Patience, Gilbert & Sullivan

Title Patience or Bunthorne’s Bride
English Title
Composer Arthur Sullivan
Librettists William Gilbert
Language English, Dutch translation available
Genre Light opera. Two acts
First performance 23 April, 1881, Opéra Comique, London
Time of action Around 1880
Place of action
  1. Before Castle Bunthorne
  2. A glade
Main parts
  • Patience, a dairy maid, soprano
  • Reginald Bunthorne, a fleshly poet, baritone
  • Archibald Grosvenor, an idyllic poet, tenor (easy tessitura)
  • The Lady Jane, contralto
Prominence of chorus Large
Orchestra 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani/percussion, strings
Special demands
Full score and orchestral parts Available
Level Not difficult
Length About 2½ hours. Two acts

Sullivan has written music that beautifully fits the story, alternately refined and naive; at times the contrasts are almost unsettling. As is usual with Sullivan, the work contains an ensemble in which various tunes are first sung separately and then simultaneously, but here it is given a special meaning: the ordinary world and aestheticism are only seemingly in opposition.


Two rival poets, Bunthorne and Grosvenor, are rapturously worshipped by a crowd of refined ladies, but are both in love with Patience, a simple peasant girl. The former (who is rather like Oscar Wilde) perseveres in his aesthetic way of life, but the latter in the end prefers to become an ordinary chap. The ladies then follow Grosvenor’s example and also turn ordinary. Daily reality is represented by the very down-to-earth dragoons, who are totally bewildered by all this aestheticism; one of the funniest scenes is that in which they too do their best to become aesthetic, in order to regain the ladies’ good graces. All these changes from ordinary to extraordinary and vice versa are very effective on stage. Patience is the only one who remains herself throughout. She simply does not succeed in turning different, though she feels obliged to do her best. Not surprisingly, she gets the nicest man. In the end, the ladies content themselves with the dragoons. The least attractive lady even manages to hook a duke. All the engaged couples dance happily off. Bunthorne remains alone, consoling himself with the lily in his button-hole: the flower of poetry and emblem of aestheticism.

Costumes Men: dragoons’ uniforms. Women: aesthetic gowns.
Link Wikipedia

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Tags: Gilbert | Sullivan | Knoppers