“The Sorcerer,” a comic opera in two acts, by W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, was produced at the Opéra Comique, London, Nov. 18, 1877.
Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, an elderly baronet. Alexis, his son, one of the Grenadier Guards. Dr. Daly, Vicar of Ploverleigh. Notary. John Wellington Wells, of J. Wells and Co., Family Sorcerers. Lady Sangazure, a lady of ancient lineage. Aline, her daughter, betrothed to Alexis. Mrs. Partlet, a pew-opener. Constance, her daughter. Chorus of peasantry.
The opera begins with a gay entertainment at which the villagers assemble to celebrate the betrothal of Alexis, heir of the great Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, to Aline, daughter of Lady Sangazure. Mrs. Partlet, the pew-opener, arrives with her daughter Constance, who alone of all the company is out of spirits. The maiden confesses that it is because she is so hopelessly in love with the Reverend Dr. Daly, the vicar. That reverend gentleman indulges in some reminiscences of the time when he was a fair, pale young curate and all the feminine portion of the parish trembled at his slightest indisposition. Mrs. Partlet hints that a clergyman’s wife would be a great acquisition to the village and that Constance is getting to be of marriageable age, but he is entirely oblivious to any relation between the ideas, and announcing that he shall live and die a solitary old bachelor, he leaves the maiden plunged in dark despair. Alexis appears, and is showered with congratulations. Sir Marmaduke and Lady Sangazure, who were in love fifty years before, hold ardent conversation, from which it is evident that the sentiment has withstood the test of time. The marriage contract is signed and the affianced are left to themselves for a while.
Alexis now refers to his pet theory that men and women should be coupled in matrimony without distinction of rank. It seems that his lecture delivered at the mechanics’ institutes, the workhouses, beershops and lunatic asylums has been received with enthusiasm, although the aristocracy still holds aloof. He confides to Aline that he is about to take a desperate step in support of his principles. Calling Sir John Wellington Wells, of the firm of J. Wells and Co., old established Family Sorcerers, from the refreshment tent, he orders a large quantity of his love-at-first-sight philtre. This magic compound has the effect of making any single person who partakes of it fall in love with the first party upon whom his eyes alight. Rather against her will, Aline doctors the teapot, the vicar brews the beverage and everybody troops up for a cup. As the charm begins visibly to work, the curtain of the first act goes down.
The second act is played in the village market-place. All the villagers have paired off and a greater collection of ill-assorted couples it would be hard to find. Here an old man and a young girl gaze languishingly into each other’s eyes ; there a sallow youth and an ancient dame stroll by making violent love. The young affections of Constance have lighted upon a very old and very deaf notary It appears that
He’s dry and snuffy, deaf and slow, ill-tempered, weak and poorly, He’s ugly and absurdly dressed and sixty-seven nearly. He’s everything that she detests, but yet she loves him dearly.
Aline and Alexis stand by and congratulate themselves on the happy way in which they have helped the whole village to pair off. Their enthusiasm is momentarily dampened when Sir Marmaduke presents Mrs. Partlet as his bride-to-be but Alexis, true to his theory, tries to make the best of it. Only Dr. Daly is thoroughly unhappy, for he has been a little slow and can find no one to love him, everybody being previously engaged. He is greatly at a loss to account for the epidemic of prospective matrimony in a village hitherto little addicted to the habit. To cap the climax, Lady Sangazure rushes up to Mr. Wells whose conscience is beginning to cause him much uneasiness and begins to adore him. He warns her that he drops his H’s, eats peas with his knife, and is engaged to a ” maiden fair with bright brown hair who waits for him by the sounding sea.” At the latter falsehood, Lady Sangazure departs, threatening suicide.
Alexis has insisted that to make their love eternal Aline shall taste the philtre. She drinks, meets Dr. Daly and there is the usual result. Alexis is not prepared for such a test and is very wroth indeed. However, Dr. Daly assures him that he will be no man’s rival but will quit the country at once and bury his sorrows in the gloom of a colonial bishopric. Mr. Wells volunteers the information that there is one way in which the spell may be removed a victim must be offered to Ahrimanes, and he finally consents to be said victim. As he vanishes into the earth amid red fire there is a new and proper pairing off; Aline with Alexis, Lady Sangazure with Sir Marmaduke, Dr. Daly with Constance, and Mrs. Partlet with the notary.
Popular numbers in the first act are Dr. Daly’s ballad, ” Time was, when love and I were well acquainted ; ” the duet of Sir Marmaduke and Lady Sangazure, “Welcome Joy;” Alexis’ ballad, “For Love Alone;” the amusing song of the sorcerer, ” My name is John Wellington Wells,” in the strain in which Mr. Gilbert is so happy; Mr. Wells’ incantation, ” Spirits of Earth and Air; ” the country dance, “Happy are we,” with which the second act begins; the song of Constance, “Dear friends, take pity; ” the duet of Lady Sangazure and Mr. Wells, ” Oh, I have wrought; ” Aline’s air, “Alexis, doubt me not ” and Dr. Daly’s song, ” Oh my voice is sad and low.”