"Everybody" to employ a generalism
that custom has sanctioned, was at the pretty theatre in the Strand on
Saturday night last, to witness the long expected production of Messrs.
Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera, "The Sorcerer;" and expectation was
not disappointed by the result. Opinions may differ concerning the class
of opera to which this work belongs; but "The Sorcerer" takes high rank
in that class. The music is sparkling and racy, and the libretto
brimming over with the refined nonsense for which Mr. Gilbert is so renowned.
A very strong cast, an efficient chorus, a capital band, excellent mounting,
sufficient rehearsals – especially dress rehearsals – and good management
in all departments, were all that were needed, in addition to its intrinsic
attractions, to ensure for "The Sorcerer" a brilliant first night, and
all these, under Mr. D'Oyly Carte's indefatigable direction, were forthcoming.
Rarely has a first night audience been called upon for so little display
The broad outline of the story is that of a young gentleman, Alexis (Mr. Bentham), who believing that "love, and love only," independent of age, beauty, or worth, is the great desideratum of humanity, purchases from Wellington Wells, Family Sorcerer (Mr. Grossmith), a love-philtre, which at a rural tea party he distributes among the villagers of Ploverleigh, of which his father, Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre (Mr. Temple), is the squire. Of course all the characters fall in love at cross purposes, Sir Marmaduke choosing the pew-opener, Mrs. Partlett (Miss Everard), and Constance (Miss Warwick), a village maiden attached to the Vicar (Mr. Rutland Barrington), selecting the notary (Mr. Clifton), while Lady Sangazure (Mrs. Howard Paul) hopelessly seeks the affections of Mr. John W. Wells, of St. Mary-Axe. Mrs. Paul's artistic powers of acting were admirably displayed, and she was fully supported by Mr. Temple. Mr. Bentham sang well, despite a bad cold; and Miss Giulia Warwick's rich voice did full justice to the music allotted to her. Her acting lacked expression, but she is young enough to learn by fuller experience. Of Miss May's Aline we would not speak harshly; but an unsympathetic voice and a "tricky" style of singing are radical defects, that indulgence itself must condemn; and when these are joined to a mode of acting that sends one's thoughts involuntarily ferrying over the river, it is a duty, however painful, on the part of the critic, to point out that Miss May is plainly unsuited to the company with whom she is associated. Mr. Grossmith made a most telling début as J. Wellington Wells, the Family Sorcerer, and immediately won the good-will of the house in a capital "patter" song. Another decided success was that of Mr. Rutland Barrington. His artistic make up as the Vicar was an index to his admirable acting and singing, in which the comedy was exactly of the calibre required, quiet and refined – genuine high comedy. The applause that followed his first song "Time was when Love and I" might easily have been construed into an encore; but the song "Oh, my voice is sad and low," with its ludicrous flageolet intermezzi, was redemanded in a manner that left no alternative. Other notable numbers were the quintett in the second act, the soprano solo, "Oh! happy young heart" (encored), the opening chorus of the first act, and the finale. Indeed, all the choruses were tuneful and pretty, and were rendered with a precision, excellence of phrasing, and general efficiency that reflect the highest credit on all concerned. We have only to record our appreciation of Miss Everard's good work as Mrs. Partlett, and to add – what hardly needs stating – that at the close Mr. Sullivan (who conducted), Mr. Gilbert, and the artists, received from a brilliant house an enthusiastic call before the curtain.
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 8 February 2001
Updated 18 March 2007