On June 2nd, we went to the Skylight Opera Theatre to see their production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Patience," the sixth of the famous pair's collaborations. The comic opera lampoons the "Aesthetic Movement," in particular the public foibles of such notable characters as Oscar Wilde, Algernon Swinburne, and James McNeill Whistler. (Interestingly, at least some of the aesthetes seem to have had a sense of humor about it. When "Patience" was to be played in the United States, Gilbert and Sullivan actually hired Wilde to act as a sort of "advance man," giving lectures on the movement in cities where the opera was scheduled to open.) The protagonist, Bunthorne (Gary Briggle), a "fleshly poet", has won the devotion of all the well-bread ladies in his small town, who have all become fervent aesthetes and thrown over their former worldly suitors (members of the local Regiment). Bunthorne, however, prefers to pursue the milkmaid Patience (Niffer Clarke), who is not only obtuse to things aesthetic but also apparently impervious to "love" since she claims she does not know what it is. The aesthetic lades attempt to explain it to her with typically topsy-turvy effect when Archibald Grosvenor (Norman Moses) comes to town. Not only is Archibald a rival aesthete and poet to Bunthorne, he also turns out to be Patience's childhood companion, who loves her and whom she could love unreservedly. However, having been taught by the learned ladies that on must suffer for love, she determines that she can't love Archibald (although it is alright if he continues to love her--) and decides instead to accept Bunthorne.
Of course, things can't remain there, and work out in a typically comic fashion, although in a rather more low-keyed fashion than some, requiring no supernatural influences or deus ex machina pronouncements from the government.
In a lot of ways, "Patience" is one of the most grounded pf the G&S operas, and has a very "literary" script with much discussion of asthetic principles and the realities of fame and adulation. Bunthorne admits to the audience that he is a poseur and hates poetry, but can't live without the admiration of his fans--a pehnomenon still very current today.
As with most Gilbert and Sullivan scripts, there is some space for adding local references, and the production added very clever bits to the military men's patter song "A Heavy Dragoon," and the Bunthorne/Archibald duet "A Commonplace Young Man."
Clarke, Briggle, and Moses were very ably supported by the rest of the cast, who sang, danced, and mugged with the best of them. There was clever choreography, especially for the men, and the orchestra was in fine tune and did not overpower the voices. All in all, another very fine production by the Skylight.