When most people hear the names “Gilbert and Sullivan” (the Victorian-era librettist and composer, respectively) they think of their ‘big three’ productions: “The Mikado,” “H.M.S. Pinafore,” and “The Pirates of Penzance.”
But Louisville’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society is flipping the script and gearing up to perform one of the pair’s lesser known operas — “Patience.”
Jack Ashworth, the pianist for the production says “Patience” is every bit as good and just as funny as Gilbert and Sullivan’s other works. The story, he says, is about two poets who rival for the affection of a milkmaid named Patience.
“It is also about 20 lovesick maidens who swoon after them, and also about a military regiment, the Dragoon Guard, who are anxious not to lose the affection of the maidens to whom they are engaged,” he says.
Ashworth says “Patience” is about what happens when people pretend to be something they are not.
On another level, the opera is a satire of the aesthetic movement, or the ‘cult of beauty’ that emerged in late-19th century England. The production is actually responsible for introducing the writer Oscar Wilde — a main player in the aesthetic movement — to the United States.
The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, a professional company that toured the U.S. and Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s, actually brought Wilde to the U.S. to give speeches about aestheticism so that audiences understood the subtleties of the satire.
This will be the third full-length production from Louisville’s Gilbert and Sullivan Society, which was established in 2011.
Jeanne-Marie Rogers is the director of the society. She says that the group has come a long way from their first performance, which was a gala night featuring selections from various Gilbert and Sullivan productions.
Rogers also points out what a diverse roster of performers the society has attracted over the years — from choral performers who simply have a love for the musical duo, to others who have performed professionally in some capacity.
“I would say about half of the people in the group have, at some point, have performed in the Kentucky Opera chorus and have done some of the small roles with the Kentucky Opera,” Rogers says.
And as a group with a local membership and audience, Ashworth explains that while they didn’t update much of “Patience,” they did make one key change: At one point in the opera, the two rival poets are arguing, and many of the references were a little too London-based for modern American audiences.
“So we updated those to be Louisville things,” Ashworth says.
Though, what those things are will stay a secret until the production premieres.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Louisville presents “Patience” July 28 – 30 at 7:30 p.m. More information is available here.