The story opens in the Cornish fishing village of Rederring, outside the cottage of one Rose Maybud, our heroine. The girls chorus are bemoaning that they are the only professional corps of bridesmaids in the world, and their services have not been required for the last 6 months, and it's time Rose got married. The ageing Dame Hannah appears, and in desperation, they even appeal to her to get married. She refuses, and sets the plot for the whole show: The first baronet, some twenty generations ago, was a cruel person who enjoyed persecuting witches, ducking them in the lake, and also burning them at the stake. One day before she died, a hag cursed him, saying 'from this day forth, you must do a crime every day, else you die in agony'. This holds true for Sir Despard, the current incumbent, even now.

Enter Robin Oakapple, our hero, who fancies Rose (as she does him), but they are both too shy. They sing a song to this effect. Then comes Old Adam, Robin's manservant, who calls him Sir Ruthven (pronounced 'Riven') Murgatroyd, thus telling us, (the audience) that Robin is the rightful baronet. Robin begs him not to, since nobody else knows. He is incognito, hiding amongst the yokels, masquerading as a simple farmer. Consequently his brother, Sir Despard, has taken his place....

At this point, Richard Dauntless, a sailor, who is Robin's best friend arrives, and as Robin is shy, he asks if Richard will plead his suit with Rose for him. Richard knows about Robin's antecedents. Consequently, Rose falls for Richard. Now, enter Mad Margaret who admits to being in love with Sir Despard. She sings a sad song.

The men's chorus arrives at this point, followed by Sir Despard, from whom everybody shrinks, as he regales us with doing a dastardly crime first thing in the morning, to get it over with, and for the rest of the day does good. Richard Dauntless now drops Robin in it, and tells Sir Despard that he is really Sir Ruthven. Consequently Rose cannot have Robin now, and Sir Despard goes off with Mad Margaret. End of Act one.

Act two is set in the picture gallery where there are full-length portraits of the past baronets. Robin (now Sir Ruthven) is the evil baronet. As they exit, on come the girls chorus and Rose and Richard. They are here to ask Sir R's permission to marry, and he reluctantly agrees. They all go, leaving Sir R by himself, and as the stage darkens as the pictures then come to life, and demand to know what he has been doing, and show him the agony he will experience if he does not commit his daily crime. To prove himself, they order that he carry off a lady at once. Old Adam is dispatched to take off said lady.

Enter Sir Despard (now reformed and dressed as a preacher) with Mad Margaret (similarly dressed), and they tell the world how good they both are. Margaret still has a tendency to madness, and they choose the word 'Basingstoke' to remind her to be good.

However, Old Adam returns with the lady he has carried off for Sir Ruthven - none other than Dame Hannah. She has a knife to defend her honour and in desperation, Sir R calls upon his immediate ancestor , Sir Roderic, to save him. Sir Roderic and Dame Hannah recognise each other and sing a love duet. The opera is finished by Sir Ruthven pointing out that by refusing to commit his daily crime is tantamount to commiting suicide, and that suicide is itself a crime (or was in those days). Sir Roderic comes alive at this point, and the opera ends happily, everybody getting the right partners. A likely tale, but aren't they all ? A real victorian melodrama, this one. Needs to be taken just over the top - but only just, everything slightly larger than life.

More details on the cast

Robin Oakapple Baritone.
He is the hero of the opera, as it were. A light baritone would suffice, and a certain amount of acting ability - he is 'modest, diffident and shy'. He is paired off with Rose Maybud (qv) at the end of the opera. He has a difficult scene in Act two, when, calling down his ancestors, he reacts to their insisting on the daily crime. Richard Dauntless Tenor.
Appears halfway through Act one as the sailor returning from the sea. He HAS to be a tenor, although a highish baritone with tight trousers might do. He is the one who pleads Robin's case with Rose Maybud, and so she fancies him, and also drops Robin in it by revealing him to be Sir Ruthven. Ends up paired with Zorah instead.

Sir Despard Murgatroyd B/Baritone.
The villain of the opera, at least in Act one. Needs to be played just over the top. Imagine the archetypal Victorian villain (Oh, Sir Jasper....) top hat, black cloak, twirling moustache etc. Arrives late on in Act one (No 13) after the men's chorus, and terrorises the choruses. Then he can lay about the audience telling them how evil he is. Requires not only a great deal of audience imagination, but also Sir D has to act. Does not HAVE to be a bass/baritone if his acting ability is up to it.

As you can see, the men are not on until Act one No12 (with 'Welcome Gentry') so they could be pressed into service as front of house before the show, or setting Act one or whatever, as they would have some 40 minutes after the start of the show to get changed and made up.

'Hisses at a Gilbert and Sullivan opening' was the headline in the Times on January 24th 1887. 'The production of Gilbert and Sullivan's new operetta, Ruddygore, was on Saturday evening accompanied by a phenomenon never before experienced at the Savoy theatre'. Despite the fact that there was a more than sympathetic first night audience, full with the cream of London society, since a G&S première was definitely 'an event', and the composer, author and D'Oyly Carte took several curtain calls, a small but determined minority mingled its hisses at them. There were cries of 'Give us back the Mikado'.

What had happened? The Mikado which preceded it was a tremendous success, (and still is probably the most popular of the whole repertoire) and would have been a hard act to follow - however good the next show was. Mikado ran for nearly 700 performances - which is two years or so. Not quite in 'The Mousetrap' league, but nevertheless very creditable. Do not forget that the London theatre scene had hundreds of small theatres, with countless musicals and plays. How many of these have survived for a century or more? Andrew Lloyd Webber eat your heart out.

The trouble with Ruddygore was, first of all the title. The Victorians thought this a trifle strong (what would Mary Whitehouse make of it?) To Gilbert, 'Ruddy' was merely a synonym for blood coloured, nothing more. He is quoted as saying, when tackled on the subject 'I suppose if I said I admire your ruddy countenance, it would be the same as saying I like your bloody cheek'. However, he bowed to public pressure and changed the 'y' to 'i', and that is how it has remained since.

The plot of Ruddigore is a straightforward melodrama, complete with an evil Baronet, but Gilbert's treatment of Act two, and the resolution of the story was weak. The idea of all the ghosts coming alive at the end stretched credulity too far.By the end of the first week, the show was tightened considerably, and greatly improved: As well as removing some superfluous dialogue, the music was also changed; the second verses to two songs were cut, as was a complete solo for Robin. The entry of the ghosts had a considerable chunk omitted, as was part of Sir Roderic's first entry. Only one ghost 'Sir Roderic' was allowed to become alive at the end. These changes enabled Ruddigore to have a good run - 288 performances, which is approximately a nine month run - but it was considered a failure. At the time, Gilbert remarked 'I could do with a few more failures like that'.

In the 1920s along came a certain Geoffrey Toye, who rewrote the Overture (in itself, fair enough, since Sullivan didn't write the original - the only ones he personally wrote were Yeomen and Iolanthe), cut out 'The battle's roar is over' in Act one. He also shortened the endings to some songs in Act one and removed odd bars in the Finale Act 1. In Act 2 he removed 'Henceforth all the crimes', (in itself a rewrite from the first week in the original) and also rewrote the finale. His Overture was very average, and the finale even more so. A sort of musical vandal, as it were. We have re-instated the overture and Sullivan's finale (the newer vocal scores have also reverted to this), and also the two songs. Some of the different endings have been retained, but you will appreciate that it is not easy for an orchestra to be playing off one copy and then transfer to a hand-written sheet for the sake of two or three bars....

There is a new recording of this opera by the New Sadler's Wells Opera which has the ghosts original entry and 'For 35 years' (the original for which 'Henceforth all the crimes' was substituted) reinstated, also the endings to some songs in Act one, and odd bars in the finale Act One. The original manuscript for 'Ruddigore' is locked in the safe at the Savoy Theatre in London, as it is still the property of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Trust (all the others except 'Iolanthe' having been sold over 20 years ago) and apart from the MD of Sadler's Wells, nobody seems to be allowed near it. We asked permission, but apart from a curt acknowledgement, nothing.

Anyway, enough of this. Sit back and enjoy the show.

Plot notes for 1996 show.

The story opens in the Cornish fishing village of Rederring, outside the cottage of one Rose Maybud, our heroine. The girls chorus are bemoaning that they are the only professional corps of bridesmaids in the world, and they have been on duty every day from 10 till 4, supported by a charitable fund set up for that very purpose. Funds are running low, and the situation is becoming more urgent, as their services have not been required for the last 6 months, and it's time Rose got married. The ageing Dame Hannah appears, and in desperation, they even appeal to her to get married. She refuses, and sets the plot for the whole show: The first baronet, some twenty generations ago, was a cruel person who enjoyed persecuting witches, ducking them in the lake, and also burning them at the stake (and even rhyming his dialogue). One day before she died, a hag cursed him, saying 'from this day forth, you must do a crime every day, else you die in agony'. This holds true for Sir Despard, the current incumbent, even now.

Enter Robin Oakapple, our hero, who fancies Rose (as she does him), but they are both too shy. They sing a song to this effect. Then comes Old Adam, Robin's manservant, who calls him Sir Ruthven (pronounced 'Riven') Murgatroyd, thus telling us, (the audience) that Robin is the rightful baronet. Robin begs him not to, since nobody else knows. He is incognito, hiding amongst the yokels, masquerading as a simple farmer. Consequently his brother, Sir Despard, has taken his place....

At this point, Richard Dauntless, a sailor, who is Robin's best friend arrives, and as Robin is shy, he asks if Richard will plead his suit with Rose for him. Richard knows about Robin's antecedents. Consequently, Rose falls for Richard. Now, enter Mad Margaret who admits to being in love with Sir Despard. She sings a sad song.

The men's chorus arrives at this point, followed by Sir Despard, from whom everybody shrinks, as he regales us with doing a dastardly crime first thing in the morning, to get it over with, and for the rest of the day does good. Richard Dauntless now drops Robin in it, and tells Sir Despard that he is really Sir Ruthven. Consequently Rose cannot have Robin now, and Sir Despard goes off with Mad Margaret. End of Act one.

Act two is set in the picture gallery where there are full-length portraits of the past baronets. Robin (now Sir Ruthven) is the evil baronet. As they exit, on come the girl's chorus and Rose and Richard. They are here to ask Sir R's permission to marry, and he reluctantly agrees. They all go, leaving Sir R by himself, and as the stage darkens as the pictures then come to life, and demand to know what he has been doing, and show him the agony he will experience if he does not commit his daily crime. To prove himself, they order that he carry off a lady at once. Old Adam is dispatched to take off said lady.

Enter Sir Despard (now reformed and dressed as a preacher) with Mad Margaret (similarly dressed), and they tell the world how good they both are. Margaret still has a tendency to madness, and they choose the word 'Basingstoke' to remind her to be good.

However, Old Adam returns with the lady he has carried off for Sir Ruthven - none other than Dame Hannah. She has a knife to defend her honour and in desperation, Sir R calls upon his immediate ancestor, Sir Roderic, to save him. Sir Roderic and Dame Hannah recognise each other and sing a love duet. The opera is finished by Sir Ruthven pointing out that by refusing to commit his daily crime is tantamount to committing suicide and that suicide is itself a crime (or was in those days). Sir Roderic comes alive at this point, as do all his 'brother ancestors', although 'father ancestors' would be more accurate, and so the opera ends happily, everybody getting the right partners.

'Hisses at a Gilbert and Sullivan opening' was the headline in the Times on January 24th 1887. 'The production of Gilbert and Sullivan's new operetta, Ruddygore, was on Saturday evening accompanied by a phenomenon never before experienced at the Savoy theatre'. Despite the fact that there was a more than sympathetic first night audience, full with the cream of London society, since a G&S première was definitely 'an event', and the composer, author and D'Oyly Carte took several curtain calls, a small but determined minority made its presence felt. There were even cries of 'Give us back the Mikado'.

What had happened? The Mikado which had preceded it was a tremendous success, (and is still one of the most popular of the whole repertoire) and would have been a hard act to follow - however good the next show was. Mikado ran for nearly 700 performances - which is two years or so. Not quite in 'The Mousetrap' league, but nevertheless very creditable. Do not forget that the London theatre scene had hundreds of small theatres, with countless musicals and plays, and very few have survived into the twentieth century.

The trouble with Ruddygore was, first of all the title. The Victorians thought this a trifle strong, but to Gilbert, 'Ruddy' was merely a synonym for blood coloured, nothing more. He is quoted as saying, when tackled on the subject 'I suppose if I said I admire your ruddy countenance, it would be the same as saying I like your bloody cheek'. However, he bowed to public pressure and changed the 'y' to 'i', and that is how it has remained since.

The plot of Ruddigore is a straightforward melodrama, complete with an evil Baronet, and Act One went very well, but Gilbert's treatment of Act two, and the resolution of the story was weak - with the ghosts coming alive at the end of the second act. By the end of the first week, the show was tightened considerably, and greatly improved: As well as removing some superfluous dialogue, the music was also changed; the second verses to two songs were cut, as was a complete solo for Robin. The entry of the ghosts had a considerable chunk omitted, as was part of Sir Roderic's first entry. Only one ghost 'Sir Roderic' was allowed to become alive at the end. These changes enabled Ruddigore to have a good run - 288 performances, which is approximately a nine-month run. However it was still considered to be a failure. At the time, Gilbert remarked 'I could do with a few more failures like that'.

Ruddigore never had a professional revival, unlike most of the others, until in the 1920s along came a certain Geoffrey Toye, the then conductor of the D'Oyly Carte, who rewrote the Overture (in itself, fair enough, since Sullivan didn't write the original - the only ones he personally wrote were Yeomen and Iolanthe), cut out 'The battle's roar is over' in Act one. He also shortened the endings to some songs in Act one and removed odd bars in the Finale Act 1. In Act 2 he removed 'Henceforth all the crimes', (in itself a rewrite from the first week in the original) and also rewrote the finale. His overture is quite a creditable piece in keeping with Sullivan, but the finale of Act Two was a short rehash of the very end of Act One, and is very average. Perhaps he had by then run out of ideas. In our performances this year, we are doing Geoffrey Toye's overture, but keeping Sullivan's original end to Act Two. I see that the current vocal scores retain Toye's overture, but have reverted to Sullivan's ending. This caused some confusion at the beginning of this year as the chorus used copies from Central Library, and some were the old ones.... We have also retained the ghosts coming alive at the very end and they get paired off with the various bridesmaids in true Gilbertian fashion. It gives the expression 'old age creeping up on you' a whole new meaning...

There is a recording of this opera by the New Sadler's Wells Opera which has the ghosts original entry and 'For 35 years' (the original for which 'Henceforth all the crimes' was substituted) reinstated, also the endings to some songs in Act one, and odd bars in the finale Act One. The original manuscript for 'Ruddigore' is locked in the safe at the Savoy Theatre in London, as it is still the property of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Trust (all the others except 'Iolanthe' having been sold over 30 years ago) and apart from the MD of Sadler's Wells, nobody seems to be allowed near it. I tried to contact the trustees of the Savoy last year when Ruddigore was decoded upon, but have heard nothing. Perhaps now that Granada has bought Forte - who owned the Savoy - things might change, but I doubt it!