PATIENCE may not be the most famous of Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas, but its many charms establish it as the prototype for the popular ones that followed.

York Opera’s new production has been spectacularly well staged by its co-directors Pauline Marshall and Hilary Dyson, particularly given that there are a number of new singers in leading roles.

Teamwork is the essence of the evening, as so often with this company over the years. The show wisely stays with the late-Victorian era, when the Aesthetic movement was all the rage. Maggie Soper’s costumes give off a pre-Raphaelite aura, especially the ladies’ dresses and the aesthetes’ velvet caps and breeches. Reginald Bunthorne has dark, lank locks while his rival aesthete Grosvenor has blond curls.

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York Opera's chorus with John Soper's Reginald Bunthorne. Picture:  Nigel Lindley

The ladies, admirably led by Rebecca Smith’s languid Angela and Annabel van Griethuysen’s equally enchanting Saphir, are straight into their stride in the opening chorus – and never look back. Musical values are similarly high among the gentlemen’s chorus, mainly guardsmen, whose focus is always firm.

Choreography is not specifically credited, but the dancing is thoroughly disciplined. The show reaches its peak in Act 2, when the three leading soldiers – Alex Davison’s Duke, Anthony Gardner’s Colonel and Alex Holland’s Major - decide to try aestheticism on for size, with disastrous results. Their "wrong", cramp-inducing poses are hilarious and, joined by Angela and Saphir, all five caper delightfully. It was all I could do not to laugh much too loud.

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Valerie Parker, as Lady Jane, and Elizabeth Vile, as Patience, in York Opera's Patience. Picture: John R Saunders

First-night nerves were widely distributed among the principals in Act 1 and mainly affected tuning. Some magic potion must have been available in the interval because standards then improved remarkably. Elizabeth Vile strikes just the right note as a fetching, ingénue Patience, while affecting an agricultural brogue. Sometimes her tone is a little too naïve and she could afford to bring it forward, but she is a stage "natural".

Bunthorne is not a sympathetic figure, so John Soper is dead right to go over the top with his affectations. He projects superbly, in both speech and song. Michael Foster’s Grosvenor is less forceful but good in his duet with Patience, still better as a shorn spiv in yellow check suit.

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York Opera's chorus of rapturous maidens with Michael Foster's Archibald Grosvenor. Picture: Nigel Lindley

Valerie Parker is excellent in Lady Jane’s difficult monologue about fading looks, although she looks too good to be ‘plain’, despite her grey wig. Alexandra Mather makes her mark, too, as Lady Ella.

Alasdair Jamieson keeps up an unflagging momentum in the pit. His orchestra is on top form, with the woodwinds notably peppy. A fun, stimulating evening, not to be missed.

York Opera presents Patience, York Theatre Royal, tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm; Saturday, 4.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at