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PATIENCE further reading

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Gilbert and Sullivan Society · Exeter · Devon

Written by W S Gilbert

Composed by Arthur Sullivan


    Act 1

    The ladies of the village close to Castle Bunthorne have all fallen into a rapture of love for the æsthetic poet and castle owner – Reginald Bunthorne. Led by Angela, Saphir and Ella, the ladies all discuss the fact that they are rivals in terms of their agonising love but that they are also bound together in suffering because he appears ‘icy insensible’ to their affections. The Lady Jane adds to their gloomy mood by informing them that Bunthorne’s devotion is directed towards the dairy maid – Patience. Whereupon, Patience herself appears and expresses her amazement at this thing called love which seems to leave them all so miserable. She then drops two verbal bombshells telling the ladies that she has never loved and also that the 35th Dragoon Guards, to whom they all became engaged a year previously, are currently stationed in the village and are about to appear. However, the ladies , with hearts turned elsewhere, depart to sing ‘morning carols’ to their new love.

    As predicted, the Guards duly appear – efficiently drilled by Major Murgatroyd (engaged to Saphir) and stand to attention for the arrival of Colonel Calverley (engaged to Angela). The Colonel describes the Dragoons as the product of the melting together of all the remarkable people in history with any dross removed.

    The most recent addition to their august band is the Duke of Dunstable who claims to be weary of the deference he receives and hopes to experience something different in the ‘rough and tumble’ of military camaraderie.

    Re-enter the ladies, now with Bunthorne in tow generating amazement from the Guards because their sweethearts have not rushed up to them in excitement. The Colonel demands an explanation for this rejection, to be told that the ladies have become ‘idealised’ and are now devoted to the poet Bunthorne who takes this as a cue to treat them all to a reading of one of his poems. Patience declares it all to be nonsense and the ladies declare the Dragoon uniforms to be in need of improvement to match their own new found dress sense, thus prompting the Colonel’s defence of their military attire and the Guards’ indignant departure.

    Once all have left, Bunthorne quickly checks that he is alone and confesses that he is ‘an æsthetic sham’ – that his posturing is the result of a desire to be admired. It is Patience who breaks into his solo musings declaring her dislike of poetry. Bunthorne confides his secret to her and declares his love, which she wholeheartedly rejects. She is then left alone and confesses her lack of understanding of this thing called love. But help is at hand in the shape of Lady Angela, who explains the refining nature of pure love and asks if Patience is sure that she has never loved anyone. The affection for her Great Aunt is rejected, but her attachment to a little boy with whom she played many years ago allows Angela to depart reassured.

    Ashamed that her lack of loving seems to be so appalling, Patience determines to go off and fall in love at once – almost colliding with the poet Archibald Grosvenor. He is (of course) the little boy with whom Patience used to play and all seems set for a happy romance – for they do indeed still love each other – when Patience realises with horror that as true love has to be unselfish and he is so perfect, her love for him could not be untainted – hence they sadly separate.

    Re-enter Bunthorne and his adoring female entourage, an entrance followed immediately by the arrival of the indignant Guards. Heartbroken by Patience’s rejection and advised by his solicitor, Bunthorne puts himself up for raffle. Although briefly distracted by a plea from the Guards led by the Duke, the ladies, including Jane, go ahead and buy their raffle tickets. At the moment of the draw, Patience suddenly bursts on to the scene and declares that she will ,after all, accept Bunthorne’s proposal – not because she has actually changed her affections but because of her belief that love has to be unselfish.

    Helpfully, the Dragoon Guards have not marched off in indignation and the ladies all drift back to their fiancés – that is until Grosvenor appears and the ladies fall back into their trance- like adoration for a poet: exeunt Grosvenor pursued by them, the Guards in high dudgeon, Patience heartbroken that others love her childhood sweetheart and Bunthorne indignant about the competition.


    Act 2

    The ladies have clearly fallen under a new spell, but Jane appears and is still devoted to her Reginald – though she expresses concern that he needs to reciprocate her feelings before her charms have over-ripened and tip into decay. All of the other ladies are completely transfixed by Grosvenor and follow him around until he agrees to read them some of his poetry. Worn out by their constant adoration and wanting a day off, Grosvenor explains, through the fable of the magnet and the churn, that his heart is given to another. When (immediately) he encounters Patience again, we see that the desire to hold to the ideal of unselfish love is proving difficult and Patience is left weeping.

    Reappear Bunthorne with his entourage reduced to one – The Lady Jane, and they too discuss the problems of unselfish love. When Bunthorne challenges Patience by saying that he does not think she knows what love is, she admits that although there was a time when (happily!) she did not – she has now learned the pain of that state and again she exits….weeping. Bunthorne admits to Jane that he is angry at the appearance of a rival, but, supported by her, he determines to defend his territory.

    Once the coast is completely clear, three strangely clad gentlemen appear… the Colonel and the Major are obviously prepared to do anything to win back their sweethearts and, supported by the Duke, they attempt to imitate the æsthetic style they saw in their rival Bunthorne. Though they have not got the poses quite right, Angela and Saphir are won over by the effort they have made, but they realise that with the Duke now one of the Guards, that gives three men and two ladies and hence – the matter of pairing off will be complicated.

    Eventually – as was bound to happen – Bunthorne and Grosvenor meet, the former expressing his anger that his rival has taken the attention of the ladies and the latter expressing his grievance that his perfect looks always ‘get in the way’. Bunthorne suggests the changes that could alter both their fortunes and they sing together in delight at the solution.

    Patience thus encounters a new and light-hearted Bunthorne and is very briefly delighted until she realises that the change would make Bunthorne ‘perfect’ and thus her love could not be unselfish.

    With amazing speed, Grosvenor reappears together with the ladies – all changed in appearance because he has persuaded them to discard their æstheticism, and they are followed by the Dragoon Guards. Patience is shocked by the change in Archibald until she realises that his fall from perfection means that she can now love him. All is not lost for Bunthorne, for Jane has, as she stated at the opening of the Act, remained faithful to her Reginald.

    So all seems set for a happy pairing off until the Duke enters having determined to select a bride for himself. The ladies are briefly sidetracked until he says that the fairest thing to do is to marry the one among them ‘who is distinctly plain’ and he calls Jane to his side. Clearly the acquisition of a title is too good an opportunity for Jane to turn down , which leaves all happily with a partner… except Bunthorne – who has to resign himself to be ‘contented with a tulip or lily’.


    ACT 1

    Twenty love-sick maidens we
    Angela, Ella and Chorus of Maidens

    Still brooding on their mad infatuation
    Patience, Saphir, Angela, and Chorus

    I cannot tell what this love may be
    Patience and Chorus

    Twenty love-sick maidens we
    Chorus of Maidens – Exit

    The soldiers of our Queen
    Chorus of Dragoons

    If you want a receipt for that popular mystery
    Colonel and Chorus

    In a doleful train two and two we walk
    Angela, Ella, Saphir, Bunthorne,
    and Chorus of Maidens and Dragoons

    Twenty love-sick maidens we
    Chorus of Maidens – Exit

    When I first put this uniform on
    Colonel and Chorus of Dragoons

    Am I alone and unobserved?

    Long years ago, fourteen maybe
    Patience and Angela

    Prithee, pretty maiden
    Patience and Grosvenor

    Though to marry you would very selfish be
    Patience and Grosvenor

    Let the merry cymbals sound

    ACT 2

    On such eyes as maidens cherish
    Chorus of Maidens

    Sad is that woman’s lot

    Turn, oh turn, in this direction
    Chorus of Maidens

    A magnet hung in a hardware shop
    Grosvenor and Chorus of Maidens

    Love is a plaintive song

    So go to him, and say to him
    Jane and Bunthorne

    It’s clear that mediaeval art
    Duke, Major, and Colonel

    If Saphir I choose to marry
    Angela, Saphir, Duke, Major, and Colonel

    When I go out of door
    Bunthorne and Grosvenor

    I'm a Waterloo House young man
    Grosvenor and Chorus of Maidens

    After much debate internal


    Colonel Calverley
    Officer of Dragoon Guards (bass-baritone)

    Major Murgatroyd
    Officer of Dragoon Guards (baritone)

    Lieut. The Duke of Dunstable
    Officer of Dragoon Guards (tenor)

    Reginald Bunthorne
    a Fleshly Poet (comic baritone)

    Archibald Grosvenor
    an Idyllic Poet (lyric baritone)

    Mr. Bunthorne’s Solicitor

    The Lady Angela
    Rapturous Maiden (mezzo-soprano)

    The Lady Saphir
    Rapturous Maiden (mezzo-soprano or soprano)

    The Lady Ella
    Rapturous Maiden (soprano)

    The Lady Jane
    Rapturous Maiden (contralto)

    a Dairy Maid (soprano)

    Chorus of Rapturous Maidens and
    Officers of Dragoon Guardsa



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    Annotated libretto of Patience containing material subsequently deleted


    Newly typeset vocal score of Patience including
    full dialogue, courtesy of Paul Howarth and the
    Gilbert & Sullivan Archive


    Vocal score of the deleted song for the Duke,
    ‘Tho men of rank’



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    Please Note: St David’s Players are not responsible for the content or availability of content on external websites

    Reviews currently included here have been posted by contributor, Ian Bond, and are his personal views, and these may not necessarily represent the views of St David’s Players

    A look at the list of initial runs for the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas reveals that Patience initially ran for a total of 578 performances, second only in fact to The Mikado. The first revival of the piece during November 1900 resulted in a very respectable run of 150 performances. Little wonder then that Patience was the 5th opera to arrive in the recording studio, being accorded a complete recording by HMV in 1921 ahead of both Iolanthe and Pinafore (1922).

    As was the practice in the acoustic era, very few D’Oyly Carte singers were employed in these first recordings, and in the case of Patience, the opera is cast entirely from HMV ‘stock’ singers, including George Baker as both Bunthorne and Major Murgatroyd and Peter Dawson as Colonel Calverley.

    This recording has been issued in a number of digital transfers, including Sounds on CD VGS 201, and as an MP3 download from 78s2cd GS04C

    With the advent of the new ‘electric’ recording process in 1927, HMV started a second series of complete recordings. By this time D’Oyly Carte singers were, in the main, being used in preference to HMV’s contracted singers, and in the case of Patience (one of three operas to be recorded in 1930), the cast is basically that as seen on stage with just two exceptions – George Baker is cast as Bunthorne, whilst Derek Oldham plays the Duke, a role he never played on stage.

    Dr Malcolm Sargent conducts and draws some fine singing from the chorus and some equally fine playing from the orchestra, both presumably D’Oyly Carte.

    Sounds On CD VGS244

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