The 1965 D'Oyly Carte Patience Broadcast

Colonel CalverleyDonald Adams
Major MurgatroydAlfred Oldridge
Duke of DunstablePhilip Potter
Reginald BunthorneJohn Reed
Archibald GrosvenorKenneth Sandford
SolicitorJon Ellison
Lady AngelaPeggy Ann Jones
Lady SaphirPauline Wales
Lady EllaValerie Masterson
Lady JaneChristene Palmer
PatienceAnn Hood

D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
Conductor: Isidore Godfrey

Recorded before an invited audience
on December 13, 1965
at the Saville Theatre, London

This performance of Patience, broadcast on BBC television on 27 December1965, marked the first time that a D'Oyly Carte production was captured complete on film or video. Bridget D'Oyly Carte gave a brief talk during the interval, during which she said that she hoped there would be more like it to come, but this did not happen. The text of her talk was printed in The Savoyard, Vol. 5, #1. Other information can be gleaned from The Savoyard, Vol. 4, #3.

The Company did make a film of The Mikado the following year for theatrical release, as well as a studio video of Pinafore in 1973. Both of these, too, had every initial appearance of being part of a series, but nothing further came of them.

Unfortunately, the video of this performance does not survive. The BBC went through a "housecleaning" in the '70s, before the invention of home video, and before old television programs became collectors' items. The BBC have never confirmed that the tape no longer exists, but no one has been able to turn up a copy.

There is a surviving audiotape of the performance that was among Isidore Godfrey's personal effects, which has circulated privately. A correspondent who asked to remain anonymous provided the following review.

Review by Anonymous

The tape that I have appears to have been transcribed directly off of someone's TV set, and it is quite good for that. A bit of background conversation is heard during the first few moments of the opening number, and again during the interval, but otherwise the sound is clean and quiet. Aside from these odd moments, the sound quality is comparable to many studio recordings from the monaural era. If it were possible to issue the performance on CD (which it obviously is not), it would probably be the best Patience that we have.

It is fascinating to compare this performance with the dialogue-complete recording made in 1961. The trade-offs of live and studio recordings are often debated, and in this case the live performance wins hands down. The performance has an excitement that its studio counterpart, just four years earlier, lacks. It is particularly instructive to compare the interpreters of the male roles, since it is the same cast in every role except the small part of the Major. The women are all different, but here again, the live performance is superior in every case.

There is no overture. "Twenty love-sick maidens" is taken very slow, and this seems to give the singers some trouble. It appears that they would rather go faster, and I was surprised to hear a lack of coordination between the pit and the stage, considering how often these artists must have worked together.

The opening dialogue is beautifully done. Peggy Ann Jones's Lady Angela is admirable. It is a cruel fate that she was not allowed to record most of her roles. Ann Hood is a much heavier-voiced Patience than Mary Sansom (1961). I prefer Hood overall, but I miss the cadenza at the end of her opening aria, which she foregoes.

"The soldiers of our queen" has some extra measures in the introduction, to allow more time for the men's chorus to get onstage. After the orchestra plays measures 1-18, bars 11-14 are repeated before resuming with bars 19. Donald Adams brings tons of bravura to "If you want a receipt," making up for some slight diction flaws. In the ensuing dialogue, Philip Potter seems even more fay than on the record.

"In a doleful train" adopts the same slow tempo as heard in "Twenty love-sick maidens." I particularly liked how the men briefly parlando just before the double chorus begins. It is this type of performance practice that one often does not get on studio recordings.

The "Oh hollow, hollow, hollow" dialogue is far more over-the-top than on record, and there are some extra interpolations (e.g., the Colonel says "No!" after the words "ere it is too late"). Reed's interpretation of the poem is more animated than four years earlier, but it seems like a rote repetition. One does not sense that he has thought about the text.

In the recitative section of "Am I alone and unobserved," Godfrey's orchestra interprets the fortissimo chords like powerful thunderclaps, creating a strong contrast with the patter song's understated accompaniment. Unfortunately, the song painfully illustrates all of John Reed's worst habits: crooning, fudging notes (or missing them outright), awkward breath control, and as Anna Russell so aptly put it, "a voice like a vegetable grater." How far we had fallen from Martyn Green to this! The third verse is encored, without any apparent demand for it.

The ensuing dialogue is taken far too fast, and many opportunities are missed. For example, when Bunthorne says, "Be a good girl—a very good girl," the extra "very good girl" is just tossed off, without any change in emphasis. An acting coach once taught me that when the author or the composer repeats a phrase, you should never do it the same way twice. It is good advice that John Reed apparently never learned.

"Long years ago" is straightforward and left no particular impression. In "Prithee, pretty maiden," Kenneth Sandford delivers a full-bodied tone and fresh voice, but it is rather a foursquare interpretation: nice sounding, yet not musical. He and Ann Hood create great chemistry in their dialogue. Sandford's skill at pointing a line is heard to great effect.

I have just a few thoughts on the Act I finale. This is Philip Potter's first appearance (outside of dialogue), and this much-maligned singer delivers a fine, idiomatic performance of his solos. John Reed's patter is once again awkward and forced. On the plus side, I particularly liked Donald Adams's audible laugh on Patience's words "selfish view."

In Act II, Christene Palmer gives a decent, but unremarkable performance of "Silvered is the raven hair." Kenneth Sandford gives us a strong "magnet and the churn," and I was not at all disappointed to find the second verse encored. Unfortunately, he seems to rush some of his Act II dialogue (just as I thought Reed did in Act I), giving it an almost mechanical feel. Ann Hood's "Love is a plaintive song" is lovely and sincerely emotional. It is taken a bit slower than usual, but I enjoyed every bit of it.

In "So go to him," there is once again some musical sloppiness from Reed — dotted eighth notes ignored and harmonies missing — but it is not as bad as his first-act song. I don't know what was going on on stage, but the duet sounds curiously underplayed. This is one number that seemed distinctly more energetic in the 1961 studio recording. There is one encore of the second verse.

"It's clear that medieval art" comes off just fine, but Alfred Oldridge's line gets lost in the soup with such distinctive voices as Philip Potter and Donald Adams taking the other two roles. In the quintet, Potter's affected accent finally becomes a bit cloying.

The Bunthorne/Grosvenor dialogue finds John Reed at his best, superbly mining all the melodramatic bluster that Gilbert has put into the lines. This time, it is Sandford who seems rushed and perfunctory. "When I go out of door" is taken at a jolly tempo. It is encored, starting at "A japanese young man."

After the Act II finale, there is yet another encore: A repeat of the Act I finale, starting with the large ensemble. I wonder if this was a regular interpolation, as I have never heard anyone mention it before.

The 1965 Patience is a wonderful document of authentic D'Oyly Carte performance practice. It is a pity that this performance is not widely available, and even more a pity that we do not have similar recordings for all of the other operas.

Review by Andrew Beighton

I have to say following on from the recent discussion about live or studio recordings that I myself have always preferred live recordings. I don't hold that laughter, etc., produced by stage business is a distraction. On the contrary. I find it fascinating to imagine what is going on. But more to the point, I think it is wonderful to hear the laughter that is produced by Gilbert's words. This is particularly wonderful when an actor gets a laugh where I never knew there was one simply by the way the line is delivered. So obviously I was predisposed to like this recording before I heard a note.

In the case of Patience I was not disappointed. For me several performances stood out. Ann Hood for me is a much better Patience than Mary Sansom. She has a greater strength of character which I feel makes her innocence about love much funnier. I know it's a cliché to say so, but I do feel that it is a great shame that Sargent robbed us of her Ida and Elsie in favour of the non-DOC Elizabeth Harwood.

The role of Lady Angela is a revelation as performed by Peggy Ann Jones. Her comic timing is flawless. But then we all knew that anyway but it is truly wonderful to have one of her live performances to listen to. What a shame there aren't many more.

John Reed is John Reed. What more can I say? Yes, he over-acts at times. Yes, he misses notes and smudges the rhythm at times. But I grew up listening to his recordings. To me he is a hero and can do no wrong.

Aside from the performances, the quality of the recording, considering the date and that is was taken from the TV, is quite wonderful and clear. The words and lyrics are clear throughout. I do feel that the encores are a bit much and are obviously standard practice rather than in response to the audience but this is a minor quibble about what has now become my favourite recording of Patience.