“What’s in a name?” asks the Bard. A great deal, according to the appearance and actions of Richard Copperwaite, a welcome import from England. In Act I we knew him as Robin Oakapple, a gentle, naïve, innocent, painfully shy farm lad. But if you recall the Finale of Act I, he was revealed to be Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, the evil baronet of Ruddigore. Thanks to his acting ability and to the skills of Makeup Designer Kacey Marton, it’s hard to believe that he is really the same person.
But you soon sense that underneath the surface he is unchanged – he’s still the same sweet nice guy. He is forced to commit crimes, but is miserable over the fact. There is a wonderful bit of pantomime at the beginning of the act is which he squirms from one position to another in a large wing chair, ending up in an almost fetal position – but unable to attain peace of mind. Because of this inner agony, I’ll continue to call him Robin.
In his own words,
For a week I have fulfilled my accursed doom! I have duly committed a crime a day! Not a great crime, I trust, but still, in the eyes of one as strictly regulated as I used to be, a crime. But will my ghostly ancestors be satisfied with what I have done, or will they regard it as an unworthy subterfuge?
The ghosts are not satisfied. The music takes an ominous tone, there is darkness and a flash of brilliant light, and they have all stepped from their portraits led by Robin’s immediate forbearer, Sir Roderick (Graham Roth). In one of the musical highlights of the opera he sings a rousing ghost song:
When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls, and the bat in the moonlight flies,
And inky clouds, like funeral shrouds, sail over the midnight skies --
When the footpads quail at the night-bird's wail, and black dogs bay at the moon,
Then is the spectres' holiday -- then is the ghosts' high-noon!
CHORUS. Ha! ha!
Then is the ghosts' high-noon!
Followed by two more verses.
Sir Roderick demands an accounting of what crimes Robin has committed during the past week; it is less than impressive since it consisted of such items as a false income tax return, forging his own will, and disinheriting his own son in advance. The ghosts agree he must do better, starting today by carrying off a lady. Robin balks, whereupon Sir Roderick says, “let the agonies commence.”
At this point the libretto merely says, “Ghosts make passes. Robin begins to writhe in agony.” Producer Michelle Goldring added a vocal element by having them all sing Mabel’s beautiful aria Poor Wandering One from Pirates of Penzance, each in a different key and off-key. Fortunately for the audience it doesn’t take Robin long to capitulate, and the ancestral ghosts return to their picture frames.
Robin sends Adam off to the village to “Go –ď»ż go to yonder village –ď»ż carry off a maiden –ď»ż bring her here at once – any one –ď»ż I don't care which.
Well, the maiden Adam brings back, blindfolded, over his shoulder is no tender teenager but the formidable Dame Hannah. As you can see from the above picture, she is more than a match for Robin!
Robin, terrified, calls to Sir Despard for help. Despard helps him up, sends him away as inconsequential, and turns to Hannah:
ROD. Little Nannikin!
ROD. This is a strange meeting after so many years!
HAN. Very. I thought you were dead.
ROD. I am. I died ten years ago.
HAN. And are you pretty comfortable?
ROD. Pretty well – that is – yes, pretty well.
They continue with a musically lovely but somewhat irrelevant ballad about “a pretty little flower” and “a great oak tree”.
Their lovemaking is interrupted by Robin who presents the following syllogism.
According to the CURSE:
- A Baronet of Ruddigore will die if and only if he refuses to commit his daily crime.
- Therefore, refusal to commit a daily crime is tantamount to suicide.
- But suicide is a crime.
- None of you has died.
- Sir Rupert, the First Baronet still has the title.
- I am not and have never been the Baronet.
“And they all lived happily ever after”
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All photos by Raen Payne
P. S. Attn: All nit-pickers and logicians.
Given that in this operatic setting ghosts, witches, and curses are all part of reality, is Robin’s ERGO valid? I’m satisfied; are you?