The Savoy management has very wisely revived "The Sorcerer" and "Trial by Jury," the two earliest of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's joint successes. "The Sorcerer," which is one of the cleverest and most humorous of their whole series of comic operas, can hardly be said to have achieved the full success worthy of its merits, when it was produced about seven years ago, but which, judging from its reception on Saturday, there is every reason to believe will now be accorded to it. at the time of its first performance, audiences accustomed to French opera bouffes found "The Sorcerer" an innovation in comic opera, for it was new in its style and scope, and the quality of its humour; and, therefore, as in the case of everything that is quite new and original, it did not readily achieve the wide popularity with which Mr. Gilbert's rich humour, coupled with Sir Arthur Sullivan's sparkling and tuneful, yet learned, music is now sure to win for any work from their joint pens. It may be as well briefly to remind my readers of the plot of this opera, which, in view of its revival, has been partly rewritten. Alexis, of the Grenadier Guards, son of Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, a courtly old baronet of the old school, is about to be betrothed to Aline, daughter of Lady Sangazure, a lady of ancient lineage – so ancient, in fact, that she claims direct descent from Helen of Troy. The young couple are so rapturously happy in their mutual love that they wish everybody else to share in their joy, for they hold that persons should marry irrespective of rank, wealth, or caste, or, indeed, of any social barriers, and live for love's sake only. This very Utopian theory they proceed to practically disseminate through the medium of one John Wellington Wells, a partner in a firm of family sorcerers, who supplies them with a Patent Oxy-Hydrogen Love-at-first-sight Philtre, guaranteed to make all who drink it fall in love immediately with the first person of the opposite sex they may meet afterwards. This they distribute in cups of tea among the villagers, and the family and guests at Sir Marmaduke's. The result is not productive of the good and happiness they anticipated, for the most ill-assorted unions are imminent; Sir Marmaduke falling in love with an H-less old pew opener, Lady Sangazure with the Sorcerer himself, and, worst of all, Aline drinks the potion, and falls desperately in love with the Rector, to the despair of Alexis. These complications, however, are set right by the sacrifice of the Sorcerer – John Wellington Wells to Arimahnes [sic], and he descends to the lower regions. Mr. Gilbert has considerably improved the second act, by writing an entirely new opening. The scene now remains the same as in the first act – viz., the grounds and exterior of Sir Marmaduke's mansion, but all the villagers are discovered lying asleep in the moonlight, and Alexis, Aline, and Mr. Wells enter on tiptoe, with lanterns, to survey their love-victims. When the villagers wake up and see each other the spell begins to work, and a capital rustic chorus has been introduced, in which the men and women display their mutual likings, and wind up with a spirited dance. It is rather late in the day to say anything new in praise of Sir Arthur Sullivan's music, but in "The Sorcerer" is to be found some of the very best and most characteristic writing in this lighter class of music. Encores last night freely testified to the pleasure which the audience felt in again hearing the tuneful numbers which abound in this opera. The performance was all that could be desired. Mr. Grossmith's impersonation of John Wellington Wells is, perhaps, the best piece of acting he has yet exhibited. It is a character sketch of the riches humour. Nothing could be funnier than his acting throughout the Incantation Scene – especially his comic exit with the teapot, while his descent through the trap door was inimitable. Mr. R. Temple gave an admirable performance of Sir marmaduke, singing his music with care and discretion. Mr. Barrington resumed his original part of the Vicar, and played it with his usual dry humour. Mr. Durward Lely used his good tenor voice with excellent effect as Alexis. Miss Leonora Braham sang artistically and acted brightly as Aline, while Miss Brandram's beautiful contralto was of rare value in the music allotted to Lady Sangazure. Miss Ada Dorée and Miss Jessie Bond were the Mrs. Partlet and Constance, and deserve commendation. "Trial by Jury" followed "The Sorcerer," and the performance may be warmly praised, the stage management being specially good. Mr. Durward Lely was the Defendant, Mr. Barrington was the Judge, Mr. Eric Lewis the Counsel for the plaintiff; and Mr. Lugg the Usher. Miss Dysart acted the Plaintiff with brightness, and sang tastefully. The chorus was excellent, and enacted all the "business" with unusual intelligence; Miss Sybil Grey's acting as the First Bridesmaid being capital. A most favourable reception was accorded to both pieces, which should enjoy a long run.
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 18 December 2000
Updated 18 March 2007