OUR MUSICAL-BOX. The Theatre 1884 November 1 New [4th] series 4: 238-240 Review by William Beatty-Kingston
THE revival, on the 13th of last month, of Sullivan and Gilbert's "Sorcerer" and "Trial by Jury" furnished the occasion for another of those genuine and well- deserved successes with which the management of the Savoy Theatre has become identified in public opinion. Mounted, set and dressed with excellent taste, admirably sung, save by one of the "principals," and irreproachably acted, the "Sorcerer" was received with an enthusiasm seldom displayed by a first-night audience, necessarily composed in great measure of persons inclined to criticize rather than to applaud. Encores and recalls were the rule of the evening rather than the exception; point after point was greeted with peals of wholesome laughter, superseding, for once in a way, the subdued giggle and mitigated titter with which "Society" considers it "good form" to signify its appreciation of a jest; Mr. Gilbert's quaint conceits and Sir Arthur Sullivan's charming melodies, in short, put the house into a thoroughly happy humour, and made up one of the most enjoyable entertainments ever offered to the public within the walls of a London theatre.
Mr. Barrington's make-up as Dr. Daly was perfection; he spoke his words to admiration; it was only when the exigencies of his part called upon him to sing that he overwhelmed his hearers with surprise, not unmingled with pain. To deliver a lengthy solo precisely an eighth of a tone below pitch, is unquestionably a difficult and able feat; but to all, save its performer, it lacks the element of pleasure. Too cordial praise cannot be accorded to the chorus-singing at the Savoy, the freshness, precision, and pure intonation of which may confidently challenge competition throughout Europe. The Savoy orchestra, too, keeps up its reputation for intelligent and spirited playing. On the revival night it was conducted by Arthur Sullivan, whose appearance at the leader's desk was hailed by a storm of enthusiastic welcome.
"Trial by Jury," though capitally acted and sung, fell somewhat flat by comparison with "The Sorcerer." Perhaps the lateness of the hour at which it came on had something to do with the tameness of its reception by an audience fairly exhausted by a long debauch of laughter.
The chief addition to the score of "The Sorcerer," I should mention, is a chorus of villagers, followed by a rustic dance, destined to rank as leading attractions of the opera. Both were vehemently encored on the occasion above referred to, and have, as I understand, obtained the same honours in the course of every subsequent performance. Arthur Sullivan was never in a happier creative vein than when he composed this bright and joyous number, in which the good, jolly old English style is vigorously resuscitated. On the whole, indeed, the music of "The Sorcerer" is the cheeriest of his achievements in the operatic line, just as its libretto, for genuine rollicking fun, is unsurpassed by any of Mr. Gilbert's other "books." All these joint works of two specialists, each unrivalled of his kind, are to me truly delightful things. It is easy enough to carp at their unrealities and absurdities, which, from my point of view, constitute their chief merits as entertainments, by reason of the refreshingly irrational contrast they afford to the dull and vexatious sayings and doings of every-day existence.
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 14 November 2001