Odyssey Opera finished up its Oscar Wilde-themed 2016-17 season with a flounce and a flourish, presenting a tour-de-force production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience; or, Bunthorne’s Bride” on Friday night at the BU Theatre, soon to become Huntington Avenue Theatre. Enough good things cannot be said about the cast, choreography, costumes, or orchestra that came together to make the satire on Victorian aesthetics and poetic pretensions so uproariously funny. There were enough hams onstage to stock every deli in the city of Boston.
To quickly summarize: All the maidens in the village have deserted their military fiancés to sigh after the melancholy poet Bunthorne. He only has eyes for the milkmaid Patience, who finds him repulsive. Enter Patience’s beautiful childhood sweetheart Grosvenor, a poet of a more jovial sort. Patience likes him better, but then all the ladies turn their attentions to him, while Patience believes she must marry Bunthorne so her love will not be selfish. Hijinks ensue, and in the end everyone gets married but Bunthorne, who is content wiggling his peacock-feather pen.
Bunthorne was played as a pouting manchild, melodious with plenty of character, by Aaron Engebreth. Paul Max Tipton’s Grosvenor was an earnest doofus with a robust, relaxed bass-baritone. Soprano Sara Heaton was a winsome, guileless Patience in song, though her spoken accent couldn’t seem to decide what it was. As Lady Jane, powerhouse Janna Baty showed off talents including a mulled-wine mezzo voice, deliciously rolled Rs, a sassy cello solo at the beginning of Act II, and amazing comedic chemistry with Engebreth. The two were applauded back out for an even more ridiculous encore of “So go to him and say to him,” which was absolutely asked for, unlike the reprise of “When I go out of door.” James Maddalena, Steven Goldstein, and Sumner Thompson brought a mix of indignance, confidence, and impressive mustaches to the military men.
The attention given to detail by stage director Frank Kelley and choreographer Larry Sousa was delightful. When the lovelorn ladies swooned after Bunthorne, they telegraphed the performative personas they had taken on. Sara Womble as Lady Ella punctuated their laments with a pair of clanging cymbals. In the chorus of dragoons, the marching and slapstick was just as snappy and energetic as the singing, and diction was intelligible almost across the board even without surtitles.
Gil Rose conducted the orchestra, which was in buoyant balance with the singers. Appearances are everything in this satire on the Aesthetic Movement, and Amanda Mujica put Bunthorne in a chartreuse velvet suit with a salmon cravat, the ladies in Grecian-style gowns for lounging and languishing across the stage, and the military men in mismatched Renaissance Faire castoffs when they tried to imitate the poets.
Odyssey Opera knows how to put on a wonderful show, and this “Patience” ended the season with good music and good humor. This production marks the last time for a while that Odyssey audiences may be so merry; next season brings five operatic takes on Joan of Arc.
“Patience; or, Bunthorne’s Bride”
At BU Theatre, June 2Zoë Madonna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten. Madonna’s work is supported by the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.