Bunthorne's Bride
Words: W.S. Gilbert
Music: Arthur Sullivan
Written in: Authored Date:

The atmosphere is established from the very beginning of the opera with the melancholy chorus of the twenty lovesick maidens who have forsaken their former lovers - the unimaginative and down-to-earth Dragoon Guards - to follow the poet Bunthorne. He, however, admits that he is 'an aesthetic sham' and that he really loves the village milkmaid. Patience, who does not even pretend to understand or like his so-called poetry. However, with the arrival of another aesthetic poet, Grosvenor, a childhood friend of Patience, Bunthorne's popularity wanes, for the adoring attentions of the rapturous maidens are now transferred to Grosvenor. Meanwhile, in order to recapture the affections of the maidens, the Dragoons themselves have done their best to adopt the costumes and demeanour of the Aesthetics, but somehow they are 'not exactly right'. Finally, in the hope of displacing his rival, Grosvenor, Bunthorne persuades him, by means of threats, to drop his aesthetic pose and to become a commonplace young man again.

Unfortunately for Bunthorne, however, his plans are unsuccessful; Patience and Grosvenor are re-united and all the ladies return to their Dragoons.


Although Patience can be described as "a caricature of the follies of the age", taking as its target the aesthetic craze which swept through middle class England in the early 1880's, its satire is as sharp today as when it was written.

The obvious target for Gilbert's satire was the aesthetic movement led by Oscar Wilde, Rex Whistler and others, but it was really the ridiculous extremes of posturing and affectation that he was aiming at. In the late 1990's we all recognise these and poseurs, ephemeral fashionable movements, hero worship, and artistic "shams". This is the peak of social satire realised by Gilbert and yet this comic opera, on such a recondite subject as aestheticism, was written only ten years after the first collaboration between himself and Sullivan. How far the partnership had advanced in that time!

Patience, June 1999, Nuffield Theatre
Patience, June 1988, Nuffield Theatre
Patience, March 1982, The Guildhall
Patience, March 1964, The Guildhall
Patience, November 1951, The Guildhall
Patience, May 1930, Watts Hall

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