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The Ballad of Baby Doe
in Britain: March 1996

Photos and text courtesy of Peter Stanford

A picture of the UCO cast rehearsing the saloon scene from The Ballad of Baby Doe. The lady on the right of the picture is wearing the official t-shirt. There had been a deal whereby all the shirts for five productions would have the same design on the front (a discreet UCO logo) and the individual opera design on the back. We seem to have gone for the typeface associated with the Old West, at least in the popular imagination over here.

I was not a member of UCL at the time, in fact I was thirty and had graduated from Oxford a generation before. I met the conductor of the opera, David Drummond, on a tube train and was invited to join the production. I threw myself into the show, but had no sense of belonging to the college. As for the production, the director placed a large tetrahedron on the stage in act one. This was fine when there was only Tabor and Augusta, Adelina Patti and the cronies watching with their wives (I hadn`t thought of any of this for a decade, how it all comes back) or Augusta and the maid, but got awfully crowded for the finale which was the only time the chorus all stood there. The tetrahedron was removed for the second act. Before the production rehearsals (i.e. from the beginning of January until about half-way through February) we all had to learn all the minor chorus roles, so that the director could choose us for these parts on the basis of our looks. So, while I was coached to be a Dandy because of my singing, I was instantly cast as Papa McCourt. I was later allowed to be a newspaper seller announcing Bryan`s defeat.


Chester A. Arthur


State Department Dandies


Reception Scene


Program Cover


Program Insert


Cronies (Silver Dollars behind) take their bow


Horace haunted by the past


Robert Chevara and Chorus


Vote for Bryan


What do you intend to do, Augusta?


Saloon and Opera House


The Wedding


The McCourts

Click here to read the review from the Financial Times.
For an additional review, see item 22 on the articles page.