Poets gone Wilde!
The ever-changing and all-consuming nature of fads was no different in the Victorian era of Gilbert and Sullivan than it is today. Like the boy band wars of the 1990s and the infatuation with vampires and werewolves during the popularity of the Twilight saga, Patience is Gilbert’s send-up of romantic sex symbols – and the public’s infatuation with them. Instead of musicians or mythical characters, though, Gilbert’s sex symbols are poets: Reginald Bunthorne, a fleshly, decadent, brooding figure, and Archibald Grosvenor, a rustic, pastoral Adonis that unwittingly steals the affections of Bunthorne’s coterie of adoring female admirers. Both compete for the affections of the innocent milkmaid Patience, who remains oblivious to their cults of personality. Similarly unimpressed are the ex-fiances of the poet-loving women, a regiment of proud but hopelessly banal Dragoon guards, who must adopt the sensitive brooding of the poets to win back the affections of their betrothed.
The second-longest running opera of all time by the time it completed its initial run, Patience was Gilbert and Sullivan’s most successful work to date, and exceeded the popularity (and box office) of HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. Featuring a particularly witty book by Gilbert, a delightful soprano ingenue, and some of the most tender musical moments in the canon, Patience is a brilliant showcase of both Gilbert and Sullivan at the height of their creative powers.