Savoy Theatre. The Times 1884 October 13 31263: 4, col. 3 [unsigned review]
The revival of The Sorcerer at the Savoy Theatre on Saturday
evening was distinctly a step in the right direction. At its production
at the Opera Comique seven years ago this charming piece was not sufficiently
appreciated. The general public at that time had not yet become accustomed
to the peculiar raciness of Mr. Gilbert's humour in its combination with
Sir Arthur Sullivan's light and graceful strains. They were too much surprised
to be genuinely delighted. But although not a great success in itself The
Sorcerer became the stepping-stone on which its successors ran to almost
unprecedented popularity. At the same time its merits were not forgotten
by those who witnessed its birth and were apt to think that as it was the
first it was also by far the best of its joint authors' productions on
the same scale. In endorsing that opinion we are aware that it may be challenged
on the ground of being influenced by personal predilection as much as by
considerations of abstract merit. Others whose acquaintance with Gilbert
and Sullivan's operettas commenced with the Pinafore or The Pirates
of Penzance might very probably claim the prize for either of those
works, although few would be prepared to deny that after them a distinct
and increasing decline became noticeable. The reason is not far to seek.
These operettas are unique of their kind, and in many respects superior
to any other kind. Mr. Gilbert's humour is infinitely more quaint, more
original, and more genuine than anything the French burlesque stage can
show, apart from being wholly free of the objectionable features of that
stage. Neither should Sir Arthur Sullivan's contributions to the common
effort be underrated. Mr. Gilbert would be as impossible in this class
of work without him as he would be without Mr. Gilbert. The event has proved
it. Princess Toto and Cox and Box are pretty enough in their
way; compared with the Pinafore their charm and their vitality are
as nothing. It was only by working together that author and composer realized
their full strength and struck the right vein. It was one of pure gold,
but perhaps for that reason it was soon exhausted. Mr. Gilbert's humour
is entirely individual; it is not drawn from a dramatic situation, but
from the whimsical light in which he looked upon that situation; it is,
therefore, not capable of expansion, not even of much variety, for its
motive remains essentially the same. The public have watched and been delighted
by that humour in its successive disguises of six operettas; whether they
would care to witness it in a seventh is a question on which the authors
themselves appear to entertain some doubt, for it is said that in the new
work on which they are understood to be engaged they mean to try more serious
dramatic issues. Before venturing upon this dangerous enterprise they have,
however, determined to go back once more to the fons et origo of
their long-continued success, and the attitude of Saturday's audience proved
that their determination had been a wise one. Loud applause, encores, calls
for author, composer, and principal performers, and repeated outbursts
of merriment, were the order of the evening, and testified to what Mr.
Gilbert has elsewhere called the undiminished "capacity for innocent enjoyment"
on the part of the public.
A few changes have been made, but these are fortunately not of a material kind, for the piece could not well have been improved. A certain continuity of the action is, however, established by means of the villagers, who, having sunk into magic slumber when the curtain falls after the first act, are still lying on the stage when it rises upon the second. A characteristic song and dance which they perform on awakening and finding themselves entangled in the meshes of love appeared also new. A ballad for the tenor, "Thou hast the power," must be called a less welcome addition, if addition it was, for we have not the original libretto before us. In any case it should be cut out, although it was very well sung by Mr. Lely.
Of such instances, indeed, the present score shows abundant measure,
from the exquisitely comic effect wit hwhich the bassoon emphasizes the
words "for a nativity" in the sorcerer's song to the entire incantation
scene, which is designed in the genuine mock-heroic spirit.
The Sorcerer was followed by a revival of that clever and amusing extravaganza, Trial by Jury, in which Mr. Barrington performed the learned judge with due aplomb, Mr. Lely appearing to advantage in the part of the ill fated defendant. The fair plaintiff was represented by Miss Dysart, who has an agreeable voice, but as yet lacks experience as an actress. An elaborate transformation scene, supported by fairies in barrister's wigs, conclude [sic] the piece.
transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 19 November 2000
updated 18 March 2007