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 1880s in England and, more broadly, on fads, superficiality, vanity, hypocrisy and pretentiousness; it also satirises romantic love, rural simplicity and military bluster.
When York Opera Company decided to stage Patience at the Theatre Royal they had no idea that York Art Gallery had plans to put on a retrospective of the York-born painter Albert Moore, entitled Beauty and Aesthetics.
Albert Moore depicted beautiful women in classical poses and he exhibited athe the Grosvenor Gallery. The Aesthetic Movement prioritised mood, colour, harmony and beauty of form; in other words "art for arts sake". Gilbert loathed the languid posturing and affectation, the "greenery-yallery Grosvenor Gallery" style of dress and pseudo-Medieval posturing.
Gilbert's two main characters are poets and not painters - Reginald Bunthorne and Archibald Grosvenor. Bunthorne is acting the part of the aesthetic poet:
Am I alone,
And unobserved? I am!
Then let me own
I'm an aesthetic sham!
Affectation is everywhere in the opera and we see the sham behind the Aesthetic Movement.
If you're anxious for to shine in the high aesthetic line
as a man of culture rare,
You must get up all the germs of the transcendental terms,
and plant them ev'rywhere.
You must lie upon the daisies and discourse in novel phrases
of your complicated state of mind,
The meaning doesn't matter if it's only idle chatter
of a transcendental kind.
And ev'ry one will say,
As you walk your mystic way,
"If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
Why, what a very singularly deep young man
this deep young man must be!"
Patience is a wonderful opera; the satire behind the opera is more subtle than other Gilbert librettos. Most people enjoying the production won't even have heard of the Aesthetic Movement but they will still enjoy the wonderful songs, music and costumes.