The Sorcerer


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Osbert Lancaster Design for Mr WellsAfter the early and resounding success of their one-act opera Trial By Jury in 1875, Gilbert and Sullivan, and their producer Richard D'Oyly Carte, decided to produce a full-length work. Gilbert expanded on one of his earlier writings based on a favourite operatic theme to create a plot about a magic love potion that would result in everyone falling in love with the wrong partner.

The Sorcerer was first produced at the Opéra Comique, a charming little theatre in the Strand, on November 17, 1877. The original run of the piece was a satisfactory 175 performances, enough of a success to encourage Gilbert & Sullivan to continue to collaborate, which led to their next piece, H.M.S. Pinafore. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Sorcerer was revived, along with Trial By Jury in 1884 at the Savoy Theatre. For this revival, Gilbert and Sullivan revised the ending of Act I and the opening of Act II.

For much of the 20th century, The Sorcerer was performed less frequently than many of the operas. It was restored to the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's repertoire in 1971 after an absence of many years and it has now joined the regular rotation of G&S operas for most G&S performing groups.

The Sorcerer satirizes early Victorian customs and various theatre devices. These themes may be less accessible to first-time audiences than some of the other G&S operas. In addition, the piece shies away from the political satire that helps to make many of the other G&S operas funny.

by Samuel Silvers



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Illustrated with Historical Photographs of D'Oyly Carte Opera Company Productions



  • The Making of The Sorcerer: A chapter from the book Gilbert and Sullivan and Their Operas by François Cellier & Cunningham Bridgeman, published by Little, Brown and Company in 1914.
  • A chapter on The Sorcerer from the book Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, A History and a Comment, by H. M. Walbrook, published in London in 1922.
  • Transcript of a discussion of The Sorcerer by members of the SavoyNet distribution list. This extensive discussion provides substantial background information on this opera, and is a must for anyone wanting to understand it better, produce it, or perform in it.
  • Newsletter Article: A rather unique description of the plot of The Sorcerer from the book The Plain Old Man by Charlotte MacLeod. An article from the December 1986 edition of Precious Nonsense, the newsletter of the Midwestern Gilbert & Sullivan Society.
  • Misplaced Blame: The Problems of Playing Alexis as the Villain of The Sorcerer by Daniel Florip


One Tree Hill
Click on picture to enlarge
  • D'Oyly Carte production photographs.
  • Sorcerer Clip Art: Bab drawings illustrating The Sorcerer.
  • Illustrated Music Covers
  • One Tree Hill — engraving of One Tree Hill, as mentioned in the Duet between J.W. Wells and Lady Sangazure:

    LADY S.    Love me! that joy I'll share!
    WELLS.    Hate me! I often roll down One Tree Hill!
    LADY S.    Love me! I'll join you there!

    Click on picture for larger version.


  • The Companion Piece Dora's Dream, book by Arthur Cecil and music by Alfred Cellier, played with The Sorcerer from November, 1877 to February 1878.

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