Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ghost of Sunday Classics: When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls

With update, in which I actually include the texts
and music for the meeting of the two Bad Barts

Carole Round in the 1999 SavoyNet Performing Group Ruddigore
DAME HANNAH [quoting the burning witch]:
"Each lord of Ruddigore,
despite his best endeavour,
shall do one crime, or more,
once every day forever.
This doom he can't defy,
however he may try.
For should he stay
his hand, that day
in torture he shall die!"

[We heard the story in full in this week's preview, "The Witch's Curse."]

Gillian Knight (ms), Dame Hannah; Orchestra or the Royal Opera House, Covent Gardn, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded July 1962

Monica Sinclair (c), Dame Hannah; Pro Arte Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded Dec. 11-14, 1962

Ruddigore, Act I: All the village girls express their horror of SIR DESPARD MURGATROYD, Bad Baronet of Ruddigore. As he approaches them they fly from him, terror-stricken, leaving him alone on the stage.

SIR DESPARD MURGATROYD: Poor children, how they loathe me -- me whose hands are certainly steeped in infamy, but whose heart is as the heart of a little child! But what is a poor baronet to do, when a whole picture gallery of ancestors step down from their frames and threaten him with an excruciating death if he hesitate to commit his daily crime? But ha! ha! I am even with them! [Mysteriously] I get my crime over the first thing in the morning, and then, ha! ha! for the rest of the day I do good -- I do good -- I do good! [Melodramatically] Two days since, I stole a child and built an orphan asylum. Yesterday I robbed a bank and endowed a bishopric. Today I carry off Rose Maybud and atone with a cathedral! This is what it is to be the sport and toy of a Picture Gallery! But I will be bitterly revenged upon them! I will give them all to the Nation, and nobody shall ever look upon their faces again!

by Ken

Before we continue with Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore, we're going to observe our frequent custom of starting at the beginning, with the Overture. For our purposes, as I hope you'll hear, it's especially important here. (Note that this is the "later" overture, in which Sullivan had no hand. But something had to be done when for the 1920-21 revival of the show -- after the deaths of both Gilbert and Sullivan -- the tune that had served as the big "developoment" tune of the original Overture, Robin's "When a man has been a wicked baronet" from the Act II finale, was cut. I happen to think that the replacement Overture, generally credited to Geoffrey Toye, a longtime assistant of Sullivan's, is quite dandy.)

GILBERT and SULLIVAN: Ruddigore: Overture (1920)

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded July 1962

Pro Arte Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded Nov. 3, 1960

[Sorry, I was so pressed for time that I completely screwed this up this morning. The texts and the audio files were all ready to go, and I didn't get around to inserting them!]

This is officially, or at least this post began life as, a continuation of last week's idea of a tribute to the great G-and-S bass Donald Adams. Well, things happen. Much of the text was written on paper napkins in the shadow of the Harkness Tower at Yale, with a carillon ringing that included "Send in the clowns." (I was hoping for "Send in the clowns," but that wasn't bad.) We actually will get to Adams. But first . . . .

In the course of Ruddigore we meet not one, not two, but three Bad Baronets of Ruddigore. Actually, we meet many more than that -- a whole Picture Gallery's worth, and we're going to be meeting them in just a moment.

The first of our Bad Barts is the current title-holder (and thus the current heir to the curse we heard described again by Dame Hannah, when old Sir Rupert Murgatroyd burned one witch too many) as the show begins, Sir Despard, whom we've just heard soliloquizing about this menacing Picture Gallery of his. It's the first meeting of our other two Bad Barts, Sir Ruthven (that's pronounced "Rivven") and his uncle, Sir Roderic, that we're angling toward. However, to get there. we first have to liberate Sir Despard from the literally accursèd title. Maybe the easiest way is to continue with the spoken dialogue where we left off above, as Sir Despard is joined by a square-jawed young seafaring fellow, Richard Dauntless.
[Enter RICHARD.]
RICHARD: Ax your honour's pardon, but --
SIR DESPARD: Ha! observed! And by a mariner! What would you with me, fellow?
RICHARD: Your honour, I'm a poor man-o'-war's-man, becalmed in the doldrums --
SIR DESPARD: I don't know them.
RICHARD: And I make bold to ax your honour's advice. Does your honour know what it is to have a heart?
SIR DESPARD: My honour knows what it is to have a complete apparatus for conducting
the circulation of the blood through the veins and arteries of the human body.
RICHARD: Aye, but has your honour a heart that ups and looks you in the face, and
gives you quarter-deck orders that it's life and death to disobey?
SIR DESPARD: I have not a heart of that description, but I have a Picture Gallery that
presumes to take that liberty.
RICHARD: Well, your honour, it's like this. Your honour had an elder brother --
RICHARD: Who should have inherited your title and, with it, its cuss.
SIR DESPARD: Aye, but he died. Oh, Ruthven!
RICHARD: He didn't.
SIR DESPARD: He did not?
RICHARD: He didn't. On the contrary, he lives in this here very village, under the
name of Robin Oakapple, and he's a-going to marry Rose Maybud this very day.
SIR DESPARD: Ruthven alive, and going to marry Rose Maybud! Can this be possible?
RICHARD: Now the question I was going to ask your honour is -- ought I to tell your
honour this?
SIR DESPARD: I don't know. It's a delicate point. I think you ought. Mind, I'm not sure,
but I think so.
RICHARD: That's what my heart says. It says, "Dick," it says (it calls me Dick acos
it's entitled to take that liberty), "that there young gal would recoil from him if she knowed what he really were. Ought you to stand off and on, and let this young gal take this false step and never fire a shot across her bows to bring her to? No,”" it says, "you did not ought." And I won't ought, accordin'.
SIR DESPARD: Then you really feel yourself at liberty to tell me that my elder brother lives -- that I may charge him with his cruel deceit, and transfer to his shoulders the hideous thraldom under which I have laboured for so many years! Free -- free at last! Free to live a blameless life, and to die beloved and regretted by all who knew me!


It's the long-awaited wedding of Richard Dauntless's beloved foster brother, the innocent farmer Robin Oakapple, to the apple of both Richard's and Robin's eyes, the village treasure Rose Maybud. The villagers are dancing a stately gavotte when they are rudely interrupted.
SIR DESPARD: Hold, bride and bridegroom, ere you wed each other.
I claim young Robin as my elder brother!
His rightful title I have long enjoyed:
I claim him as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd!
CHORUS. O wonder!
ROSE [wildly]: Deny the falsehood, Robin, as you should,
it is a plot!
ROBIN: I would if conscientiously I could,
but I cannot.
CHORUS. Ah, base one! Ah, base one!
ROBIN: As pure and blameless peasant,
I cannot, I regret,
deny a truth unpleasant,
I am that Baronet!
ALL: He is that Baronet!
ROBIN: But when completely rated,
Bad Baronet am I.
That I am what he's stated
I'll recklessly deny!
ALL: He'll recklessly deny!
ROBIN: When I'm a bad Bart I will tell taradiddles!
ALL: He'll tell taradiddles when he's a bad Bart.
ROBIN: I'll play a bad part on the falsest of fiddles.
ALL: On very false fiddles he'll play a bad part!
ROBIN: But until that takes place I must be conscientious --
ALL: He'll be conscientious until that takes place.
ROBIN: Then adieu with good grace to my morals sententious!
ALL: To morals sententious adieu with good grace!
ROBIN and ALL: When I'm/he's a bad Bart
I/he will tell taradiddles, etc.
ZORAH: Who is the wretch who hath betrayed thee?
Let him stand forth!
RICHARD [coming forward]: 'Twas I!
ALL: Die, traitor!
RICHARD: Hold! my conscience made me!
Withhold your wrath!
RICHARD: Within this breast there beats a heart
whose voice can't be gainsaid.
It bade me thy true rank impart,
and I at once obeyed.
I knew 'twould blight thy budding fate --
I knew 'twould cause thee anguish great --
But did I therefore hesitate?
No! I at once obeyed!
ALL: Acclaim him who, when his true heart
bade him young Robin's rank impart,
immediately obeyed!

Kenneth Sandford (bs-b), Sir Despard Murgatroyd; Jean Hindmarsh (s), Rose Maybud; John Reed (b), Robin Oakapple (Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd); Mary Sansom (s), Zorah; Thomas Round (t), Richard Dauntless; D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus, Orchestra or the Royal Opera House, Covent Gardn, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded July 1962

Radley Flynn (bs-b), Sir Despard Murgatroyd; Margaret Mitchell (s), Rose Maybud; Martyn Green (b), Robin Oakapple (Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd); Deidree Thurlow (s), Zorah; Leonard Osborn (t), Richard Dauntless; D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus, New Promenade Orchestra, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded July 21, 1950

In the second version, you'll have to pretty much discount the Despard, and you probably won't have much reason to pay attention to the Robin, even though you'll hear many G-and-S fans telling you how wonderful they are. I included it for the snatch of Margaret Mitchell's Rose but especially for Leonard Osborn's Richard, even though you'll hear many G-and-S fans (largely the same one, as it happens) tell you what a horror Osborn was. Yes, there were glitches in the handling of the voice, but my goodness, an actual voice! With ring and color and, how shall I say it?, a feeling of voicemanship -- what an actual singer can do with an actual voice. But as I've mentioned, I've discovered that an overwhelming number of G-and-S hate actual voices and are quite insistent on getting either pallid whining or raucous bawling. Luckily for them, they have been well served on records, and continue to be well served most everywhere the G-and-S operas are performed.


[UPDATE: I was so pressed for time that, even though the English texts and the audio files were all ready to go, I didn't get around to popping them in. Sigh.]

The scene begins basically as described by Gilbert for the outset of Act II:
Picture Gallery in Ruddigore Castle. The walls are covered with full-length portraits of the Baronets of Ruddigore from the time of James I -- the first being that of SIR RUPERT, alluded to in the legend; the last, that of the last deceased Baronet, SIR RODERIC.

And it begins with Robin, or rather Sir Ruthven, soliloquizing:
ROBIN: 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? [Addressing Pictures.] Oh, my forefathers, wallowers in blood, there came at last a day when, sick of crime, you, each and every, vowed to sin no more, and so, in agony, called welcome Death to free you from your cloying guiltiness. Let the sweet psalm of that repentant hour soften your long-dead hearts, and tune your souls to mercy on your poor posterity! [Kneeling]
And then:
[The stage darkens for a moment. It becomes light again, and the Pictures are seen to have become animated.]
Painted emblems of a race,
all accurst in days of yore,
each from his accustomed place
steps into the world once more.
[The Pictures step from their frames and march round the stage.]
Baronet of Ruddigore,
last of our accursèd line,
down upon the oaken floor – Down upon those knees of thine.
Coward, poltroon, shaker, squeamer,
blockhead, sluggard, dullard, dreamer,
shirker, shuffler, crawler, creeper,
sniffler, snuffler, wailer, weeper,
earthworm, maggot, tadpole, weevil!
Set upon thy course of evil,
Lest the King of Spectre-Land
set on thee his grisly hand!
[The spectre of SIR RODERIC descends from his frame.]
SIR RODERIC: Beware! beware! beware!
ROBIN: Gaunt vision, who art thou
that thus, with icy glare
and stern relentless brow,
appearest, who knows how?
SIR RODERIC: I am the spectre of the late Sir Roderic Murgatroyd,
Who comes to warn thee that thy fate Thou canst not now avoid.
Alas, poor ghost!
SIR RODERIC: The pity you
express for nothing goes:
We spectres are a jollier crew
than you, perhaps, suppose!
CHORUS: We spectres are a jollier crew
than you, perhaps, suppose!

John Reed (b), Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd; Donald Adams (bs), Sir Roderic Murgatroyd; D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded July 1962

And then:
SIR RODERIC: When the night wind howls
in the chimney cowls,
nd 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!
SIR RODERIC: As the sob of the breeze
sweeps over the trees,
and the mists lie low on the fen,
from grey tombstones
are gathered the bones
that once were women and men,
and away they go,
with a mop and a mow,
to the revel that ends too soon,
For cockcrow limits our holiday --
the dead of the night's high noon!
CHORUS: Ha! ha! The dead of the night's high noon!
SIR RODERIC: And then each ghost
with his ladye-toast
to their churchyard beds take flight,
with a kiss, perhaps,
on her lantern chaps,
and a grisly grim "good night";
till the welcome knell
of the midnight bell
rings forth its jolliest tune,
and ushers in our next high holiday –
the dead of the night's high noon!
CHORUS: Ha! ha! The dead of the night's high noon!
Ha! ha! ha! ha!

Donald Adams (bs), Sir Roderic Murgatroyd; D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded July 1962



No comments:

Post a Comment