Original Australian Cast
Saturday, November 26th, 1881
Initial run: 12 performances

Colonel Calverley

Signor Riccardi

Major Murgatroyd

Mr. J. F. Forde

Lieut. the Duke of Dunstable

Mr. Armes Beaumont

Reginald Bunthorne

Mr. Howard Vernon

Archibal Grosvenor

Guglielmo (Signor) Verdi

Patience

Miss Alice Rees

The Lady Jane

Miss Maggie Moore

The Lady Angela

Miss Fanny Liddiard


REVIEW OF AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE OF 'PATIENCE'

A great many people anticipated that Gilbert and Sullivan's latest opera, the aesthetic one, "Patience," would not be appreciated here, seeing that, as the aesthetic craze has not reached the colonies, the satire of the work would not be understood; but this idea was completely dispelled by the audience which assembled at the Theatre Royal on Saturday night to witness its first production on the Australian stage; for every point in the "consummately utter" and "intensely precious" dialogue was echoed by a burst of laughter from before the curtain, and the music was so much enjoyed that not only had several numbers to be repeated, but two had to be re-repeated.

Rarely has any work, dramatic or musical. been so well given on the occasion of its first performance as this was, and, indeed we do not remember the first production of anything of the kind in Sydney which would bare comparison with it. The principals acted and sang their parts as if they had been engaged at them for weeks, the choruses were - as choruses rarely are - faultless, and the stage management was very complete. The consequence was that people were able to enjoy to the utmost the perculiar vain of keen satire which the dialogue of the opera embodies, and to appreciate the skill with which the dialogue has been wedded to harmonious music.

It is superfluous now to speak of the dialogue, for almost everybody who cares for satirical humour has by this time heard of or read it; and of the music it is sufficient to say that it is of the light, tuneful, masterly character so well exemplified in the previous operas written and composed by Gilbert and Sullivan, and that in some respects it shows an advance on the composers' previous efforts. And so it is, after all, only natural that, as "Patience" - itself a clever work - was well performed, and was mounted with liberality and good taste which have never been exceeded here, the first performance should have been a success which more than realized expectation.

In the performance of works of this kind good acting and good singing are equally necessary, and in both these aspects Mr. Howard Vernon, as Bunthorne, showed to more advantage than anyone else in the cast. His appearance - lank, limp, and angular, bilious in complexion, his dark hair frizzled out in the Botticelli style, and his close-fitting dress of that russet brown tint favoured by aesthetes - was exactly that of the Maudle and Postlethwaite of Punch; his acting was the spirited appropriate working-out of an intelligent conception of the part of a fleshly poet; and though his voice is not without the occasional hash strain, it was always in tune, and every note of the Bunthorne music was sung. The duets with Jane and Grosvenor were encored twice, and during the evening the laughter and evoked by Mr. Vernon's efforts were frequent and hearty.

Of the others, Miss Alice Rees, as Patience, sang best; and Miss Maggie Moore, who was the Lady Jane, acted with most effect. Miss Rees, in her pretty countrified toilette, looked like Perdita in Bohemia, and her fresh, pure, young voice carolled out its music with delightful ease. There is this charm in her singing that there is no perceptible effort in it, and that her highest notes are perfectly produced, and without any apparent strain upon her vocal organ. The songs, "I cannot tell what this love may be," and "Love is a plaintive song," were so well given that the audience insisted upon a repetition of the latter verse of each. But her acting was uneven - at times very weak and stiff, and at times forcibly natural. The defects in it were perhaps due to nervousness, and if this be so, and Miss Rees repair them, her impersonation of Patience will be a complete and artistic one. Miss Maggie Moore, on the other hand, acted infinitely better than she sang, but her clever acting acting doubled the effort of her songs. Her keen bright wit, the magnetic sympathy which she always seems to establish between herself and her audience, and the talent which enables her to impart to every sentence she speaks its appropriate meaning, made her Lady Jane a performance of the highest merit in comic opera. Her costume, aesthetic to the last, is a study of half tones inc colour, curious forms in ornamentation, and wonderfully draped folds in arrangement; and the sight of such a majestic being as she appears, performing extravagant obligatos on a fat violoncello is one of the funniest things in the opera.

Signor Verdi, as Archibald Grosvenor, was what an aesthetic artist might call "a nocturne" in black velvet and flashing steel buttons. As "the Apostle of Simplicity" he acted with natural force, and not one of the absurdly self-complacent speeches Archibald has to make was without its effect. The music suits his voice, and so the song "The Magnet and the Churn," and the duets with Bunthorne and Patience respectively, were evidently enjoyed.

The important part of Colonel Calverley was allotted to Signor Riccardi, whose (?) voice and clear enunciation are pleasant to listen to, and who gained an encore for his "patter" song, "The Heavy Dragoon." Mr. Beaumont's Duke of Dunstable would have been a capital performance had he not chosen to introduce, in the first act, an utterly unnecessary and pointless song, which he was unable to remember in its entirety.

The opera of "Patience" is long enough already - indeed, the first act plays about an hour and a half - and the well-finished work of Mr. Gilbert might well be spared the touch of "the improver's" hand...The manner in which the maidens and the dragoons sang their choruses, and the excellence with which the orchestra worked, were in the highest degree creditable to Signor Giorza, and the two clever stage acts by Mr. Clint looked very picturesque. The enthusiastic manner in which "Patience" was received on Saturday night augurs it a long run.

Sydney Morning Herald. Monday, November 28th, 1881.

"The reception which "Patience" met with on Saturday night at the Royal, at the hands of an immense audience, which embodied every section of the Sydney playgoer, goes a long way towards demonstrating that aesthetic craze is more closely understood by the people than was generally surmised. The readiness with which the pit took and applauded the various points surprised us, and the enthusiasm exhibited by the (general) "two-bobbers" was a (?) what startling proof that the eccentricities of Maudle and Postlethwaite are as familiar in the fifteen-shilling a week boarding house as in the Darling Point mansion.

The majority of the spectators who packed the stalls were provided with books of the libretto; but the dress circle people (probably, on account of having read so much about the Opera in THE BULLETIN, and knowing, in consequence, all about it), contented themselves with studying their programme and assuming a critical air, - the ladies rattling fans continuously, and the gentlemen masticating tooth-picks with a mechanical precision that was very remarkable.

For some reason the curtain was a quarter of an hour late in rising, and the interval was passed by the gods in avery lively manner, "whooping" being continuous, and cat-calls frequent; while some of the more facetious of the gallery people pelted the pit with programmes and orange-pips, and the pit being in the joke shelled the stalls with the same harmless missiles; pleasantries which, though typical of vivacity and good humour, were conductive to no little uproar and confusion. The moment Signor Giorza took his place, however, the house became..silent....

The opera is, like "Pinafore" and "The Pirates," in two long acts. For these a couple of very elaborate "sets" have been painted from the London models by Mr. Alfred Clint. The first of them - Castle Bunthorne - though undoubtedly a fine effort, did not strike us as displaying any particular originality of detail, but it was nevertheless a very clever and realistic view. The second scene - a glade - in the foreground of which is a brook with floating lilies, is a production which could do credit to any artist, and we are only too pleased to take the opportunity of felicitating Mr. Clint on his success. At the same time, we may just mention that Mr. Clint has, of late, so frequently exercised his artistic brush in embellishing the boardings around the city with landscapes, treated with an almost identical style (for he can do nothing badly), that had Messes. Hardie and Gorman appeared in the "distance" painted for the Royal with a caravan of omnibuses and a free lunch, and proceeded to dispose of "desirable allotment," we should scarcely have felt an emotion of surprise.

The Properties, even to the most trifling detail, were in the completest style of modern staging, and the dresses marvels which could only emanate from the delicate fancy of a poet, allied to the consummate cunning of the costumier. The appearance of the rapturous maidens in their aesthetic costumes, wonderfully embroidered with all kinds of (?) effects in every possible combination of colour, was the signal for a great outburst of applause; and the dragoon officers were no less successful in evoking shouts of appreciation from the audience. These gallant warriors' uniforms are complete on every detail; and the novelty of seeing real hessians, instead of the eternal (?) boots and American cloth tops, had evidently an exhilarating effect upon the audience generally. With us it was a moment of sublime content. Laying down our glasses, we leaned back in our seats, murmuring, "Real boots at last, thank Heaven!" and were quietly happy for the rest of the evening.

The Bunthorne of Mr. W.H. Vernon stands out by itself as being a distinct and individual success. (Editor's note: The reviewer is obviously getting Howard confused with English actor W.H. Vernon) From the first moment he appeared, it became evident that he was not merely presenting to the audience a carefully considered impersonation, but a deep, intellectual and artistic study. As the eccentric creation of the satirist, the actor entirety sinks his own identity. He stands before the audience the breathing image of Bunthorne, and he never for a single moment - either in speech or gesture - developed a visible trait outside the lines laid down for him by the author. Both in singing and acting the representation was faultless, and the highest praise which the critic can bestow is only the just (?) of an impersonation phenomenally excellent in its every phrase.

To Signor Riccardi, who is new to Sydney, but a great favourite in New Zealand, was allotted the role of Colonel Calverley, and it must be admitted on all sides that he created a most favourable impression. His pronounciation of the difficult patter-song, in the first act, was beautifully clear, and all his other numbers were given with equal success. His song "When I first put this uniform on," may be especially selected for commendation; and his acting throughout was remarkable for an amount of verve and clan which are seldom met with in the performance of an actor of an actor in a difficult part which he plays for the first time before a critical audience in a strange city. Signor Riccardi has a very fine voice - an effective and penetrating bass - which he manages with an ease which makes his hearers comfortable at once. Excellent as it is for singing purposes, Signor Riccardi's organ is even better in spoken passages, his tone being full, resonant, and clear. It is quite certain that he will be a prime favourite with the public. To Mr. Williamson's company he is a most valuable recruit.

Signor Verdi was fitted with a part, in Archibald Grosvenor, which suited him exactly. And he looked about as picturesque a mortal as they make now-a-days. In splendid voice, he gave the charming legend of the Silver Churn with great effect, and in the comedy part of the impersonation he developed comic powers which we most certainly did not give him credit of possessing.

Mr. Armes Beaumont's conception of the Duke, gauging his performance not only by the interpretation of the character which he gave us on the first, but on the subsequent night, is one which is chiefly remarkable for extreme feebleness. Mr. Beaumont spoke the lines allotted to him exactly as he has been wont to enunciate those of Frederick. He never, for one moment, adopted the tone of a blase young nobleman, but invariably spoke in the voice of a popular young tenor. In the introduced song, to which exceedingly pretty music has been written by Signor Giorza, he on the first night broke down lamentably in the second verse, his individual fiasco actually for some reason for some moments imperilling the success of the piece...On Tuesday night, however, Mr. Beaumont had taken pains to obviate unfortunate a contretemps as he was responsible for on the first night, and delivered the song with clear enunciation. As he was, moreover, in very good voice, the composition had a fair chance, make us reveals its literary and musical merit. Both composer and writer have been singularly successful in their endeavours to adapt the reproduction to the style of the piece. The rhythm and character of Signor Giorza's music fits in very happily with Sullivan's manner.

Mr. Forde, who played Major Murgatroyd, has very little to do; and it should have been as well had he been content with that little. The comic business he chose to indulge in, when garbed in his aesthetic dress in the second act, was by no means happy.

Among the ladies, Miss Maggie Moore achieved the most distinct hit. It may be questioned, nevertheless, whether her personal success in the part of Lady Jane was not achieved at the expense of th author, or by a considerable ingression of the effect intended to be produced by the character. Lady Jane is obviously meant to be quietly whimsical - a queer, incomprehensible being, but always in a minor key - subdued, and a lady. Miss Maggie Moore's brimming spirits carried her altogether outside this conception. She was subdued, indeed for her - but, as lady Jane, extremely pronounced.Instead of distilling fun, she made fun, introducing broad burlesque effects in situations where, Mr Gilberts's intentions had been to tickle the public, not with a pole, but with a feather. We may instance Miss Maggie's antics with her violincello as, perhaps, the most glaring instance of this misconception of Lady Jane's "business," but something of the same was apparent throughout her performance, at the same time it is but fair to say that the audience enjoyed Miss Moore's Lady Jane as heartily as a laplander revels in cold whale, and her duet with Buthorne was the hit of the evening...Mrs Williamson's dress is a great curiosity. The groundwork is of black silk, but it appears to be embroidered with every impossible bird and flower the brain of a mad aesthetic could suggest. Her fan is a huge sunflower, and she wears a black wig of tragic pattern. She never laughs and her walk is in itself a study; being partly "Botticellian" and partly melo-dramatic, but wholly unique and irresistibly droll. Miss Maggie Moore's departure for New Zealand will oblige her to relinquish the part on Saturday night, when it will be played by Madam Andrea Navaro, as previously announced in this journal.

Miss Alice Rees, who has everything in her favour - voice , appearance, and ingenuousness - was, on the opening night, to a certain extent a disappointment as Patience, inasmuch as her delivery of the text betrayed marks of insufficient study, and in some of her scenes she betrayed a degree of stiffness where she should have evinced complete unconsciousness; and moreover did not sufficiently "speak up." At the subsequent performance, however, of these defects only one remained, the stiffness, and that in a modified degree. There is every excuse for this small shortcoming in so young and inexperienced an actress as Miss Rees. The part of Patience is one of extreme difficulty the line between an easy simplicity and an ineffective insignificance being beyond measure hard to observe.

Miss Fanny Lyddiard made a Lady Angela of surpassing loveliness; but she made up a trifle too pale. and she might with advantage follow the advice we have troublingly tendered of Miss Alice Rees.

The music of the opera is in every way remarkable. Mr. Sullivan has in this grand effort surpassed all his previous efforts. He has aimed higher and shot further than ever before. To Mr. Gilbert's strange quiddities he has wedded music of an appropriateness altogether remarkable. So opposite is the style, that probably very few among the audience, during the first few nights, noticed the music at all, simply on account of the exactness with which it harmonizes with the spirit of the action. There are not many barrel-organ melodies, but the orchestral effects are wonderfully clever...The orchestra did its duty excellently. The two horns which have been enlisted were of inestimable service in bringing out the weird effects so largely employed by the composer. A bassoon would have been an invaluable addition, but we presume no player is obtainable at present.

In a word, "Patience" is one of the greatest successes (artistically, anyway) that Sydney has ever seen, and the opera should enjoy the longest run ever accorded to a piece in Australia."

Sydney Bulletin. Saturday December 3rd, 1881.

NEWS OF THE DAY

Two young boys, named respectively Frederick Forbes, alias Ernest Morris, 14, and Edward Gordon, alias Dermody, 15, were brought before the Water Police Court yesterday, under the provisions of the Vagrant Act, for having been found on the premises of Samuel Lyons, Clarence-street, with intent to commit a felony. The evidence showed that very systematic preparations had been made in Mr. Lyons' warehouse for an incendiary fire.
The bench considered the charge proved, and regretted that there was no reformatory to which the youthful offenders could be sent. They were ordered to be imprisoned for three months, a recommendation being made that they should be kept apart from other prisoners.

Sydney Morning Herald. December 30th 1881.

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