The specialty of last week was the new comic opera written by Mr. W. S. Gilbert, and composed by Sir Arthur Sullivan - a piece from their associated genius being an event of equal dramatic and musical interest; the great and deserved success of their several previous works of the kind having induced eager expectation for any new essay. The co-operation of the two gentlemen referred to has been a happy coincidence, similar to that of the united labours of Scribe and Auber in their delightful works of the opera-comique class.
The production of "Ruddygore, or the Witch's Curse" is noticed in the theatrical column of this week, and it is, therefore, only necessary here to refer briefly to the musical interest of the piece, which is quite equal to that of its predecessors from the same hands. The vocal score will not be published for some weeks to come, when we shall be able to refer again to its merits; meantime, we may point to some of the pieces that proved attractive in performance, and will doubtless be permanently popular. Rose Maybud's expressive ballad, "If somebody there chance to be"; the piquant duet, "I know a youth", for her and Robin Oakapple; Richard Dauntless's robust nautical ballad, "I've shipped, d'ye see, in a Revenue sloop" (with its capital hornpipe climax); the suave love duet, "The battle's roar is over", for this character and Rose; the spirited trio, "In sailing o'er life's ocean", for the personages already named; Mad Margaret's scena, and ballad, "To a garden"; Sir Despard Murgatroyd's sententious solo, "Oh, why am I moody" (with its interspersed choral comments); the impulsive duet, "You understand" for him and Richard, the beautiful madrigal, and the several movements which close the first act are all effective in their respective styles.
In the second (and last) act, the music in the scene of the animation of the portraits in the picture gallery is highly dramatic in its appropriate sombreness of style and impressive orchestral effects. This is preceded by a pretty duet (with chorus), "Happily coupled" - for Rose and Richard; and a refined ballad, "In bygone days", for the former. Sir Roderic Murgatroyd's sombre song, "When the night-wind howls" - with the surrounding choral and orchestral accessories - rises to a dramatic and musical height worthy of grand opera; and throws into strong relief the exquisitely quaint music of the subsequent duet, "I once was a very abandoned person", for Sir Despard and Margaret in their ludicrously altered aspects. The patter trio for these two and Robin; Hannah's sentimental ballad, "There grew a little flower"; and a well-contrasted finale are prominent features of the closing division of the work. The principal performers have been as well fitted with their music as with their dramatic characters, the performance of which is noted in our article, "The Playhouses"; and it must here be said that Misses Braham, Bond, and Brandram, and Messrs. G. Grossmith, D. Lely, R. Barrington, R. Temple, and others, worthily fulfilled the vocal requirements.
There is some bright and tuneful music for female chorus in each act;
and the orchestral details, throughout, are rich in colouring and variety
of detail. As in his other productions of the same class, Sir Arthur Sullivan
has eminently succeeded alike in the expression of refined sentiment and
comic humour. In the former respect, the charm of graceful melody prevails;
while, in the latter, the music of the most grotesque situations is redolent
of fun, without the slightest approach to vulgarity or coarseness - in
this latter respect, how unlike some of the French buffo music of the day!
The composer conducted the performance on the first night, using, in the
scene of darkness (in the second act), a baton illuminated by the electric
transcription supplied by Gareth Jacobs, July 2003