Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



ARTHUR ROBINSON: Although the tough-act-to-follow problem of playwright, composers etc. whose last show was a big hit has often seemed to me overrated, in this case, the previous show was taken off when there were probably a lot of people who wanted to see it again (or even for the first time). (My Fair Lady didn't close to make way for Camelot - in fact I believe it was still running when Camelot closed.) Thus some members of the audience, I suspect, blamed Ruddigore for the fact they'd lost Mikado. My own opinion is that Ruddigore is lots of fun - but it certainly isn't as good as Mikado; nor should modern audiences judge it by that standard.

Ruddigore is shorter now that it originally was. As with all G&S, parts were cut during rehearsal; unlike most G&S, substantial cuts were made after the opening, and further cuts were made when it was revived during the 1920s or thereabouts.

The best sources for missing material (by the way, I'm not sure how it's "usually performed" - I would guess this means the way the D'Oyly Carte performed it in the 1920s and later):

THE FIRST NIGHT GILBERT AND SULLIVAN, by Reginald Allen (gives the text as it was on the first night in 1887)

THE COMPLETE ANNOTATED GILBERT & SULLIVAN, by Ian Bradley - includes some dialogue and lyrics cut before the first night, as well as some cut after.

I don't have the time (or memory!) to list all dialogue cuts, but these are the cuts in musical numbers, as I recall (mostly from Act II; also the overture most often heard is not the original one):

ACT I: A five-line bit of Dame Hannah's "Legend" ("This sport he much enjoyed") is usually cut from performances, but is in most versions of the libretto.

The duet for Richard and Rose, "The battle's roar is over," is often omitted, but is in most libretti, and on the last D'Oyly Carte recording.

ACT II: The second half of "I once was as meek" was cut shortly after the opening. So were the second halves of the next two songs, "Happily coupled are we" and Rose's "In bygone days."

A bit of the ghost's first number was cut ("By the curse upon our race"). This bit is in the 1987 Sadlers Wells recording, as are most (though not all) of the other cuts mentioned here.

Shortly after the opening, a song for Sir Ruthven, "For thirty-five years," was cut and replaced by another, "Henceforth all the crimes," which was itself cut (I'm not sure when). The former of these is on the 1987 recording; I haven't heard the latter, but it's in some vocal scores.

The beginning of the Act II finale - "Having been a wicked baronet a week" - was cut in the 1920s, but I believe it's in most libretti.

I may be mixed up as to what was cut by G&S themselves, but I don't think their cuts were too bad or "panic-stricken." The change of title and ending might have been bowing to public opinion, but didn't harm the opera much; Sir Ruthven's "For 35 years" was no big loss (though its replacement wasn't much either - at least its words, I don't know the music); the cuts in the ghosts' first number were judicious; the second verse of Rose's "In bygone days" was also a good cut, as it slowed the opera (for that matter so did the first verse). I like the second half of "I once was as meek" (for some reason "Gideon Crawle" strikes me as very funny), but its cut certainly didn't ruin the show.

I think the cuts made in the 1920's or whenever were worse. "The battle's roar" is a good song (though I can understand its being cut; it slows things down, and isn't really in character for its conniving singers). I think the second half of "Happily coupled" that was cut is far better - in words, music, and idea - than the first (assuming this was cut in the revival; if it was cut by G&S themselves, I think they were wrong). The worst cut is the butchering of the Act II finale; the full finale is dramatically satisfying and fairly amusing, whereas the truncated version is much too abrupt and contains no humour.

I like the original ending better because it strikes me as funnier. But I suspect the revised ending is better box office; the original might seem necrophiliac to some.

If you're performing Ruddigore, I urge you to look up the cuts. The Bradley book should be readily available; Reginald Allen's may be harder to find - you may have to try interlibrary loan.

NICK SALES: Arthur Robinson remarks that the cutting of "The Battle's Roar Is Over" is unfortunate musically, but satisfactory drama-wise.

Fair enough, but I would contend that a piece slowing down the action is not necessarily a bad thing, nor a reason to cut it. Furthermore, I don't feel that the show is too long (we're hardly talking Utopia or Grand Duke, are we?), and musically I feel the duet is far too much of a jewel to be discarded, and I contend that its cutting was madness.

BUT: Remember - I'm a tenor! I love to do Richard but not without "Battle's Roar")

BRUCE I. MILLER: The whole idea of dramatic tension implies that there will be moments of release and repose. The latter elements are provided by such musical movements as "The battle's roar." The action sometimes needs to be slowed down for optimal dramatic effect.

Page created 4 October 1997