The Witch's Curse
"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 â€” 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.
Short Attention Span Plot
"This sort of thing takes a deal of training."
Here is the annual Paragraphs short version of the opera's plot for those who find the libretto too long, its print too small, the words overly syllabic, or you don't know what a libretto is to begin with. (Try to remember that libretti is a kind of pasta served in library cafeterias.) This opera features a considerable amount of jumping around on stage (some of which is actually in time to the music) and a truly impressive amount of over-acting. So I wouldn't sit too close.
It all starts a couple of hundred years ago with a guy named Rupert Murgatroyd who gets his jollies by burning witches. One of the witches takes it personally and lays a curse on him. Because of the curse, he must commit a crime every day forever. As soon as he fails to commit his daily crime, he dies in horrible agony. Then it's his eldest son's turn.
Well, old Rupert starts off punctually enough but then feels guilty and stops. Zap! He dies in horrible agony. His son, Jasper then has to commit crimes until he decides to stop and dies in horrible agony. Then Lionel commits crimes and dies in horrible agony, Conrad commits crimes and dies in horrible agony, Desmond commits crimes and dies in horrible agony, Gilbert commits crimes and dies in horrible agony, Mervyn commits crimes and dies in horrible agony, and Roderick commits crimes and dies in horrible agony. (You're beginning to see why they call this "comic" opera.)
The nearest town to Ruddygore Castle (where those bad Murgatroyds live) is called Rederring. In addition to its mysterious but long-standing daily local crime wave, Rederring is just about the only town in England with a company of endowed (another NEA screw-up) professional bridesmaids who are worried that they are in for funding cuts if someone doesn't get married soon.
The reason no one is getting married is that all the guys in town are hot for Rose Maybud who is OK to look at but is a stuck-up little snot who carries around a book of etiquette to make sure no one messes up. On top of that she talks like a fugitive from a King James Bible and chooses her boy friends based on:
- Good manners
- Who's got the most bucks.
In that order. (Did someone say gold-digger?)
The only local guy who meets her criteria is a wealthy farmer named Robin Oakapple. He too has the hots for her but thinks she's too good for him. He may have reason to think so since he has a bit of dirt in his own linen closet!