Patience (Complete Recording of the Score)

D'Oyle Carte Opera

Patience (Complete Recording of the Score), D'Oyle Carte Opera
CDJAY2 1415
CD1 52'36''
CD2 48'11''


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Chorus and Orchestra of

conducted by
John Owen Edwards

Mary Hegatry,  Donald Maxwell,  Jill Pert
Simon Butteriss,  David Fieldsend,  Henry Wickham
Nerys Jones,  Gareth Jones,  Frances McCafferty,  Yvonne Patrick


The sixth in the long line of theatrical collaborations between the comic writer, William Schwenk Gilbert (1836 - 1911) and the composer, Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842 - 1900), Patience is the first true Savoy Opera. Derived from the name of the theatre built by impressario Richard D’Oyly Carte as a permanent home for the works of the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership, the generic title, Savoy Opera, has come to encompass their entire joint operatic output. To Patience, however, went the distinction of being the first piece to be staged at the superbly appointed new theatre in the Strand.

Having opened at the Opéra Comique Theatre on 23 April, 1881, the operetta was transferred to the new Savoy Theatre where it received what almost amounted to a second première on 10 October. That night Sullivan conducted a production lavishly re-mounted with new scenery and costumes and enhanced by a larger chorus. Perhaps the most novel feature of the evening, however, was the innovative use of electricity to illuminate the auditorium. Lit in its uncustomary brightness was an audience of outstanding brilliance, among the most outstanding luminaries of which was Oscar Wilde, whose aesthetic stance became widely regarded as an inspiration for Gilbert’s libretto.

By the time Patience was written the aesthetic movement in literature and art had been in bloom for some twenty years. With its roots in the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetics of such artists as Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the movement encompassed literature, by way of writers such as William Morris and Algernon Swinburne, and reached a wider public through its influence on decor and dress. Essentially a revolt against stuffy Victorian values in art and life, aestheticism harked back to an idealised mediaevalism, encompassing, as well, an eclectic mixture of other elements such as a belief in rustic innocence and an admiration for oriental decoration and artefacts - epitomised by the silks and blue-and-white china sold at Liberty and Company’s newly opened London emporium.

For its dedicated followers, aestheticism became a way of life, dictating not only their artistic credo but also style in interior design and personal dress. Their manner often characterised by studied languor and a certain soulful melancholy, it is not surprising the self-conscious stances of the disciples attracted the attention of contemporary humorists. One of the most brilliant chroniclers of the aesthetic avant-garde was the Punch cartoonist, George du Maurier (interestingly, the man who created the rôle of Box in Sullivan’s first operetta, Cox and Box). Indeed, when Oscar Wilde arrived in London it was as  though one of du Maurier’s celebrated caricatures had come to life. With his exaggerated mannerisms and poses he immediately became aestheticism personified. Yet beneath all the exaggerated displays was a genuine artistic sensitivity which endeared him to such considerable artists as James McNeill Whistler and Burne-Jones.

By the early 1880s public fascination with aestheticism had become considerable. Du Maurier’s even more elaborate cartoon world continued to amuse and, in 1880, F.C. Burnand (editor of Punch and librettist of Cox and Box) brought out The Colonel, a play incorporating an aesthetic leading character. Aestheticism was not, however, the mainspring which powered Gilbert’s initial inspiration for the libretto which was to become Patience. As in so many of the Savoy Operas, the author harked back to an earlier idea. In this case it was to be one of his Bab Ballads entitled ‘The Rival Curates’. This tale of romantic rivalry between the curates of two neighbouring parishes had already provided material for The Sorcerer, and most likely it is this common source which led Gilbert to regard Patience, in the initial stages of its creation at least, as a reworking of the earlier libretto. Apparently some two-thirds of the Patience libretto had been completed before Gilbert became mistrustful of the clerical element and changed tack. The replacement of the clergymen by two rival aesthetic poets was a masterstroke. In particular, a whole new dimension of visual satire was opened up. The Rapturous Maidens of the female chorus mere made to look as though they had just stepped out from a Pre-Raphaelite painting; the poet Bunthorne’s velvet jacket, knee-breeches and flowing tie caricatured Wilde’s favoured dress, while his monocle and mass of dark curls with its single white streak were ready reminders of Whistler (actually a friend of Gilbert’s for all that). Contrasting the soft, muted colours of the aesthetes’ apparel and the bright scarlet and gold uniforms of the detachment of Dragoon Guards, with whom they become embroiled, Gilbert, with his mastery of theatrical effect, presented a visual metaphor for the clash of their very different outlooks.

Prior to working on Patience Gilbert had collaborated with Sullivan on a project far removed from their usual shared territory. Sullivan’s ‘sacred musical drama’, The Martyr of Antioch - essentially a cantata - had been written for the 1880 Leeds Festival to a verse text specially adapted by Gilbert from the original by Henry Hart Milman. The exertions on this work left the composer ready for the break he took in Paris and Nice and somewhat indolent over setting the batch of Patience lyrics which were tucked into his luggage. Nonetheless, a desultory start was made over the 1881 new-year period in-between relaxing in the Nice sunshine and trips to the tables at nearby Monte Carlo. Eventually matters became pressing. D’Oyly Carte wanted the new piece to open in April and refused Sullivan’s request - made as late as 6 March - to delay the première.

As usual, Sullivan left the immense task of orchestrating his operetta as late as possible, subjecting himself, in consequence, to a gruelling regime of long rehearsals during the day, and scoring through the night. On 13 April he began to orchestrate : by 21 April the full score was complete except for an overture. Little wonder that, with the first night only two days away, Sullivan sought assistance, as he had done before, with this final task. In this instance he passed his sketch of the overture to his brilliant protégé, Eugene d’Albert (son of the dance arranger, Charles d’Albert). (It is amusingly ironic that the future composer of Tiefland and other German operas - a musician who was to disown his British musical background - should have had a hand in a Savoy Opera. Indeed, this little overture may have received more performances than anything else to come from his pen!)

The première, conducted by the composer, was an enormous success. After its transfer from the Opéra Comique to the Savoy Theatre, Patience went on to achieve an outstanding initial run of 578 performances - a total only exceeded by HMS Pinafore and The Mikado. Despite this success, the operetta was passed over for Savoy revival for nearly twenty years. Its eventual reappearance on 7 November, 1900, came only a couple of weeks before Sullivan’s death at the early age of 58. Far too ill to attend, let alone conduct, on the first night, he was disappointed not to be able to join the ailing Gilbert and D’Oyly Carte for a curtain call. “Three invalid chairs would have looked very well from the front”, he wrote with his good wishes for the performance.

Gilbert felt that of all his Savoy Opera libretti, Patience was the most likely to date. He was unduly pessimistic. Certainly it contains more than the usual quota of topical references, but these are largely incidental. Every age has its affected poseurs, its artistic whims and fashions and their fickle followers. Gilbert’s light-hearted comedy, transcending its contemporary context, continues to delight, coupled, as it is, to music from Sullivan’s most fertile period of operetta composition.

  1. Overture
  2. Twenty Love-Sick Maidens We
  3. Still Brooding On Their Mad Infatuation
  4. I Cannot Tell What This Love May Be
  5. Twenty Love-Sick Maidens We (Exit)
  6. The Soldiers Of Our Queen
  7. In A Doleful Train
  8. Twenty Love-Sick Maidens We (2nd Exit)
  9. When I First Put This Uniform On
  10. Am I Alone and Unobserved?
  11. Long Years Ago, Fourteen Maybe
  12. Prithee, Pretty Maiden
  13. Though To Marry You Would Really Be / Finale Act One
  14. Let The Merry Cymbals Sound
  15. Now Tell Us, We Pray You
  16. Heart-Broken At My Patience's Barbarity
  17. Stay We Implore You
  18. Your Maidens Hearts
  19. Come, Walk Up And Purchase With Avidity
  20. And Are You Going A Ticket For To Buy?
  21. Hold! Stay Your Hand!
  22. True Love Must Single Hearted Be
  23. I Hear The Soft Note
  24. Oh, List While We A Love Confess
  1. One Such Eyes As Maidens Cherish
  2. Sad Is That Woman's Lot / Silver'd Is The Raven Hair
  3. Turn, Oh Turn In This Direction
  4. A Magnet Hung In A Hardware Shop
  5. Love Is A Plaintive Song
  6. So Go To Him And Say To Him
  7. It's Clear That Mediaeval Art
  8. If Saphir I Choose To Marry
  9. When I Go Out of Door
  10. I'm A Waterloo House Young Man
  11. Finale Act Two: After Much Debate Internal
  12. The Dukes Song
  13. Finale Act Two (including Discarded Opening Section)
  14. The Sorceror Overture
  15. Utopia Ltd Overture
  16. Cox and Box Overture
  17. Ruddigore Overture