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So I recently watched a performance of Ruddigore and later read that the second act was almost completely redone and that the overture was changed. However, I cannot seem to find anything regarding the original draft of the musical.

So does anyone know of a source for the original script, or what changes (plot wise) happened to make it mildly/well received instead of despised?

Also I wasn't sure whether to ask on TV and Film or here, but since it is regarding the original script I think it falls more here. If anyone has a better suggestion, please feel free.

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Ruddigore (1887) was poorly received at its first performance. The first act was applauded well enough, but the audience booed the last twenty minutes of the second act. Such a reception was unprecedented for a Savoy production. The opera's structure was considered awkward, its pacing plodding. Shortly after the disappointing opening night, Gilbert made some changes to address the perceived problems with the libretto:

  • The title was changed from Ruddygore to Ruddigore. Even before its première, Gilbert had been warned that "Ruddygore" was rude, sounding too much like "bloody gore", but he had originally laughed off the objection.
  • One scene early in the second act involved having the ghosts of all the previous Baronets of Ruddigore step down from their portraits. A similar scene occurs near the end, when the Baronets are restored to life. The stage business required for these proved clumsy, and the second appearance of all the Baronets was in particular criticized as making the play overlong. Gilbert rewrote the ending so that only one of the previous Baronets is restored to life.
  • Several songs and spoken dialogues were either shortened or cut entirely. For example, a patter song in act II fell victim to the cuts:

For thirty-five years I've been sober and wary—
My favorite tipple came straight from a dairy—
I kept guinea-pigs and a Belgian canary—
      A squirrel, white mice, and a small black-and-tan.
I played on the flute, and I drank lemon squashes—
I wore chamois leather, thick boots, and macintoshes—
And things that will some day be known as galoshes—
      The type of a highly respectable man!

Ruddigore. 1887. The Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan: Their Best Known Operas, introduced and edited by Ian Bradley. Volume 2: 311–410. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. p. 390. Accessed at archive.org 31 December 2023.

All the cuts and changes made are detailed in the annotations to Ruddigore in Ian Bradley's two-volume edition of Gilbert's libretti for the major Savoy operettas cited above. The Wikipedia entry for the opera also has a list of the cuts. These changes were effective, and Ruddigore went on to become a moderate success rather than the flop it appeared to be on its opening night.

The overture most commonly heard today is indeed not the original, but this change was not directly related to the changes made after the first night. In 1920, by which year both Gilbert and Sullivan were dead, Ruddigore was revived for the first time since its initial run. Several additional cuts were made to the libretto and the score for this revival. Many of the tunes used in the original overture were from songs omitted in this production. Consequently, the original overture, arranged by Hamilton Clarke, no longer fit the opera. Edward Geoffrey Toye, the newly appointed musical director for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, arranged a new overture. This version of Ruddigore, with the new overture and several cuts from the 1887 version, has since become the standard.

David Russell Hulme's edition of the full score of Ruddigore has detailed critical apparatus, including appendices, enumerating the changes and providing the libretto and score for all the various cuts made in 1887 and 1920 (W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, Ruddigore. 1887. Edited by David Russell Hulme. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000, rev. ed. 2017).

Edit. As noted in a comment:

Reginald Allen's The First Night Gilbert & Sullivan (New York: Heritage Press, 1958) reconstructs the first-night libretto, and the nonce company "New Sadler's Wells Opera" reassembled, performed, and recorded the first-night score for Ruddygore's centennial in 1987: the recording was published as 2 CDs (one for each act) by MCA Records, #MCAD2-11010.

Adding this to the answer (with links to archive.org), as it's very useful information for those wishing to hear the opera as originally performed. Thanks to commentator Brian Donovan!

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    Reginald Allen's The First Night Gilbert & Sullivan (New York: Heritage Press, 1958) reconstructs the first-night libretto, and the nonce company "New Sadler's Wells Opera" reassembled, performed, and recorded the first-night score for Ruddygore's centennial in 1987: the recording was published as 2 CDs (one for each act) by MCA Records, #MCAD2-11010. I prefer this first-night version. Dec 31, 2023 at 15:04
  • "For thirty-five years" advances the profoundly mischievous idea that one who lives the first half of his life viciously, and then reforms and lives the second half virtuously, is no more worthy of approbation than one who reverses that sequence. It was replaced with another song that then was also dropped. But it was never the only patter song in the show: the second-act trio of Robin/Ruthven, Despard, and Margaret is the very Everest of the patter-singer's art, with each verse optimally sung in a single breath. (Martyn Green managed this in the 1950 D'Oyly Carte recording.) Dec 31, 2023 at 15:17
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    (For 35 years as life's halfway point, cf. the opening verses of Dante's Commedia, harking back to Psalm 90.) Dec 31, 2023 at 15:22
  • @BrianDonovan I've incorporated the info about the libretto + recording of the original version into the answer and corrected the error about the patter song. Bradley's Annotated G&S says: "Observant readers of Ruddigore will have noticed that this opera lacks one of the essential ingredients of the Savoy repertoire, a patter song", and somehow I took this as gospel, completely forgetting the "matter song" (ha). Thanks for the info + correction!
    – verbose
    Jan 2 at 4:40

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