Links to the different times
we have performed this show:
"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.
Near to the fishing village of Rederring in Cornwall lies Castle Ruddigore, the ancestral home of the bad baronets of Ruddigore who, due to the wicked ways of the first Baronet, have all been accursed.
To fulfill this curse, each successor to the title must commit one crime every day or else he dies in terrible agony.
In the village, life is very dull for the corps of professional bridesmaids who can find no-one prepared to marry. Even pretty Rose Maybud, the most likely candidate,
appears to be in no hurry to become a bride, or so it seems. She is in fact, attracted to Robin Oakapple and we learn that he is in love with her. But he has another secret.
To all around him, this young man is a shy and simple farmer but he is really none other than Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd whom everyone believes dead, the title and its attendant curse having gone to his younger brother, Sir Despard.
Now Robin is too shy to declare his love to Rose, and when his foster-brother Richard Dauntless returns from life at sea, Robin persuades him to speak to Rose on his behalf.
Richard agrees but when he sees Rose, he falls in love with her himself and proposes on his own account, Rose accepts, only to change her mind when she hears that Richard should have been speaking for Robin.
In his anger and disappointment, Richard avenges himself by revealing to Sir Despard that Robin is the real Baronet. Despard confronts Robin on his wedding day and when Rose learns of Robin's true and horrible identity, she again offers her affection to Richard.
No longer afflicted with the curse of the Ruddigores, Despard is free to return to his own former true love, Margaret, who had become completely mad when he had deserted her.
Robin finds life as a bad Baronet rather difficult and his crimes do not amount to very much, with the result that his ancestors (portrayed in the picture gallery at Castle Ruddigore) all come to life, led by the last Baronet Sir Roderic, to remind him of his duty.
After a sample of the agonies they can inflict, Robin agrees to abduct a lady and he sends his servant old Adam, to carry out the task. Adam returns with Dame Hannah, the erstwhile love of the last Baronet. Hannah proves more than a match for
Robin and the commotion is heard by Sir Roderic who again steps down from his portrait. He is angry with Robin but more than delighted to find his old sweetheart.
Robin decides that there must be a solution to his intolerable situation and the usual Gilbertian happy ending is provided for all concerned.