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The Sorcerer

An original comic opera in 2 acts: Libretto by W. S. Gilbert; Music by Arthus Sullivan.

Opera Comique, London - 17 November,1877:
Broadway Theatre, New York - 21 February, 1879.



At Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre's Elizabethan mansion in the village of Ploverleigh the engagement of the baronet's son, Alexis, to Aline, the eligible and lovely daughter of Lady Sangazure, is to take place with the whole village invited for the ceremony. For pretty little Constance Partlet, however, there is no rejoicing; her heart has gone out to the local vicar, Dr Daly. The vicar doesn't respond, either to Constance or to Mrs Partlet's unsubtle attempts to interest him in her daughter as a wife.

The principals in the day's matrimonial business come upon the scene with Aline singing rapturously as she anticipates the joy the day will bring her. It is at this time we discover that Sir Marmaduke and the dragon-like Lady Sangazure had, in their youth, unfulfilled desires on each other. The spark of love still burns even though they are outwardly merely courteous.

Alexis and Aline sign the deed of betrothal before the notary and are, at last, left alone wax lyrical their praises of true love In fact, Alexis feels so strongly about the subject that he has resolved to make a gift of love to all the village. He has ordered from a London sorcerer a custom-compounded philtre which, in spite of Aline's reservations, he resolves to administer that afternoon to the communal tea cup so that all of Ploverleigh may experience the amorous joy which they themselves know. The sorcerer, Mr John Wellington Wells, has come down from town to supply the philtre in person. He calms Aline's qualms by assuring her that it is a very proper philtre. Although those who take it fall rapturously in love with the first person they see, it works only on unmarried people.
As tea-time approaches, Wells prepares his potion with an Incantation and when the townspeople gather for the celebratory banquet and partake of the cup that cheers they soon begin to stagger about under the effects of the philtre until, as the act ends, the entire unmarried population of Ploverleigh is fast asleep on the ground.


It is evening and Wells, Alexis and Aline await the end of the first phase of the philtre's action. Soon the people awake and, surely enough, within minutes of waking the whole male chorus has proposed to the whole female chorus. Unfortunately, the first single person Constance has seen on her awakening is the very old, very deaf notary. She tries, with great difficulty, and not a few tears, to make the old man understand the extent of her affection.
Alexis is very proud of the results of his experiment but, when he suggests to Aline that he and she should also partake of the philtre, she is horrified that he should consider it needful to bolster their love by artificial means. She refuses and he takes umbrage. A little grey cloud comes over what should have been a wholly blissful day. A further complication ensues when Sir Marmaduke enters with Mrs Partlet and announces that he is planning to marry her. Alexis confesses that Mrs Partlet is not quite the person he would have chosen to be his mother.

John Wellington Wells is now aware of the effects his philtre can have when administered en masse and he is worried. He has even more worried when Lady Sangazure descends on him with all the effusion of an amorous walrus. He attempts to repel her advances by denigrating himself finally resorting to a lie; he declares he is engaged already to a South Seas maiden.

Aline, upset by Alexis's attitude towards her over her refusal to take the philtre, finally resolves that she will put aside her reservations and do so. Unfortunately, having sipped the cup, she encounters Dr Daly bewailing the fact that all the ladies in the village seem to have become engaged before he got round to finding one for himself. Now, he finds himself adored by the loveliest of them all - and Alexis is in despair.

Things have certainly not worked out as intended. The sorcerer is being dogged by the unwanted Lady Sangazure and Alexis has had his betrothed alienated. Now that the effects of their tampering with nature are rebounding on themselves, the two men decide that something must be done to put an end to the effects of the philtre. Wells tells Alexis that there is only one way out. One of them will have to deliver up their life to the spirit under whose guidance the potion was concocted. He would rather it were Alexis as he has stocktaking the next week and it would be inconvenient not to be there.

Alexis agrees to pay the penalty for his folly, but Aline has a point of law to press. If the effect of the philtre is to be reversed and everyone restored to his or her old love, what, pray, will become of her if Alexis has been sacrificed? Her logic is undeniable, and it is decided that the victim will have to be Wells after all. As John Wellington Wells is consumed in a flash of red fire, all the marital mismatchings of Ploverleigh are solved. Alexis and Aline come back together, Constance is paired off with her vicar, Sir Marmaduke finally gets his Sangazure and Mrs Partlet makes do with the very old, very deaf notary.

Musical Numbers:

  2. CHORUS. " Ring forth, ye bells
  3. RECIT. (Mrs. Partlet and Constance)
  4. ARIA (Constance). " When he is here "
  5. RECIT. (Rev. Dr. Daly)
  6. BALLAD (Dr. Daly). " Time was, when Love and I were. well acquainted "
  7. RECIT. AND MINUET (Sir Marmaduke, Dr. Daly, and Alexis)
  8. CHORUS OF GIRLS. "With heart and with voice"
  9. RECIT. (Aline)
  10. ARIA. "Happy young heart"
  11. RECIT. (Lady Sangazure)
  12. CHORUS OF MEN. "With heart and with voice"
  13. DUET (Lady Sangazure and Sir Marmaduke) "Welcome joy adieu to madness"
  14. ENSEMBLE (Alitte, Alexis, Lauyer, and Chorus). "All is prepared"
  15. BALLAD (Alexis). " For Love alone"
  16. SONG (Mr. Wells). "My name is John Wellington Wells"
  17. INCANTATION (Aline, Alexis, Mr. Wells, and Chorus)
  18. FINALE ACT I. "Now to the Banquet we press"
  19. TRIO AND CHORUS (Aline, Alexis, Mr. Wells, Company) "'Tis twelve I think, and at this mystic hour"
  20. ENSEMBLE (Constance, Notary, Aline, Alexis, and Chorus) "Dear friends, take pity on my lot"
  21. BALLAD. (Alexis) "It is not Love"
  22. QUINTETT (Aline, Mrs. Partlet, Alexis, Dr. Daly, and Sir Marmaduke) "I rejoice that it's decided"
  23. RECIT. AND DUET (Lady Sangazure and Mr. Wells) "Oh I have wrought much evil with my spells"
  24. RECIT. AND AIR (Aline) "Alexis doubt me not"
  25. SONG (Dr. Daly). "Engaged to So-and-so"
  26. ENSEMBLE (Aline, Alexis, Dr. Daly, and Chorus)
  27. RECIT. (Alexis)

Cast of characters:

Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre - an elderly Baronet
Alexis - of the Grenadier Guards, his son
Dr. Daly - Vicar of Ploverleigh
John Wellington Wells - of J. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers
Lady Sangazure - a Lady of Ancient Lineage
Aline - her daughter - betrothed to Alexis
Mrs. Partlet - a Pew Opener
Constance - her daughterI

Chorus of Villagers

Scenes and settings:

Act I - Exterior of Sir Marmaduke's Mansion. Mid-day
Act II - Exterior of Sir Marmaduke's Mansion. Midnight.