The Sorcerer
Words: W.S. Gilbert
Music: Arthur Sullivan
Written in: Authored Date:

Act 1

The villagers of Ploverleigh meet to celebrate the engage- ment of Alexis, son of Sir Marmaduke, to Aline, daughter of Lady Sangazure. Constance, a village maiden, is one of the few sad people, for she is secretly in love with Dr. Daly, the Vicar, who, although very susceptible to female charms, regards himself as too old to marry. The engaged couple arrive to receive the congratulations of all and to sign the marriage contract. Sir Marmaduke and Lady Sangazure are scarcely able to conceal the fact that the love they felt for one another thirty years before is still burning fiercely. Alexis, ecstatic in his new-found love and anxious that all the villagers should be in the same happy state, arranges with John Wellington Wells, a commercial sorcerer, that the whole village shall be secretly dosed with a love philtre which will cause all the unmarried men and women to fall in love with the first person of the opposite sex whom they meet on waking. Wells works his charm, the philtre is administered and the whole company falls into a deep sleep, during which the potion does its work.

Act 2

Midnight (12 hours have elapsed between Acts I and II) The villagers wake from their induced sleep and fall in love indiscriminately as planned. Alexis tries to persuade Aline also to drink the potion, to make their love secure; she refuses and a lovers' tiff follows. The experiment on the villagers has resulted in some very ill-assorted matches, Constance with the old notary. Sir Marmaduke with Constance's mother, Mrs. Partlet, Lady Sangazure with J. W. Wells and later, after she has yielded to Alexis's persuasion, Aline with Dr. Daly. Only supernatural intervention can sort out the tangle and return the village to normality.



The Sorcerer, first produced in late 1877 was based on one of Gilbert's earlier short stories "An Elixir of Love". It is now the first of their full length operettas to survive—Trial by Jury being a short single-act piece without any dialogue—and saw the start of the creation of a specific company to perform the works of Gilbert & Sullivan. Gilbert had experienced so much trouble with leading actors—particularly tenors—that he decided to have no "stars" in his Company but instead to train a number of gifted amateurs. George Grossmith, who was to play the comic baritone roles and Rutland Barrington who was to create and play almost all the important bass-baritone parts took their first roles in The Sorcerer .

The critics at that first production were mostly enthusiastic with The Times commenting "Messrs. W S Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan have once again combined their efforts with the happiest result"; whilst The Examiner purred "a work of entirely English growth which bids fair to hold its own by the side of numberless foreign importations".

It is in The Sorcerer that we first see the development of characters who were to become standard throughout later shows; the comic baritone and the lady of a certain age, although it is interesting to note that Aline the heroine perhaps surprisingly displays a firmer character than most of Gilbert's heroines.

The Sorcerer, June 2015, The Nuffield Theatre
The Sorcerer, June 1998, Nuffield Theatre
The Sorcerer, June 1986, Nuffield Theatre
The Sorcerer, March 1976, The Guildhall