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Thursday, 22 October 2015

Sepia Saturday: "A Rapturous Maiden".

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photograph.

Looking at the prompt photograph, I can match the harp (sort of), the floaty dress,  and  the wistful look, as I return to my love of Gilbert & Sullivan operas that I have featured before  on my blog. 

Gilbert & Sullivan  collaborated on fourteen comic operas  between 1871 and 1896. 
 Below:    Composer Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), impresario Richard D'oyly Carte,  and
librettist and wit, W. S. Gilbert.(1836-1911).

Patience was their  sixth operetta  and was a satire on  the  pre-Raphelite aesthetic movement of the 1870's and 1880's,  with digs also at romantic love, military bluster and  the rural simplicity of the heroine, milk maid Patience, 


Here I am as "a rapturous  maiden", plucking my cardboard lyre in a school production of "Patience" - I am the second standing figure on the right,  singing in our opening chorus "Twenty Love-sick Maidens We" - a  cue for the audience to start counting how many of us were actually on stage.

The object of the maidens' "medievalism's  affectations" was poet Reginald  Bunthorne  (an Oscar Wilde type character), who sang the  immortal line:

           "You walk down Piccadilly, with a poppy and a lily,  in your medi-eval hand".  

 Programme from the first production in London  in October 1881. 

Of course, as it is a comic opera,  affections change and by the end of the show  the maidens forsake  their  pale,  shapeless garments for brighter everyday garb  - mine  (third from the right) was rather a garish red Stuart tartan dress with a bustle and  lots of ruffles which I was told to take home and press - a pain to do. 
I had a second chance to sing in a production (below), whilst at university- here we are spurning the attentions of the men's chorus of the Dragoon Guards - their scarlet tunics a great theatrical visual foil to the costumes of the girls' chorus.   I am on the extreme right,  with a false hair piece to give the flowing locks look. 


I have my mother to thank for introducing me, as a teenager,  to the Gilbert & Sullivan Operas when the D'Oyly Carte Company visited our home town.  We  went to a number of performances  - and I was hooked!  

"Patience"  was the first G & S operetta  that I sang in -  but over my student years I have been  a fairy in "lolanthe" (right),  a bridesmaid (left)  in "Ruddigore", one of Major Stanley's very many daughters in "The Pirates of Penzance", A Tudor Londoner in "The Yeoman of the Guard",  an onlooker in the public gallery of "Trial by Jury", and one of the "sisters, cousins and aunts"  aboard  "HMS Pinafore".  Strictly chorus roles - I never had any aspiration  to be a principal. 

At University, the annual  performances were the highlight of my year.  I loved taking part in them - the dressing up (the girls made their own costumes), the singing and some dancing, plus the camaraderie and friendships built up over intensive rehearsals.   We thought we were great!  
Sadly today G & S has fallen out of favour with young ones, but it was such fun - happy to sing, even better to take part in a production  and I defy anyone not to feel uplifted afterwards. 

With a lesson that no enjoyable experience is ever wasted - in a university exam for Modern British Social History, I was faced with a question  about how did music in the period  reflect issues of the time.  I had a scattering of knowledge about Felix Mendelssohn (love of all things Scottish) and  Edward Elgar (patriotism and post-war despair).

But I came into my own with Gilbert & Sullivan with their many witty satires  on such Victorian institutions as the navy, the legal profession,   the military,   the police, the Houses of Parliament, the peerage, bureaucracy, women's education, social status,     the per-Raphelite movement and the craze for with all things Japanese.  There was no shortage of material to write about.  I passed with credit!   

So being a "rapturous maiden " in a Gilbert & Sullivan opera 
led me to have many happy memories. 

I remain a staunch G & S. fan  but my stage performances have long since passed!

With thanks to Wikipedia for background  information. 

Click HERE to see how other Sepia Saturday bloggers are
 indulging in their Grecian side. 


  1. Oh fun, fun, fun! It is too bad Gilbert & Sullivan are not so well known among the younger set these days because their witty satire is just as spot-on today as it was when they wrote their wonderful operettas - governments and such institutions never really changing much! And to be a part of it all onstage - what a kick! Always fun to dress up & pretend you're somebody else. I really miss Groveland's Pine Cone Players, & way back, the fun we had putting on the Gascapades with all the skits & dancing & singing when we lived in far northern Calif. Sonora has 3 professional live-theatre groups, but I'd love to find a totally amateur group to just have fun with. Maybe one day . . . :))

  2. This was fun, Susan. I'm glad you got to show off those wistful looks!

  3. This particular theme image seems to be taking people along all my favourite highways and byways. Helen used it to explore Harpo Marx (one of my favourite actors) and you use it to explore Patience - which has always been my very favourite G&S opera. Thanks for the memory.

  4. This was such an enjoyable post, thank you. I don’t claim to know very much about G&S, but I enjoyed following you down memory lane.

  5. What a perfect title to match the theme image, because the harpist certainly looks as though she's trying to be rapturous, and then ro segue ito G & S, perfect.

  6. Great memories of your rapturous performances to look back on.

  7. Now these are some special memories, thanks for sharing with us.

  8. You get full marks for this post. My experience in musicals has regretably been all American, but I love G&S which has the wit and tunes to remain the epitome of English wit and charm. The 1999 Mike Leigh film "Topsy Turvy" is my favorite movie about show biz.

  9. Looks like you all had great fun, Sue and I'm sure these wonderful photos take you right back.

  10. I'm late this week, Sue -- but had to let you know how much my family enjoyed G&S, too - I have several of them on CD now, and sing along quite loudly in the car...."three little MAIDS from school..."


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