Say Gilbert and Sullivan to someone and chances are they’ll have heard of The Mikado or HMS Pinafore.
But Ruddygore, or Ruddigore as it later became known, is unlikely to be on anyone’s lips.
One of the pair’s lesser-known operas, it has undergone several revisions since it debuted in 1887 – but the University of Portsmouth’s Dramatic & Musical Society has pieced together the original for its production at the New Theatre Royal on Thursday.
Accompanied by the University Orchestra, the student cast will recreate the supernatural goings-on of Ruddygore as it was performed on opening night.
Director of Music Colin Jagger is the man behind this project, and used the appendices of a recently-published version to bring Ruddygore to life.
Colin, 48, from Southsea, says: ‘Ruddygore isn’t an uncommon piece to perform, but it is in this version.
‘In the ’20s the opera was heavily edited by someone with no real knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan, but in 2000 Oxford University Press put out a new edition closer to the original version.
‘The appendices contained information about the original show that would’ve been difficult to perform, but we’ve adapted it into this version.’
Colin says that after lukewarm audience reactions on opening night, Gilbert and Sullivan made some hasty cuts to the script – some more major than others.
‘There were some more minor cuts, like a couple of numbers originally had an extra verse, but in other instances large chunks of material were ditched which have been interesting to put back in.’
One such scene, which Colin describes as the highlight of the show, comes in the second act, when paintings of the ancestors of the Baronet of Ruddygore Castle leave their frames and haunt him.
‘Originally there were 170 bars of music in this scene, but only 100 bars remain. By adding these back in we’ve reinstated a marching number, which has been a fascinating process. The scene forms a rather interesting musical whole.’
Megan Rutledge from Drayton makes her directorial debut for the society with this production. The 22-year-old student says she looks forward to seeing the performance in the theatre space.
She says: ‘It’s been quite a challenge because some of the music hasn’t been heard since 1887, but the whole project is hugely exciting.
Megan adds: ‘There are a few references to Southsea dotted around as Gilbert and Sullivan were very much in love with Portsmouth.’
Tickets for Ruddygore cost £13, call (023) 9264 9000 or go visit newtheatreroyal.com.