The Sorcerer is the earliest-surviving two-act operetta by Gilbert & Sullivan. On November 7, 1877, it opened at the Opera Comique, where it ran for 178 performances.


Act One

The villagers of Ploverleigh are preparing to celebrate the betrothal of Alexis Pointdextre, the son of the local squire, and Aline Sangazure ("Ring forth, ye bells"). Only a young village maiden named Constance Partlet seems unwillng to join in the happy mood, and we learn as she tells her mother that she is secretly in love with the local vicar, Dr Daly ("When he is here, I sigh with pleasure"); and the cleric himself promptly soliloquises that he has been unlucky in love ("The air is charged with amatory numbers".) However, despite Mrs Partlet's best attempts at matchmaking, Dr Daly seems unable to believe that a young girl like Constance would be interested in him. Alexis and Aline arrive ("With heart and with voice"), and it soon becomes clear that his widower father Sir Marmaduke and her widowed mother Lady Sangazure are concealing strong feelings for one another, which propriety however demands remain hidden ("Welcome joy, adieu to sadness"). The betrothal ceremony is carried out, and left alone together Alexis reveals to his fiancée his plans for practical implementation of his principles that love should unite all classes and ranks ("Love feeds on many kinds of food, I know"). He has invited a representative from a respectable London firm of sorcerers to Ploverleigh ("My name is John Wellington Wells"), who prepares a batch of love potion with a fearsome incantation ("Sprites of earth and air"). The potion is added to the teapot for the feast on the village green, and all the villagers save Alexis, Aline, and Wells drink it and fall unconscious ("Oh, marvellous illusion").

Act Two

At midnight that night ("Tis twelve, I think"), the villagers awake and, under the influence of the potion, each falls in love with the first person of the opposite sex that they see ("Why, where be oi"). Many of the matches thus made are highly unsuitable; Constance, for example, loves the ancient notary who performed the betrothal ("Dear friends, take pity on my lot"). However, Alexis is pleased with the results, and now asks Aline that they should drink the potion themselves to seal their own love. Aline is hurt by his lack of trust and refuses, offending him ("Thou hast the power thy vaunted love"). Alexis is distracted, however, by the revelation of his upper-class father having fallen for the lower-class Mrs Partlet, which he manages to make the best of ("I rejoice that it's decided"). Wells, meanwhile, is regretting the actions his magic has caused, and regrets them still more when the fearsome Lady Sangazure fixes on his as the object of her affections ("Hate me!"). Aline succumbs to Alexis' persuasion and drinks the potion, but inadvertently meets Dr Daly first and falls in love with him ("Oh joyous boon"). Alexis realises that his meddling has gone too far, and asks Wells how the effects of the spell can be reversed; it turns out that this requires the death of either Alexis or Wells himself. The people of Ploverleigh rally against the outsider from London, and Wells, resignedly, sinks into the ground in a burst of flames ("Or he or I must die"). The spell broken, the villagers pair off according to their true feelings, and celebrate with another feast ("Now to the banquet we press").

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