Read the NODA review
Listen to the Publicity Interview broadcast on BBC Radio Norfolk on 28 April 2017
Our 2017 production of The Yeomen of the Guard at the Maddermarket, was directed by Richard Mitchell. Richard was born in Norwich and joined D’Oyly Carte in 1976 where he sang baritone roles till 1979. Further professional engagements followed on the West End stage, including the premiere of Chess. Richard sang with English National Opera for 16 years from 1990 before moving to Australia and Opera Australia. Now back in England and returning to his Norfolk roots, Richard came to see the ENOS production of ‘The Sorcerer’ in 2015 and, seeing the advert on our website looking for a director for 2017, contacted the committee and expressed his interest in working with us.
The Society has been thrilled working with Richard. We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity of working with someone of his professional experience. ‘Yeomen’ is the closest that Sullivan came to composing in the style of ‘grand’ opera and has some of the most beautiful music of all the G & S repertoire.
Click on picture to see full size
1906 Revival: Wikipedia
The Yeomen of the Guard; or, The Merryman and His Maid, is a Savoy Opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on 3 October 1888, and ran for 423 performances. This was the eleventh collaboration of fourteen between Gilbert and Sullivan.
The opera is set in the Tower of London, during the 16th century, and is the darkest, and perhaps most emotionally engaging, of the Savoy Operas, ending with a broken-hearted main character and two very reluctant engagements, rather than the usual numerous marriages. The libretto does contain considerable humour, including a lot of pun-laden one-liners, but Gilbert's trademark satire and topsy-turvy plot complications are subdued in comparison with the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The dialogue, though in prose, is quasi-Shakespearian, or early modern English, in style.
Critics considered the score to be Sullivan's finest, including its overture, which is in sonata form, rather than being written as a sequential pot-pourri of tunes from the opera, as in most of the other Gilbert and Sullivan overtures. This was the first Savoy Opera to use Sullivan's larger orchestra, including a second bassoon and third trombone. Most of Sullivan's subsequent operas, including those not composed with Gilbert as librettist, use this larger orchestra.
Phoebe Meryll sits at the spinning wheel, sighing about the pain of love. Wilfred Shadbolt, the head jailer and assistant torturer at the Tower of London enters, and Phoebe mocks him, disgusted by his profession. Wilfred, who is in love with Phoebe, has noticed her interest in one of the prisoners at the Tower, Colonel Fairfax. He gleefully conveys the news that Fairfax is to be beheaded, for the crime of sorcery, that very day. Phoebe replies that Fairfax is merely a scientist and alchemist (and a handsome one at that) and leaves Wilfred to suffer from his love for her. The citizens and Yeomen arrive, singing of the Yeomen's bravery and valiant deeds. Dame Carruthers, the housekeeper of the Tower, dismisses protestations by Phoebe of Fairfax's innocence and, vexed by Phoebe's criticism of the Tower, sings its praises. After everyone leaves, Phoebe is joined by her father, Sergeant Meryll, who reports that her brother Leonard has been appointed a Yeoman for his valour in battle. Leonard is on his way from Windsor, where the court sits, and may bring with him a reprieve for the Colonel. Leonard Meryll enters bearing a dispatch for the Lieutenant of the Tower but no reprieve. Sergeant Meryll is eager to save Fairfax, for the Colonel served with him in battle and twice saved Sergeant Meryll's life. He hatches a plan: Leonard will hide away and Fairfax, sprung from his cell, will assume Leonard's guise. Phoebe is charged with getting the key to Fairfax's cell from the lovesick jailer, Wilfred.
Fairfax enters under guard by an escort of Yeomen. Sir Richard Cholmondeley, the Lieutenant of the Tower, sees him and greets him sadly, as they are old friends. Fairfax bears his impending execution bravely and philosophically, prompting tears from Phoebe and even Sergeant Meryll. Fairfax asks a boon of the Lieutenant: the charge of sorcery was the doing of his wicked cousin Sir Clarence Poltwhistle, a Secretary of State, who will inherit his estate if he dies unmarried. He therefore wishes to be married by his confessor to any available woman, it matters not whom, who will receive a hundred crowns for her hour of matrimony. The Lieutenant agrees and leaves.
Jack Point, a jester, and Elsie Maynard, a young singer, are pursued by a rowdy crowd that demands merriment and threatens the two strolling players. Elsie, objecting to a man's rude attentions, boxes his ears, which gives Point a moment to quieten and amuse the crowd. The two entertainers offer to perform the song of The Merryman and his Maid: it tells of a lovelorn merryman who is jilted by a maiden in favour of an arrogant lord, but the latter rejects her, and she returns on her knees to the merryman to beg for his love, and all ends happily. The song over, the crowd grows unruly again, and violence is averted only by the Lieutenant's arrival. Point and Elsie introduce themselves and explain that Elsie's mother Bridget is very ill and they seek money to buy medicine for her. The Lieutenant offers Elsie a chance to earn a hundred crowns (a very substantial sum) by marrying a condemned gentleman immediately. Point, who intends to marry Elsie someday, is assured that the groom will be beheaded directly after the ceremony. Elsie consents and is blindfolded and led off by Wilfred for the secret ceremony. The Lieutenant tells Point that he has a vacancy for a jester, and Point tells him of his skills and tries out some jokes. The Lieutenant leads Point off to discuss the employment further.
1888 Souvenir Poster, New York: Wikipedia
Wilfred leads Elsie back from her anonymous meeting with the priest and the prisoner and leaves her to reflect on her impending widowhood. Meanwhile, Wilfred wonders what they were up to in Fairfax's cell. Phoebe arrives and seductively distracts him as she steals his keys, which she gives surreptitiously to her father, who goes to free Fairfax from his cell. She keeps Wilfred busy until her father returns the keys, which she returns to Wilfred's belt, and leaves the confused and hopeful jailer to his fantasies of marrying her. Meryll disguises Fairfax as his son Leonard.
The Yeomen come to greet "Leonard", who insists that the tales of his bravery are exaggerated. He flounders when Phoebe greets him, not having been introduced to her, but Wilfred helpfully identifies her, telling Fairfax (with a strong dose of wishful thinking) that he, Wilfred, is betrothed to Phoebe. He commends her to the care of her "brother" until the marriage. The headsman enters, and all is ready for the execution. Wilfred, Fairfax (still disguised as Leonard) and two Yeomen go to fetch Fairfax. The Yeomen return and Fairfax announces his own disappearance. The Lieutenant blames the jailer, Wilfred, and declares his life forfeit instead. Wilfred protests his innocence and all wonder – not all honestly – how the prisoner could have escaped. Point is distraught at the escape of Elsie's husband, and Elsie faints into Fairfax's arms, as all rush off to hunt for Fairfax.
Two days have passed, and the Yeomen continue searching in vain for the escaped prisoner. Dame Carruthers enters with her niece Kate and berates the Yeomen for letting Fairfax escape. Jack Point (now employed by the Lieutenant), sits brushing up on his jests and bitterly reflecting on his profession, when Wilfred comes by. Point taunts the failed jailer, and Wilfred says he'd rather be a jester. This gives Point an idea. He reveals the secret wedding and agrees to teach the oaf the art of jesting if Wilfred will publicly swear that Wilfred shot Fairfax dead as he swam across the river to escape. Wilfred agrees to swear to this lie.
Meanwhile, Fairfax, still disguised as Leonard Meryll, laments his hurried marriage to a bride he cannot identify, for her face was concealed by the blindfold. Sergeant Meryll says that Elsie, the girl who fainted at the execution, and who has been placed in Meryll's charge, has recovered, but that her illness gave Dame Carruthers an excuse to take up quarters in his house while she nursed the girl. He has spurned the old woman's obvious overtures for years. Carruthers then happens by, together with her niece Kate, and notes that the latter heard Elsie talking in her sleep about her secret wedding. The other three leave Fairfax alone, pleased to find that his mystery wife is the fair Elsie. He decides to test her loyalty by pretending to woo his own wife, still disguised as Leonard. She rejects "Leonard's" overtures, as a married woman should, and he is about to reveal himself to her.
Just then, a shot is heard from the wharf and everyone enters. Wilfred, with the jester's corroboration, declares that he struggled with someone creeping about, discovered it was Colonel Fairfax, who dove into the river, and seizing an arquebus, Wilfred shot him dead. The Lieutenant orders the Yeomen to search for the body, and Wilfred is celebrated as a hero. Elsie, Fairfax, Phoebe and Point are left alone, and Point asks Elsie, as she is now free, to marry him. Fairfax, still disguised as "Leonard", tells Point that he doesn't know how to woo (it is not to be done in the manner of a jester!), and he undertakes to instruct Point in this art, following this up with a most effective demonstration on Elsie. Point, slow to see that Fairfax is wooing the girl for himself (and that Elsie has fallen for the heroic "Leonard"), finally protests. Fairfax tells Point that he has shown him how to woo and that he should apply the teachings "elsewhere". Phoebe, seeing her adored Fairfax pledged to another, bursts into tears, while Point, shocked by the turn of events, wishes he was dead.
Wilfred sees Phoebe weeping and she, rendered incautious by anger and hurt, and by her scorn for the jailer, inadvertently reveals that "Leonard" is in fact Fairfax. Realizing the game is up, she desperately buys Wilfred's silence by agreeing to marry him (after a long engagement). The real Leonard then returns and announces that Fairfax's reprieve has finally arrived. Sergeant Meryll enters, followed surreptitiously by Dame Carruthers. Phoebe tells him of her folly and goes with Wilfred, whereupon Dame Carruthers reveals herself to Meryll and threatens to expose the three schemers who had freed Fairfax illegally. He resignedly buys her silence with his offer of marriage.
Elsie arrives joyfully for her wedding to the man she still knows as "Leonard", but the Lieutenant arrives and announces that her husband Fairfax lives. Fairfax arrives dressed for the wedding, but Elsie, distraught over the loss of "Leonard", does not turn to see his face. He teases his wife, keeping up the pretence for another minute. Elsie begs for his mercy, to free her to go to her love, "Leonard", but he says that his heart is like a "massive rock" and claims her as his bride. Finally Elsie turns to see his face, and finally recognises him as her adored one. All once again erupt into joy, except the broken-hearted Jack Point. Tearfully, he reprises the song that he had earlier sung with Elsie, The Merryman and his Maid, with wrenching sorrow. Elsie "drops a tear" for Point, but turns back to her love. As the chorus turns away to celebrate the marriage of Fairfax and Elsie, Point falls insensible at their feet.
Our show for 2018 will be Patience, directed by Pat Tegerdine and musical direction by Ros Swetman. Preliminary musical rehearsals begin in September 2017 with stage direction rehearsals commencing in January 2018. If you would like to be part of this production, please get in touch using our Contact page.
1881 Poster: Wikipedia
Patience; or, Bunthorne's Bride, is a comic opera in two acts with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. The opera is a satire on the aesthetic movement of the 1870s and '80s in England and, more broadly, on fads, superficiality, vanity, hypocrisy and pretentiousness; it also satirizes romantic love, rural simplicity and military bluster.
First performed at the Opera Comique, London, on 23 April 1881, Patience moved to the 1,292-seat Savoy Theatre on 10 October 1881, where it was the first theatrical production in the world to be lit entirely by electric light. Henceforth, the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas would be known as the Savoy Operas, and both fans and performers of Gilbert and Sullivan would come to be known as "Savoyards".
Patience was the sixth operatic collaboration of fourteen between Gilbert and Sullivan. It ran for a total of 578 performances, which was seven more than the authors' earlier work, H.M.S. Pinafore, and the second longest run of any work of musical theatre up to that time, after the operetta Les Cloches de Corneville.
The opera is a satire on the aesthetic movement of the 1870s and '80s in England, part of the 19th-century European movement that emphasised aesthetic values over moral or social themes in literature, fine art, the decorative arts, and interior design. Called "Art for Art's Sake", the movement valued its ideals of beauty above any pragmatic concerns. Although the output of poets, painters and designers was prolific, some argued that the movement's art, poetry and fashion was empty and self-indulgent. That the movement was so popular and also so easy to ridicule as a meaningless fad helped make Patience a big hit.
The two poets in the opera are given to reciting their own verses aloud, principally to the admiring chorus of rapturous maidens. The style of poetry Bunthorne declaims strongly contrasts with Grosvenor's. The former's, emphatic and obscure, bears a marked resemblance to Swinburne's poetry in its structure, style and heavy use of alliteration. The latter's, simpler and pastoral, echoes elements of Coventry Patmore and William Morris. The makeup and costume adopted by the first Bunthorne, George Grossmith, used Swinburne's velvet jacket, the painter James McNeill Whistler's hairstyle and monocle, and knee-breeches like those worn by Oscar Wilde and others.
A popular misconception holds that the central character of Bunthorne, a "Fleshly Poet," was intended to satirise Oscar Wilde, but this identification is retrospective. According to some authorities, Bunthorne is inspired partly by the poets Algernon Charles Swinburne and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who were considerably more famous than Wilde in early 1881 before Wilde published his first volume of poetry. Rossetti had been attacked for immorality by Robert Buchanan (under the pseudonym "Thomas Maitland") in an article called "The Fleshly School of Poetry", published in The Contemporary Review for October 1871, a decade before Patience. Nonetheless, Wilde's biographer Richard Ellmann suggests that Wilde is a partial model for both Bunthorne and his rival Grosvenor. Carte, the producer of Patience, was also Wilde's booking manager in 1881 as the poet's popularity took off. In 1882, after the New York production of Patience opened, Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte sent Wilde on a US lecture tour, with his green carnation and knee-breeches, to explain the English aesthetic movement, intending to help popularise the show's American touring productions.
In front of Castle Bunthorne, a group of "lovesick maidens" are all in love with the aesthetic poet Bunthorne ("Twenty lovesick maidens we"). Lady Jane, the oldest and plainest of the ladies, informs them that Bunthorne, far from returning their affections, has his heart set on the simple milkmaid Patience. Patience appears and confesses that she has never loved anyone; she is thankful that love has not turned her miserable as it has them ("I cannot tell what this love may be"). Soon, the ladies' old sweethearts, the Dragoon Guards, appear ("The soldiers of our Queen"), led by Colonel Calverley ("If you Want a Receipt for that Popular Mystery"), Major Murgatroyd, and the droopy but immensely rich Lieutenant the Duke of Dunstable. They arrive ready to propose, only to discover their intendeds fawning over Bunthorne, who is in the throes of poetical composition, pretending to ignore the attention of the ladies thronging around him ("In a doleful train"). Bunthorne reads his poem and departs, while the officers are coldly rebuffed and mocked by the aesthetic ladies, who turn their noses up at the sight of their red and yellow uniforms. The Dragoons, reeling from the insult, depart ("When I first put this uniform on").
Bunthorne and Grosvenor: Wikipedia
Bunthorne, left alone, confesses that his aestheticism is a sham, and mocks the movement's pretensions ("If you're anxious for to shine"). Soon, he reveals to Patience that, like her, he does not really like poetry, but she tells him that she could not love him. Later, Lady Angela, one of Bunthorne's admirers, explores with Patience the latter's childhood crush ("Long years ago"). Lady Angela rhapsodises upon love as the one truly unselfish pursuit in the world. Impressed by this eloquence, Patience promises to fall in love at the earliest opportunity. That opportunity is provided by the arrival of Archibald Grosvenor, another aesthetic poet who turns out to be Patience's childhood love. He has grown up to be the infallible, widely loved poet known as "Archibald the All-Right" ("Prithee, pretty maiden"). The two declare themselves in love but are brought up short by the realisation that as Grosvenor is a perfect being, for Patience to love him would be a selfish act, and therefore not true love; thus, they must part.
Bunthorne, heartbroken by Patience's rejection, has chosen to raffle himself off among his lady followers ("Let the merry cymbals sound"), the proceeds going to charity. The Dragoons interrupt the proceedings, and, led by the Duke, attempt to reason with the ladies ("Your maiden hearts, ah, do not steel"), but the ladies are too busy clamouring for tickets to the raffle to listen ("Come walk up"). Just as Bunthorne is handing the bag to the unattractive Jane, ready for the worst, Patience interrupts the proceedings and proposes to unselfishly sacrifice herself by loving the poet ("True Love must single-hearted be"). A delighted Bunthorne accepts immediately, and his followers, their idol lost, return to the Dragoons to whom they are engaged ("I hear the soft note of the echoing voice"). All seems resolved until Grosvenor enters and the ladies, finding him poetic, aesthetic, and far more attractive than Bunthorne, become his partisans instead ("Oh, list while we a love confess"), much to the dismay of the Dragoons, Patience, Bunthorne and especially Grosvenor himself.
Lady Jane, accompanying herself on the cello, laments the passing of the years and expresses her hope that Bunthorne will "secure" her before it is too late ("Silvered is the raven hair"). Meanwhile, Grosvenor wearily entertains the ladies ("A magnet hung in a hardware shop") and begs to be given a half-holiday from their cloying attentions. The Dragoons' Major, Colonel, and Duke attempt to earn their partners' love through an effort to convert to the principles of aestheticism ("It's clear that mediaeval art"). Then Patience confesses her affection for Grosvenor to Bunthorne, who is naturally furious at the revelation.
Confronting Grosvenor, Bunthorne threatens him with a dire curse unless he undertakes to become a perfectly ordinary young man. Grosvenor, intimidated, but also pleased at the excuse to escape the celebrity caused by his "fatal beauty", agrees to do so. This plot backfires, however, when Grosvenor reappears as an ordinary man; the ladies follow him into ordinariness, becoming "matter-of-fact young girls." Patience realises that Grosvenor has lost his perfection in her eyes – and that it therefore will not be so selfish for her to marry him, which she undertakes to do without delay. The ladies, following suit, return to their old fiancés among the Dragoons. In the spirit of fairness, the Duke chooses the "plain" Lady Jane as his bride, for her very lack of appeal. Bunthorne is left to the "vegetable" love that he has claimed (falsely) to desire most of all. Thus, echoing the subtitle of the piece, everyone sings that "Nobody [is] 'Bunthorne's bride' ".