The New Sadler's Wells Ruddigore (1987)

Robin OakappleGordon Sandison
Richard DauntlessDavid Hillman
Sir Despard MurgatroydHarold Innocent
Old AdamJohn Ayldon
Sir Roderic MurgatroydThomas Lawlor
Rose MaybudMarilyn Hill Smith
Mad MargaretLinda Ormiston
Dame HannahJoan Davies
ZorahAlexandra Hann

New Sadler's Wells Opera
Conductor: Simon Phipps

MCA MCAD 2-11010
MCA MCAD 2-11010
Production Programme
Production Programme (1987)

The New Sadler's Wells Opera was formed in the mid-eighties, filling the void (or so it was thought) that was left by the closure of the original D'Oyly Carte. It has even been suggested that the Powers that Be pushed the old Company gently into the grave, so that they could make way for a new, and presumably more-enlightened, light opera company. The New Sadler's Wells, however, enjoyed only a brief time in the sun, and the Company folded after a couple of years.

In its brief history, the NSWO managed to put on two extremely important G&S productions that set a new standard for textual fidelity. The first of these was a centenary production of Ruddygore that restored the opera nearly to a first night state, restored some "lost" ghost music that is found only in Sullivan's autograph score, and removed layers upon layers of embellishments to the text that were heaped on by D'Oyly Carte musical directors of the 1920s. Those who think they know Ruddigore will be both surprised and delighted to meet the work as Gilbert & Sullivan actually wrote it. This is a landmark recording that no serious fan will want to be without.

One curious omission is the second verse of "I once was as meek as a new-born lamb" (i.e., "My face is the index to the mind…"). No one has ever disputed that this verse was sung on the first night. Given the presence on the recording of so much material that was deleted before the first night, its absence is hard to comprehend. Aside from this, the recording seems to include every note written for the first night. All of this lost music has since been published in the Oxford University Press edition of the score.

I never got to see the production live, unfortunately. It was supposed to be included in a tour to New York, playing in repertory with Pinafore. Apparently the lesser-known opera proved to be a tough sell, and all of the Ruddigore performances were replaced with Pinafore.

Adrian Bridgeman had several comments on the recording and the production on which it was based:

Jay CDJAY2 1340
Jay CDJAY2 1340

My LP sleeve and cassette insert spell the title "Ruddigore." This matches the theatre programme. I believe I have seen LP covers which spell it "Ruddygore." [So have I. —ed.]

The LP states that the musical text was prepared by Dr David Russell Hulme from the composer's autograph score. Although the LP omits the Gideon Crawle verses, it includes the March for the ghosts, "By the Curse Upon our Race" and "Away Remorse" leading into "For Thirty-five years I've been Sober and Wary." Only "By the Curse" made it into the production, although Robin's recit and song may have been cut the night I saw it because Gordon Sandison was off sick and his understudy was on. (The past repeats itself and so is future; remember Grossmith's peritonitis and Lytton stepping in exactly one hundred years earlier!)

Another first night item omitted from the LP and from the production is the second verse of Rose's aria "In Bygone Days." The verse is printed in Bradley (p.722) and survived for ten performances of the original run. It is in my copy of what I assume to be the second edition of the libretto (i.e., no Gideon Crawle verses and no second appearance of the ghosts). I don't remember whether the ghosts returned "all practically alive" at the end of this production.

As I remember it, the NSWO production restored the Act 1 dialogue for Despard and Margaret (Bradley p.698) from a pre-production libretto.

Coming finally to the overture(!), I have just remembered that, whilst the recording uses the original overture, the production used Geoffrey Toye's version with a frontcloth of Ruddigore castle being struck by lightning in time with the piccolo shrieks in the "Ghost's High Noon" passage.

In summary, the production restored several items but kept them within the limits of a "bright little tight little" show, whilst the recording gives us a chance to enjoy Sullivan's complete score with only a couple of verses cut.

Koch International 340 342
Koch International 340 342

On the Koch International highlights CD, the included tracks are as follows, for a total (and rather ungenerous) playing time of 39:07:

  • Fair is rose
  • If somebody there chanced to be
  • From the briny sea (minus the hornpipe)
  • In sailing o'er
  • Cheerilly carols
  • Welcome gentry…Oh why am I moody and sad
  • You understand
  • I once was as meek (only one verse)
  • Happily coupled
  • When the night wind howls
  • I once was a very abandoned person
  • My eyes are fully open
  • There grew a little flower
  • Finale Act 2
Issue History
1987 MCA LP MCA 2-11010  
CD MCAD 2-11010
(not verified)
MCAC 2-11010
TER LP TER 2 1128
CD CDTER 2 1128
Cassette ZCTED 1128
1990s Musical Heritage Society CD MHS522379H
1994 Koch International CD 340 342 Highlights
2000 Jay CD CDJAY2 1340 Remastered