Seattle troupe does a restored version of Gilbert & Sulivan’s ‘Ruddigore’



Ruddigore -- When "Ruddygore" premiered in 1887, it suffered from being a letdown from the fabulous "Mikado" that appeared before it and from spoofing a genre of melodrama that had fallen out of favor years before. So Gilbert and Sullivan made several cuts and respelled the title to "Ruddigore." When revived by the D’Oyly Carte Company in 1920, even more cuts were made and the overture was changed.

The BBC version stars two non-singing male leads and makes even more cuts.

But now the excellent Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society, an amateur group with pretty professional productions, has on DVD a "Ruddigore" from 2011 that not only is a great performance but has the most complete score to date on video,.

Drawing from an opera by August Marschner, "Der Vampyr," and mostly from Gilbert’s own earlier work, "Ages Ago," the plot concerns a family curse in which each Lord of Ruddigore must commit a crime a day or "in torture he shall die." I will not dwell upon the scenario (it is easily gotten from several websites). It is the Seattle production I wish to dwell upon.

The voices are more than adequate for Sullivan’s score. On the other hand, some of Gilbert’s dialogue jokes could be delivered with a bit more speed. Petite Jenny Shotwell makes a properly gold-digging Rose Maybud, John Brooks successfully changes from timid Robin Oakapple to reluctant dastard Ruthven, and Derek Sellers as Dick Dauntless nicely shows how his "heart’s dictates" always seem to work in his favor.

Highlights are the double chorus to welcome the "bucks and blades," the salute to the four seasons and of course the fastest patter song of them all.

Dave Ross is a short but villainous Sir Despard (although he could never pass for Ruthven’s younger brother). The priceless contralto Alyce Rogers comes into her own when as Dame Hannah she confronts Ruthven with dagger and sword; while Hollis Heron is properly loony as Mad Margaret. William Darkow makes an impressive ghostly Roderic, and Ron Gangnes’ (Old Adam) basso nicely supports the ensembles.

Many comic touches, not overdone, are created by Director Christine Goff; and Conductor Bernard Kwiram makes the most of the score. I wonder, however, why he does not use the original overture. See this company’s website at for information about ordering this and other DVDs in their catalogue.

The running time is close to 150 minutes and one does miss subtitles!

Rozsa -- Ever since I was child, I loved Miklos Rozsa’s film scores to "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940) and "The Jungle Book" (1942). I once had an LP with the nearly complete score of "Thief" but it was never transferred to CD and the best I could do was to hear a few excerpts from the music on a few CDs. I even dubbed the entire sound track of the film to my iPod, which was actually more than enough.

However, Chandos has issued a CD titled "The Film Music of Miklos Rozsa," which will help satisfy me. With the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Rumon Gamba, the disc holds a suite from "The Thief of Bagdad" (mostly music from the first part of the film and thereby leaving out my favorite sequence, the Genie flying to "the roof of the world"), another from "The Jungle Book," a short suite from "Sahara," and a final one from "Ben-Hur."

There are a few other recordings of music from three of these films, some of them the complete scores, but the "Sahara" music is new to me.

Debussy would be proud of how Rozsa gave each of the jungle animals its own motif, and the music representing the mystery of the jungle itself is gorgeous. (It is on Track 12, after "The ways of man.") The "Ben-Hur" score comes close to corny, especially in the much-recorded "Parade of the Charioteers." But all these suites are fun at the very least, most impressive at the best. Enjoy.

Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays for the Arts & Entertainment section.


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