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The village of Reddering in Cornwall is home to some unusual residents:  Sir Despard, a Bad Baronet with a family curse requiring him to commit a daily crime, lest he die an excruciating death;  Mad Margaret, an eccentric woman who admires Sir Despard, and a chorus of professional bridesmaids, who seize every opportunity to herald any impending wedding..

Robin Oakapple, a young farmer, loves Rose Maybud, a young foundling with an obsession with etiquette.  He is the true Bad Baronet but had pretended to be dead, thereby transferring the hideous curse to his younger brother Despard. Unfortunately his half brother, Richard, returns from the sea and spills the beans because he also takes a shine to Rose Maybud.  Act I ends when all parties concerned meet (by chance, of course) and engage in numerous exchanges of roles and partners.


Robin, now renamed Sir Ruthven and his servant Old Adam are now resident at Ruddigore Castle.  Ruthven is not to keen on his new occupation and appeals to his ancestors, who step out of their picture frames as ghosts and tell him what a poor job he’s making of it.  The head ancestor/ghost  Sir Roderic insists he should kidnap a woman or “perish in inconceivable agony!”.  Taking the soft option, Ruthven dispatches Old Adam to do the dirty deed.

Meanwhile a reformed Despard and his new wife, the reformed (well, partly...) village madwoman, Margaret (now a district visitor), call on Ruthven to renounce his daily crime and take the consequences.  He accepts their plea, but forgets about Old Adam who returns with the fiery village Old Maid, Dame Hannah.  This is observed by Sir Roderic, who is rather peeved with Ruthven as Dame Hannah was his former love in his past life.  The situation is resolved when Ruthven realises that defying the curse is suicide, and suicide being a crime, it constitutes his daily obligation.  With this one stroke of genius, the curse is lifted and the opera ends with great rejoicing.