About this Recording
8.110295 - SULLIVAN: Ruddigore (D'Oyly Carte) (1950)

William Schwenk Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)
Ruddigore (or The Witch’s Curse)

Chronologically placed between The Mikado (1885) and Yeomen of the Guard, Ruddigore was first given at the Savoy on 22nd January 1887, under the baton of the composer. Comprising re-workings of ideas used previously, its libretto has long ranked among Gilbert’s weakest and its early billing as a ‘supernatural opera’ made it only superficially a novelty, since the work’s most memorable scene, the ‘gallery of ghosts’ sequence, was actually a revival from the short-lived Ages Ago (which Gilbert had co-written with the composer Frederic Clay, during their association at German Reed’s Gallery of Illustration, in 1869). Originally entitled Ruddygore (until its eleventh performance, when its title was changed following objections from certain press-men), the initial London run of Ruddigore lasted for 288 performances.

While D’Oyly Carte subsequently also toured the show in England with moderate success, the first Broadway production at the Fifth Avenue Theater, from February 1887, fared less well, lasting a mere 53 performances. Subsequently, the work lay in limbo for several decades, although it was reintroduced in America and made its first appearance in Australia in 1920 and was successfully revived in London in 1921. Thereafter, it never became a top G&S favourite, however, despite Sullivan’s highly accomplished score and some finely-integrated dramatic moments and notwithstanding the fact that its highlights were variously recorded from the 78 era onwards. The opera’s centenary was marked by a London revival in 1987, at Sadlers Wells.

In the tradition of several other Gilbert ‘creations’ Ruddigore made use of the theatrical melodrama format to poke fun at time-honoured British institutions and mores. In HMS Pinafore he mocked the Navy, in Trial By Jury the Judicature, in Yeomen Queen Victoria’s Personal Guard and in Patience the Aesthetic Movement. Ruddigore ridiculed contemporary obsessions with etiquette and the supernatural, while British naval behaviour and language are strongly parodied in the character and utterances of Richard Dauntless.

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