The Sorcerer, Gilbert & Sullivan

Title The Sorcerer
English Title
Composer Arthur Sullivan
Librettists William Gilbert
Language English, Dutch translation available
Genre Light opera. Two acts
First performance 17 November 1877, Opéra Comique, London
Time of action Second half nineteenth century
Place of action

The village of Ploverleigh, England.

  1. Exterior of Sir Marmaduke’s mansion, midday
  2. The same, at midnight
Main parts
  • Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, an elderly baronet, bass
  • Alexis, of the Grenadier Guards, his son, tenor
  • Dr. Daly, vicar of Ploverleigh, tenor or high baritone
  • John Wellington Wells, of J.W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers, baritone or tenor
  • Lady Sangazure, a Lady of Ancient Lineage, contralto or mezzo-soprano
  • Aline, her daughter – betrothed to Alexis, soprano
  • Mrs. Partlet, a pew-opener, contralto or mezzo-soprano
  • Constance, her daughter, soprano
Prominence of chorus Considerable
Orchestra 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani/percussion, strings
Special demands A trap in the stage-floor is of course ideal for Well’s disappearance, but a contraption in the tea-table is also a convincing way to make him descend in fire and smoke.
Full score and orchestral parts Available
Level Easy
Length About 2½ hours. Two acts

This early Gilbert & Sullivan work contains all the ingredients of the later successes. The music is almost too good for the absurd story. The scene in which ghosts are conjured up to charm the teapot has inspired the composer to write a magnificent, terrifying piece of music – actually of course, a skit upon nineteenth-century gothic opera (e.g. Weber’s Freischütz). Also prominent is the patter-song: a lot of nonsense to be sung as fast as possible ("My name is John Wellington Wells. I’m a dealer in magic and spells.")


A young idealist, Alexis, thinks he will find an end to all evils in the world by making as many people marry each other as he possibly can, so he orders a love-potion from a dealer "in magic and spells". All the villagers have been invited to tea to celebrate Alexis’ engagement to his beloved Aline. Alexis has the love-potion added to the tea. As a result everybody falls asleep and, on awakening, falls in love with the first person he or she sets eyes on. Of course, the consequences are disastrous; everybody falls in love with the wrong person, a young girl with the aged notary, a baronet with a pew-opener, and Alexis’ own fiancée with the vicar. Alexis is not pleased at all. At his wits’ end, he appeals to the magician to break the spell. This is done, with great theatrical effect: the magician sinks into the earth, in a red glow of flames and smoke. The couples separate, and new ones form, this time in fitting combinations.

Costumes English, second half nineteenth century, countrystyle. No changes of dress
Link Wikipedia

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Tags: Gilbert | Sullivan | Knoppers