Written by Emma Adler
Ruddigore; or, The Witch’s Curse, was the tenth penned of Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourteen comic operas. Like all of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works from Trial by Jury onward, Ruddigore debuted at the Savoy Theater, under the auspices of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. Premiering in 1887, Ruddigore followed fast on the heels of The Mikado; this would prove to have a detrimental effect on the opera’s critical reception, causing many to dismiss the ghostly comic opera as not on a par with its predecessor. The New York Times review noted: “When the curtain fell there was a hissing – the first ever heard in the Savoy Theatre.”
But Ruddigore rallied. Following its less-than-stellar opening evening, several changes were made to the show, with an eye toward making it more palatable for Victorian audiences. Various songs were abridged, and various plot points (including a second “revivification” of the ghosts) excised. Perhaps the most significant post-opening revision was changing the title from Ruddygore to Ruddigore, on account of complaints that “ruddy” was too close a cousin to the loathed Victorian curse word, “bloody.”
Audiences were appeased: the revamped Ruddigore ran for 288 performances, and proved, if not a financial success, than at least a financial non-failure for D’Oyly Carte and the Savoy Theater. It even earned several positive reviews, including one in the Illustrated London News, who deemed its “grotesque situations…redolent of fun.”
Here’s hoping HRG&SP’s production of Ruddigore will be similarly redolent!