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12 November 2019Patience: Gilbert and Sullivan's aesthetic opera
26 February 2020"Gold of the Gods" - Treasures of South America

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Patience: Gilbert and Sullivan's aesthetic opera Peter Medhurst Tuesday 12 November 2019

Please note the change of day , TUESDAY,  not Thursday as usual.

In 1877, the Victorian artistic world was agog with libel suit that James Whistler had brought against John Ruskin. Apparently, the art critic had described Whistler's painting Nocturn in Black and Gold as flinging a pot of paint in the public's face. Whistler won but the judge only awarded him damages of a farthing, and the heavy costs incurred by the case brought him to bankruptcy in 1879.   The artist eventually recovered from all of this, but the knock on effect to the public was extraordinary.  Since Whistler was one of the leading lights on the Aesthetic Movement, it brought awareness of the cult to a head and it seemed that every dinner party in England was debating the merits of primary colours, Japanese art and medieval costumes.  In 1881, in the wake of Whistler's court case, Gilbert and Sullivan created their opera Patience, a work inspired by the eccentricities and affectations of the Aesthetic Movement.  Well known figures like Walter Pater, Algernon Swinburne and members of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had their writings and their artistic works alluded to, or mercilessly sent up.  Others - Oscar Wilde and Whistler - even inspired the costumes and makeup of the opera's principal characters.  The lecture examines the history, construction, reception and contemporary satire found in Patience - arguably Gilbert and Sullivan's most successful work.