Ruddigore


What it is like for you returning to the role of Robin Oakapple and to Opera North?

Grant Doyle as Robin Oakapple and Amy Freston as Rose Maybud in Ruddigore

“It is such an honour to be asked to reprise the role for Opera North in this brilliant production of Ruddigore. I am very grateful for being given the opportunity in the first place, and to know that it was successful enough to be revived so soon is just icing on the cake.” 

How does the rehearsal process differ for a revived role rather than a new one?

“The rehearsal process is quite different, it begins with simply remembering what we did the first time around, and then becomes an exercise in finding freshness and spontaneity. Also it is a chance to polish up some rough edges. I have done revivals before where I wasn’t in the original production and I find that more difficult – wearing another’s shoes – but this is a joy. The rehearsals have been progressing very swiftly because we are lucky enough to have all of the original cast back, who are all brilliant actors and singers and are fantastic to work with. We are now ready for Jo Davies and her team to put it on the stage again.” 

How do you find performing the two different ‘characters’ of Robin Oakapple and Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd?

Grant Doyle (seated) as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, with members of the Opera North chorus as the ghosts of the Murgatroyd ancestors

“The important thing I have to remember is that there aren’t two characters, it is really Robin all the time. I try to keep him as normal and affable as possible. When he becomes Sir Ruthven, he is forced into playing the part of a bad Baronet but never feels comfortable and after much guilt and comedy torture, finds a way out of it.  It is a gift of a role – a character playing a character, with all the over-the-top fun that brings.”

What do you enjoy most about this production?

“The best things about this production is all of my colleagues, who create a mad world of comedy characters around me which still make me chuckle, the clear and deft storytelling of Jo Davies’ direction and the exquisite sepia flavoured costume and design – love that hat and cape!”

 

Grant Doyle plays Robin Oakapple / Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore, which opens on Friday 30 September at Leeds Grand Theatre, before touring to Nottingham Theatre Royal, Newcastle Theatre Royal, The Lowry, Salford and the Barbican, London. More details and booking information is available here.

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Photos@Malcolm Johnson

Over the last week, I have been watching rehearsals for Ruddigore, which opens on September 30 after its huge success in early 2010. While writing this, I am cosied up next to two skeletons who live in a prop box when they are not on stage. The atmosphere is relaxed, as everyone loves working on this production. Choreographer Kay will often run warm up sessions, so performers are prepared for the energetic movement sequences on the rake. Before they get to the point where a whole scene or an act are run through, rehearsals are about simultaneity as well as repetition. A sequence is repeated and refined as the performers co-ordinate the many things that happen at the same time (singing, words, movement, gesture, facial expression, reactions). There are also some intermittent periods, where performers are going over steps, music and text, spoken dialogue or movement sequences in isolation. At a Ruddigore rehearsal, a scene in Act 2 sees director Jo Davies talking through a point involving a cloak with the singer of Robin, while Rose and Richard are practising a lift – impressive, as Amy Freston (Rose) sings some very high notes while flung head down over Richard’s (Hal Cazalet) shoulder. They practise it ‘dry’ several times, doing the movements on their own, then running through it again and marking the notes, while a line of chorus bridesmaids practises dainty steps, with the choreographer Kay demonstrating alongside them (but mind the tiger rug along the way!). To a passer-by, this might just seem like a hive of activity, but it’s a flurry of micro-rehearsals before everyone comes back together again with piano for an improved version of the sequence.

The next day, the gents who sing the parts of the Murgatroyd ancestors practise the choreography of ‘The Ghosts’ High Noon’. One ghost gallops in on an imaginary horse, one persistently chases Baronet Ruthven with a lance – nothing is safe from these mischievous ghouls. This is a show stopping number of skilfully choreographed mayhem, meaning lots of detailed one-by-one rehearsals, concerned with cues, timing and position in the space, often while manipulating props (my skeletal rehearsal room companions!). And of course there’s an opportunity to trip over the tiger rug.

Photo: Malcolm Johnson

Ruddigore is a performance which requires a lot of energy – try performing a Charleston on a raked stage while singing, or try dancing round a couple in an excitable group of singing bridesmaids at least twenty times until it’s exactly right, not to mention spooky dances while singing about the ghosts’ high noon in forte. Finally, try finding your breath in the vigorous finale and its infamous patter, congratulating Mad Margaret and Sir Despard Murgatroyd in William Gilbert’s immortal words:

‘Prompted by a keen desire to evoke,

All the blessed calm of matrimony’s yoke,

They will toddle off tomorrow

From this scene of sin and sorrow

For to settle, settle, settle, settle, settle, settle

In the town of Basingstoke!’

Dr Kara McKechnie lectures in theatre and performance at the University of Leeds. Her book on Opera North will be published by Emerald in early 2013.

With two weeks to go until the opening of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore, Kay Shepherd explains why returning to the choreography is like meeting old friends:

Hal Cazalet as Richard Dauntless (centre). Photo: Robert Workman

“Having had such a joyous time choreographing the original production of Ruddigore for Opera North in 2010, I was both excited and a little apprehensive about returning for the revival. Happily, any concerns about keeping the working process fresh were unfounded and I am now at the start of rehearsal week  three, with two really positive weeks behind me.

“Most of the cast is the same as before and I was correct in believing that the majority of the movement and dance would ‘come back’ to the performers’ bodies with a little help from music, lyrics, props, other actors and myself.

“The rediscovery of movements is sometimes like bumping into old friends… much excitement! We then have to remember why we became friends in the first place and not get overtaken with the joy of muscle memory.

Richard Burkhard as Sir Despard Murgatroyd. Photo: Robert Workman

“Most of the choreography in the production is as before, but there have been natural developments through re-rehearsal and I have made a few small changes.

“The main objective for me is for the final product to be clear in style and narrative, and for the performers to look and feel comfortable with what I ask them to do.

“And so onwards. I like Leeds, I like Opera North and I like Ruddigore. Happy Days.”

Kay Shepherd
Choreographer, Ruddigore

Opera North’s production of Ruddigore, by Gilbert & Sullivan, directed by Jo Davies, opens at Leeds Grand Theatre on Friday 30 September. For more information and booking details, click here.

Listen to some sound clips from the production here.


Ruddigore – ‘Cheerily carols the lark’ by Opera North


Ruddigore – ‘I once was a very abandon’d person’ by Opera North

Thank you to everyone who submitted answers for ‘Guess the Opera’. The answers are revealed below.

1) ‘I’ve never felt such pure devotion

In all my life before.

I tell myself that this emotion

Will last for ever more!

But then my jealous heart imagines another holds her fast,

While I, poor fool, have no courage to kiss the ground where she has passed.’

Herman tells Tomsky of his love for Lisa in The Queen of Spades

2) ‘Your strength can protect me.

Your smile so honest and so open you tell me things I was quite unaware of. I’m so contented, I’m so contented…

Just love me a little, a very very little.

The little love I ask for is no more than a child needs.’

Cio-Cio-San pleads with Pinkerton in Madama Butterlfy

3) ‘In bygone days I had thy love,

Thou hadst my heart.

But fate, all human vows above

Our lives did part.

By the old love thou hadst for me,

By the fond heart that beat for thee,

By joys that never now can be,

Grant thou prayer!’

Rose Maybud to Robin Oakapple in Ruddigore

Congratulations to CHARLOTTE who was picked at random from all entrants with the correct answer. Please contact julia.lumley@operanorth.co.uk with your details.

Can you tell Puccini from G&S? Ghostly curses from gambling ways? Tragedy from three card tricks? The below extracts are taken from Opera North’s Autumn season operas, Madama Butterfly, Ruddigore and The Queen of Spades but can you work out which lines belong in which opera? Comment below with your answers and you could win a pair of tickets!

1) ‘I’ve never felt such pure devotion

In all my life before.

I tell myself that this emotion

Will last for ever more!

But then my jealous heart imagines another holds her fast,

While I, poor fool, have no courage to kiss the ground where she has passed.’

2) ‘Your strength can protect me.

Your smile so honest and so open you tell me things I was quite unaware of. I’m so contented, I’m so contented…

Just love me a little, a very very little.

The little love I ask for is no more than a child needs.’

3) ‘In bygone days I had thy love,

Thou hadst my heart.

But fate, all human vows above

Our lives did part.

By the old love thou hadst for me,

By the fond heart that beat for thee,

By joys that never now can be,

Grant thou prayer!’

Answers will be announced on Friday 12 August.

Find out more about Opera North’s Autumn Season here.

Today’s opera is Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore which returns by popular demand.

Opera North's 2009 Production of Ruddigore

Bringing with it curses, crimes, ghosts and ghouls, the hugely acclaimed Gilbert & Sullivan’s witty Victorian melodrama Ruddigore returns this Autumn to delight audiences. Director Jo Davies’ production was declared a gem of a discovery in the 2009/10 run and she returns to recreate the magic with the same cast, that includes soprano Amy Freston singing Rose Maybud and the Australian baritone Grant Doyle as Sir Ruthvan Oakapple.

 

 

Ruddigore opens on Friday 30 September 2011. For more go here.