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1887 Publicity Drawing

"Ruddigore, or The Witch's Curse" was the 10th collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan. The "supernatural opera" opened on January 21, 1887 at the Savoy Theatre and ran for 288 performances. It was not revived until 1920 when it was substantially cut and provided with a new overture arranged by Geoffrey Toye.

The opera is a parody of the stock melodrama — the villain who carries off the maiden; the priggishly good-mannered poor-but-virtuous-heroine; the hero in disguise, and his faithful old retainer who dreams of their former glory days; the snake in the grass who claims to be following his heart; the wild, mad girl; the swagger of fire-eating patriotism; ghosts coming to life to enforce a curse; and so forth. But as one critic noted, Gilbert turns the moral absolutes of melodrama upside down: Good becomes bad, bad becomes good, and heroes take the easy way out.

The Baronets of Ruddigore are cursed. Anyone who succeeds to the title has to commit a crime every day — or perish in inconceivable agony.

Robin Oakapple, a young farmer loves Rose Maybud, but both are too shy to tell the other. But Robin has a secret. He is really Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, the rightful Baronet of Ruddigore, in disguise. His younger brother, Despard, believing Ruthven to be dead, has assumed the title. Robin's foster brother, Richard, seeking Rose for himself, tells Despard of Robin's deception, and Robin is forced to accept his true position, losing Rose to Richard in the process.

Now the Baronet of Ruddigore, Robin is confronted by the he ghosts of his ancestors who step from their picture frames in the gallery of Ruddigore Castle to confront him for failing to conscientiously commit his daily crime. Robin eventually finds a way of satisfying his ancestors demands whilst continuing to live a blameless life...

Link to Web Opera

All the Music
All the Lyrics
from this Opera

Illustrated with Historical Photographs of D'Oyly Carte Opera Company Productions

  • Early Performances
    • First Night Cast — a list of the principals with a biography of each.
    • Programmes from the original run at the Savoy Theatre.
    • First Night Review from The Times (1887)
    • Second Review from The Times detailing cast changes.
    • Early Reviews — compiled by Helga Perry
    • Review from The Times (London), 5 November 1929, submitted to the Archive by Louis Silverstein.
    • Reviews of performances by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1937 and 1962 from the Manchester Guardian.
Richard Dauntless Costume, 1939
  • Background
    • A poem about the controversy over the name Ruddygore, from "Parodies of the Works of English and American Authors," dating from 1887-89. This parody of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" appeared in the "Pall Mall Gazette," presumably not long after the opera opened, since it describes the state of the work before the offensive "y" was dropped from Ruddigore.
    • A chapter on "Ruddigore" from the book Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, A History and a Comment, by H. M. Walbrook, published in London in 1922.
    • Discussion: Transcript of a discussion of Ruddigore by members of the SavoyNet distribution list. This extensive discussion provides substantial background information on this opera, and is useful for anyone wanting to understand it better, produce it, or perform in it.
  • Article on Ruddy George (a burlesque of Ruddigore first performed at Toole's Theatre in March 1887) by Michael Walters.

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