United Kingdom Gilbert & Sullivan, Patience: Singers and musicians of Charles Court Opera / David Eaton (conductor). Opera House, Buxton 4.8.2022. (RJW)
Director – John Savournin
Designer – Simon Bejer
Lighting – Rachel Cleary
Choreography – Merry Holden and Damian Czarnecki
Reginald Bunthorne – Matthew Kellett
Archibald Grosvenor – Matthew Siviter
Duke of Dunstable – David Menezes
Colonel Calvert – Matthew Palmer
Major Murgatroyd – Dominic Bowe
Patience – Catriona Hewitson
Lady Jane – Catrine Kirkman
Lady Angela – Meriel Cunningham
Lady Saphir – Jennie Jacobs
Charles Court Opera have been touring G&S for a number of years now and it is always good to see what new takes they have on these well-established comic operas. Simon Bejer’s set was simple yet appealing and nicely lit.
Here they have updated the appearance of the sixth opera of the G&S partnership, Patience. With a setting in a cocktail bar, the aesthetic theme of Patience has been replaced with an alcoholic Goth theme. This new look to the opera worked well and it was amazing that Gilbert’s situations were able to be skillfully updated in John Savournin’s production. Instead of singing about ‘Love-sick Maidens we’, Lady Angela and Lady Saphir sing about ‘Alcoholic Maidens we’. Lady Jane in black with walking stick supports them with appropriate mannerisms.
Much of Gilbert’s witty dialogue is so apt that it has been left untouched and fits remarkably well. The music is traditional and well played by a small orchestra under David Eaton’s direction. Typical of Charles Court, the patter songs are usually sung with one or two verses revised to take on-board witty and topical comments. These changes start in earnest with Bunthorne’s, ‘If you’re anxious for to shine’ with its amusing additions. Sadly, one or two of the insertions were missed by the Dress Circle audience due to over-enthusiastic, ‘delicately modulated’ musicians in the pit. Thanks to the excellent diction from the company of strong performers, few of the new lyrics were missed though. The nine singers had sufficient heft to fill the auditorium, especially during the finales where they delivered with the strength necessary to provide a powerful climax.
In Act II, the chestnut, ‘A Magnet hung in a Hardware Shop’ was tenderly sung with good diction by Grosvenor. It would be unfair to single out particular characters because they all gave 110% energy to sing to perfection. Patience’s innocent charm was delightful and her misunderstandings of both poets’ eccentricities given the sincerity they craved for. The gravitas of Lady Jane (Catrine Kirkman) was as much a focus as Bunthorne (Matthew Kellett) and Grosvenor (Matthew Siviter). They delivered their characters impeccably in sonorous tones. A highlight was the unaccompanied ‘I Hear the Soft Note’. Here the balanced voices gave the number a sensitive rendering, which was a delight to the ear. Patience (Catriona Hewitson) and Angela (Meriel Cunningham) were also memorable for their singing, particularly in the duet, ‘Long Years Ago’ — the two voices blending beautifully. I liked the bubbly innocence in Patience’s character and was amused at Bunthorne’s antics behind the bar. Perhaps misguided was Gilbert’s reference to ‘bottled beer’ when in fact pints were pulled from the bar pump to reward a well-deserved and understandable thirst.
Raymond J Walker