Opera Scotland

Rip Van Winkle or, A Romance of Sleepy Hollow; Rip

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Robert Planquette (born Paris, 31 July 1848; died Paris, 28 January 1903).


Henry Farnie.


Story in A Sketch Book (1820) by Washington Irving (1783-1859).



First Performance: London (Comedy Theatre), 14 October 1882.

First Performance in Scotland: tbc.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Planquette was one of several composers of operetta who came to prominence in succession to Offenbach, with others including Lecocq, Audran and Messager. After a short series of one-act pieces, he enjoyed his first and greatest success in 1877 with Les Cloches de Corneville. This was almost as successful in Britain as it had been in France. With many performances in London, it also toured successfully for many years. Two of his follow-up works, Rip Van Winkle (1882) and Nell Gwynne (1884) were premiered in London.

In France known simply as Rip (Van Winkle does sit rather awkwardly on the French tongue) it was first performed in the English version of the Fifer Henry Farnie, who made a career of translating (and, if necessary, substantially adapting) French libretti. In this instance, for once, it was his English libretto that was eventually adapted into French by the established writers Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille. The initial London run extended for 328 nights. The work was not seen in Paris until November 1884, by which time it had already been played in several major European centres as well as New York.

Washington Irving was the first American author since independence to enjoy equal success in Europe, and he lived in Britain for several years. The character of Diedrich Knickerbocker is a tribute to the pseudonym used by Irving for his publication of A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty (1809), which he later revived for use as the narrator for the Rip Van Winkle story, written while staying with his sister in Birmingham.


Main Characters (Farnie's version, with originals in brackets)

Rip Van Winkle, a village Good-for-Nothing.

Gretchen (Nelly), his wiife.

Derrick Von Hans, village lawyer and Rip's rival.

Peter Nan Dunk, Burgomaster of Sleepy Hollow.

Diedrich Knickerbocker, Village Schoolmaster and local Poet.

Captain Hugh Rowley, of the British Navy.

Nick Vedder, Landlord of the George lll Inn.

Captain Hendrick Hudson.


Plot Summary

The action is located in Catskill, on the banks of the Hudson, in the mid-eighteenth century. Rip has discovered in the mountains some of the treasure left by Captain Hudson, a pirate who had founded the colony. Rip, in debt to Derrick and in danger of sequestration, is able to settle his debts with pirate gold. This naturally brings him under suspicion since he is generally seen as a layabout. Unwilling to reveal his secret, he takes to the hills once more. He escapes from his pursuers at last, and takes refuge in the cave where he had found the treasure. Resuming his search he now finds the main hoard. Exhausted by his efforts, he realises that he is sleepy, and brings to mind the local legend to the effect that anyone who finds Hudson's treasure will sleep for twenty years.

While he sleeps, he dreams that twenty years have duly passed, so, on his return to Catskill, he finds the population believes him dead. His wife is now married to his old rival Derrick. His daughter is engaged to Derrick's son. However nobody recognises him, and, taking him for an impostor, they beat him up, so he is once more forced to flee. Back in the present, his wife and the search party find and wake him. He is disorientated and they have difficulty in persuading him that he has been dreaming. However he is now a rich man, with the source of his wealth acknowledged. Derrick's enmity is ended, and Rip's daughter can marry Derrick's son. All ends happily.

The Cast

 Rip's daughter, as a child
Alice Van Winkle
 Rip's daughter as an adult
Captain Hendrick Hudson
 of the Goblin
Captain Hugh Rowley
 of the British Army
Derrick Von Hans
 village Lawyer and Rip's rival
Diedrich Knickerbocker
 village Schoolmaster and local Poet
First Lieutenant
 of the Goblin
 wife of Rip Van Winkle
 Derrick's Nephew, as a child
Jan Vedder
 Proprietor of George lll Inn, Nick's son as an adult
 a village Flirt, daughter of Nick Vedder
Lieutenant Hans Van Slous
 of the US Frigate Constitution - Hans as an adult
Little Hardcase
Max Schneider
 rural postman
Nick Vedder
 Landlord of the George lll Inn
Peter Van Dunk
 Burgomaster of Sleepy Hollow
Rip Van Winkle
 a village Good-for-Nothing
Second Lieutenant
 of the Goblin
Third Lieutenant
 of the Goblin
Tom Tit

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