first act; Grosvenor's song, "A magnet hung;" the duet, "So go to him," for Bunthorne and Lady Jane; the comic trio for the Duke, Colonel, and the Major; and the duet for the two poets, "When I go out of doors." The duet, "Prithee, pretty maiden," for Patience and Grosvenor, is a deliciously quaint morceau, and there is something of permanent value in the unaccompanied sestette, "I hear the soft note," Patience's song, "I cannot tell," and her ballad, "Love is a plaintive song," whilst the duet, "Long years ago," for Patience and the Lady Angela is an exceedingly graceful composition. The choral pieces for the soldiers are boldly written, the most noticeable, perhaps, being "The soldiers of our Queen" and "Stay we implore you." The representation of the piece was in all respects praiseworthy.
We have already stated that most of the numbers were encored, which is conclusive evidence that the singing was all that it should be. The acting was alike successful, and the audience showed their appreciation of the company's general excellence by calling the leading members at the close of each act. Miss Ethel Pierson was a charming representative of the simple-minded dairy maid, playing modestly but sprightly, and singing her soli with much archness. The principal group of rapturous maidens, the Ladies Ella, Angela, Saphir, and Jane, were very satisfactorily impersonated by the Misses Presano, Elsie Cameron, Clara Deveine, and Fanny Edwards respectively. The last named is to be especially commended for the striking manner in which she fills a not very pleasant part. Her singing of the song "Silvered is the raven hair" was greatly relished.
Mr. G. Byron Browne was a dashing Colonel Calverley, and sang with spirit, and the parts of Major Murgatroyd and Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable were well filled by Mr. Albert James and Mr. James Sydney. The posturing of these gentlemen when singing the comic trio, dressed in mediæval costume, was a rich caricature of the attitudes assumed by the "inner brotherhood," and added greatly to the amusement of the audience. Mr. G. Thorne, although not possessed of a very telling voice, was exceedingly comic, both in make-up and manner, as Bunthorne, whilst Mr. Arthur Rousbey's rendering of the opposing part of Archibald Grosvenor was highly commendable, and his singing gave evidence of the possession of a cultivated voice.
The chorus and orchestra were very efficient, the costumes throughout costly and appropriate, whilst the stage action and grouping have attained a degree of perfection only acquired after long practice. The performance indeed was without a hitch. "Mock Turtles," a vaudeville in one act, was the afterpiece. "Patience" has been repeated each subsequent evening with, if possible, increasing success, and as the engagement terminates this (Saturday) evening, there will, without doubt, be a "big house."
Next week Mr. Thomas Thorne's company will appear in Mr. G. R. Sims' comedy, "The Half-way House," after which the house will be closed for the summer vacation.
Page modified 8 November, 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.