The Opera Australia Patience (1995)

Colonel CalverleyJohn Germain
Major MurgatroydNeil Kirkby
Duke of DunstableGraeme Ewer
Reginald BunthorneDennis Olsen
Archibald GrosvenorAnthony Warlow
Lady AngelaJennifer Bermingham
Lady SaphirRoxane Hislop
Lady EllaToni Powell
Lady JaneHeather Begg
PatienceChristine Douglas

The Opera Australia Chorus
Opera Australia and Ballet Orchestra
Stage Production Director: John Cox
Conductor: David Stanhope

Recorded live at the Sydney Opera House
February 28, 1995

ABC Video 17132
ABC Video 17132
DVD Cover
Image Entertainment DVD Cover

This recording/video is the latest in a series of performances from the Opera Australia. The production, directed by John Cox, is based on Cox's well-known English National Opera staging, which with minor modifications was taped as part of the Brent Walker series. The two are so similar that one hears on-stage cymbal clashes in exactly the same places, among other things.

The production exceeds the sum of its parts. One has heard all the individual roles sung better elsewhere, but the performance, recorded live, has the electricity many other recordings lack. The only interpretation that fails is Christine Douglas's over-sung Patience, which is neither blithe nor gay, and is often out of tune. Dennis Olsen's Bunthorne reminds one of John Reed in patches, and some may even find it preferable. Anthony Warlow's Grosvenor is delightful.

The four aesthetic ladies (Jane, Angela, Saphir, Ella) all sing well, but visually they are not sufficiently differentiated. The actresses playing Jane and Angela could easily have changed places, and it wouldn't have made much difference. Heather Begg plays the double bass in her Act II opening number, which is a nice touch.

These are chiefly opera singers, and in places they fail to capitalize on all of Gilbert's humor. However, the musical performance is first-class, with conductor David Stanhope finding more nuances in the score than I ever knew were there. As of now, this is probably the Patience video of choice.

Correspondent Robert Morrison was similarly fulsome in his praise:

This production of Patience, directed by John Cox, was first presented by the Opera Australia in 1980, and, as noted, reproduced Cox's earlier staging of the opera for the E.N.O. The chief reason for this was probably the opportunity it gave to showcase Australian John Napier's scenic and costume designs, in addition to it being an effective and witty production in its own right.

I first saw Patience in 1980 during its May season at Melbourne's historic Princess Theatre, (where a number of the G & S operas, including Utopia Limited, were given their Australian premières by J. C. Williamson between 1887 and 1906.) At the performance I attended, the audience was so taken with Heather Begg's superlative performance of "Silvered is the raven hair" (in which she actually played her own 'cello accompaniment rather than merely miming it), that she was vigourously cheered and applauded until eventually prevailed upon, (after conferring with the conductor), to perform an encore — surely one of the rare occasions when this particular song has ever been encored!

Another happy memory of the 1980 season was the sight of Dennis Olsen jumping into Heather Begg's arms to be carried off stage after the final, (of three), encores of "So go to him and say to him" — a bit of business cut from the 1995 revival, but then, alas, none of us are as young as we were 20 years ago!

Anthony Warlow, who made his début as Grosvenor in the 1995 revival, originally began his career as a singer in the ranks of the Opera Australia in 1980 but has since gone on to become one of Australia's leading Musical theatre performers, playing roles as diverse as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, Enjolras in Les Misérables, the title role of The Phantom of the Opera, Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden, and Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus. He also recorded the dual title roles in the studio album of the musical Jekyll and Hyde.

Dan Kravetz wrote:

The Opera Australia production of Patience, taped in live performance at the Sydney Opera House, is a complete production of the opera, sticking faithfully to the original words and music, with an authentic 1880's aesthetic look. It is well sung and acted, and the Lady Jane actually plays the introduction to her aria on a double bass. The main drawback is that many in the cast appear too old for their roles—only Grosvenor is convincingly as young as his character is supposed to be. Otherwise, we have to put up with a Colonel, Major, Duke, Angela, Saphir and Ella who could easily be the parents of the dragoon guards and maidens created by Gilbert. They all know how to bring out the humor in their portrayals, but they carry with them an added subtext about the silliness of not acting one's age that should only apply to Lady Jane (and maybe Bunthorne). I know many G&S groups that use performers in the 40-plus range effectively, but it doesn't work in a professional production of an opera that is about the vanities and follies of the (relatively) young and privileged. Even so, this is a fine representation of Patience on video —he Brent Walker series also did well by this opera, thanks to an English National Opera Production that also inspired the Australian Opera in many ways.

EMI 478922 2
EMI 478922 2
Issue History
1995 EMI CD 479822 2
ABC Video VHS PAL,NTSC 17132
2001 Image Entrtainment DVD [need number]