Links to the different times
we have performed this show:
After the early and resounding success of their one-act opera Trial By Jury in 1875, Gilbert and Sullivan, and their producer Richard D'Oyly Carte, decided to produce a full-length work. Gilbert expanded on one of his earlier writings based on a favourite operatic theme to create a plot about a magic love potion that would result in everyone falling in love with the wrong partner.
The Sorcerer was first produced at the Opéra Comique, a charming little theatre in the Strand, on November 17, 1877. The original run of the piece was a satisfactory 175 performances, enough of a success to encourage Gilbert & Sullivan to continue to collaborate, which led to their next piece, H.M.S. Pinafore. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The Sorcerer was revived, along with Trial By Jury in 1884 at the Savoy Theatre. For this revival, Gilbert and Sullivan revised the ending of Act I and the opening of Act II.
For much of the 20th century, The Sorcerer was performed less frequently than many of the operas. It was restored to the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's repertoire in 1971 after an absence of many years and it has now joined the regular rotation of G&S operas for most G&S performing groups.
The Sorcerer satirizes early Victorian customs and various theatre devices. These themes may be less accessible to first-time audiences than some of the other G&S operas. In addition, the piece shies away from the political satire that helps to make many of the other G&S operas funny.
This charming piece, Sullivan's first successful full-length work with Gilbert, takes place in the grounds of Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre's country mansion, where the scene is one of happiness as his son, Alexis, is to be betrothed to Aline, the only daughter of Lady Sangazure.
Gilbert here indulges in a favourite theme of his, the "magic lozenge", by having Alexis (through his desire to have everyone as happily married as he is to be) invite John Wellington Wells, the noted necromancer from No 70 St. Mary Axe, to come to the village to bring this about. The potion is prepared with suitable incantations and is given to all and sundry in their tea.
In Act II, the spell has worked but everyone has fallen in love with the first person they have set their eyes on, so matters become a little complicated.
When Aline and Dr Daly, the elderly Vicar and Alexis's old tutor, fall in love Alexis asks Wells to remove the spell but this can only be achieved by the death of either Alexis or Wells. Everyone agrees that it must be Wells, who disappears in a cloud of smoke, after which there is general rejoicing and the village settles down once more with the right partners to a life of unimpaired happiness.