Crowded audiences in the Castlethorpe Council Schools on Friday and Saturday evenings last were privileged to witness and thoroughly enjoy very fine productions of the fascinating three-act opera, “The Rajah of Rajahpore” or “The Magic Ruby.”
No professional performers figured in the caste, which was entirely composed of ladies and gentlemen from the village of Castlethorpe itself, who had been locally trained, and who from the historic standpoint as well as from the standard of vocal effort achieved a decided triumph. Never before had the village Choral Society attempted anything so ambitious, and it resounds to the credit of all concerned that they came through a very difficult task with a success which had hardly been anticipated. We saw the performance on Saturday night and we were delighted with it. The staging of the opera was in every way admirable, and principals and Chorus alike gave us an insight as to what even in a small village it is possible to achieve when keenness and enthusiasm and pleasure in the work on hand are properly exercised. The Castlethorpe Choral Society was formerly under the direction and conductorship of that skilled musician, Mr. H. H. Middleton, but in those early days nothing more serious was attempted that ordinary concerts with the introduction of part songs. These entertainments were always largely patronized and much appreciated. With the war the society dropped upon a long period of inactivity and its revival only took place about a couple of years ago. Established on quite a democratic and businesslike footing its prosperity and success was readily established and its progress in the intervening period has been very marked. The reason for this is that the members of the society are themselves extraordinarily keen on their work and most regular in their attendance at the weekly practices each Thursday. Then, in Mr. H. P. Cook the society has a very popular conductor, and a leader whom every member is pleased to follow. Mr. H. H. Middleton still gives his services as pianist and musical director and his work for the welfare of the Society is of a value that cannot be over estimated. Mr. Edward Nicholls is the chairman of the organisation, and the secretarial work, placed with Miss M. Rainbow could not be in better or more capable hands.
The scene of the opera presented last week is laid outside the palace of the Rajah of Rajahpore on the birthday of Nelly O’Neal (the adopted daughter of Major General Bangs, V.C.) in whose honour the Rajah is giving a grand fete that evening. Nelly’s three lady friends are patiently awaiting her arrival when Patrick the major’s Irish servant, announces her coming. Harry Lisle, a young clerk in Government offices, is in love with Nelly, who returns his affection, but the major will not hear of such folly, having made up his mind she shall marry a wealthy husband. The major and the rajah appear upon the scene and the latter produces the magic ruby, a priceless heirloom handed down the Rajahs of Rajahpore from generation to generation. Ras, the bandit, attired as a magician, enters, and hearing the story of the wonderful jewel determines to possess himself of it. He is successful, and the Rajah offers wealth and power to whoever shall restore the magic ruby. In the second act Ras Khal is discovered in his cave attended by his band. From a distance comes the sound of a hymn sung by the populace to the setting sun. Ras and his men depart and Harry Lisle, who has suspicions that the ruby is in the bandit’s possession, enters endeavoring to find the jewel. Hearing the sound of someone approaching he hides in the darkness of the cave and Electra, the Goddess of Light, appears attended by her spirits. Harry overhears her kindly words and kneeling at her feet implores her aid. She consents to help and tell him the magic word which gives him command over the Banditti, by whose aid he can recover the Magic Ruby. The Banditti appear and accept Harry as heir master, and in the third act the jewel is restored to the Rajah by Harry who has adopted the guise of a magician. The magic ruby is placed at the feet of the Rajah who gives orders for enormous wealth to be presented to the finder. Harry then throws off his disguise and reveals himself amid universal congratulations. Ras Khal has been made prisoner but is forgiven by the Rajah. The major now that Harry is rich, consents to his marriage with Nelly and the story ends happily.
The following took the respective parts in the opera and did their work well:
|Rajah of Rajahpore
||Mr. A. Burbidge
|Major-General Bangs V.C.
||Mr. A. E. Richardson
|Harry Lisle, a government clerk
||Mr. E. Nichols
|Ras Khal, a bandit
||Mr. J. Cowley
|Ah Sin, the Rajah’s Chinese servant
||Mr. H. Clarke
|Pat M’Gee the Major’s servant
||Mr. J. Rainbow
|Nelly O’Neal the General’s adopted daughter
||Mrs. H. P. Cook
|Elsie, Nelly’s friend
||Miss E. Burbidge
|Violet, Nelly’s friend
||Mrs. J. Cowley
|Rose, Nelly’s friend
||Miss H. Rawlinson
|Dorothy, Nelly’s friend
||Miss E. M. Rainbow
|Electra, Goddess of Light
||Miss G. Olney
Chorus of Natives: Mrs. H. H. Middleton, Mrs. F. Clarke, Mrs. J. Evans, Mrs. G. Cowley, Mrs. J. E. Gobbey, Mrs. H. Maltby, Misses Elizabeth Rainbow, Rose Cowley, Bertha Evans, Sarah Compton, Francis Middleton, Florrie Osborne, Messrs. Geo. Cowley, A. Clarke, F. Green, and B. Evans.
Spirits of Light: Mrs. Harry Clarke, Misses L. Marsh, E. Cowley, Nellie Maltby, Marjorie Maltby, Rene Maltby, Kittie Gregory, M. Worker and Doris Stones.
The dressing of the opera was very effective, the Hindu attire and turbans worn by some of the male characters, together with the military touch introduced by the smart uniform of the major-general, and the dainty dresses of the ladies presenting a delightful picture when all the characters were grouped upon he stage. Mr. S. Penn of Wolverton, was responsible for the make-up of the men, and the dressing of the ladies was carried out by Mrs. Marsh. Master H. Middleton deserves praise for his pretty lighting effects, and Mr. W. Manning filled the post of stage manager very ably.
As we have said, the acting and singing was up to a high professional standard. Mr. A. Burbidge carried himself with dignity as the rajah. Mr. Richardson was an unqualified success in the part of the sergeant-major, and as Ras Khal Mr. J. Cowley left nothing to be desired in a character that was by no means enviable. The duties of servants were faithfully discharged by Mr. Clarke and Mr. Rainbow. Special praise is certainly due to Mr. E. Nichols for his excellent singing and superb acting as the lover of the beautiful Nelly O’Neal. Both Mr. Nichols and Mrs. H. P. Cook gave a finished rendering of their respective parts and were heartily applauded. Mrs. Cook sang with rare grace and feeling. “Dear Isle of Erin,” and later in the duet, “Loves golden hours,” she and Mr. Nichols were a notable success. Mr. Nichols again scored heavily in the song “Love’s Guerdon,” and one of the best scenes in the opera was that in which he appealed to the Goddess of Light for assistance in recovering the lost jewel. As the goddess Miss. G. Olney, with her attendant spirits, gave a performance of outstanding merit and she deserved all the praise meted out to her. The other characters were all in capable hands and the chorus of natives and banditti sang most agreeably. We very heartily congratulate the members of the society on the successful interpretation of a by no means easy work.
It should be mentioned that Miss Connie Clarke sold programmes, and Messrs. J. Rainbow, J. Evans, J. Gobbey, D. Cowley, J. Marsh and E. Green gave their services as doorkeepers.
The object of the effort was to raise funds for a village hand hearse. There was prior to the performance a sum of £26 in hand and it was hoped to raise the balance of £14 required.