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The Sorcerer Souvenir

Description: Souvenir of the new production by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
Dimensions: 177mm x 265mm
Date Created: 1972
Associated People: Gilbert, Sullivan, D'Oyly Carte
Associated Companies: D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
Collections: The Sorcerer Memorabilia
Source: From the collection of Andrew J.M. Smith.


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A Souvenir of the new presentation of


by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan


Season from 20th December, 1971 to 12th February, 1972

Production by Michael Heyland

With settings and costumes designed by OSBERT LLANCASTER, C.B.E.

Choreography by VIRGINIA MASON

ALMOST a hundred sears ago the successful Presentation of Trial by Jury at the Royalty Theatre inspired Mr. Richard D'Oyly Carte, who was then the Manager of the theatre, seriously to consider the possibility of forming his own Comedy Opera Company. His idea was not simply the promotion of Gilbert and Sullivan, but to establish a theatre in London with a staple repertory of light opera by English authors and composers.

Early in 1877 when Mr, Carte was still looking for further capital for his venture, he said in his prospectus that he intended in the first in stance, to produce a new opera comique by Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan which he, the
author and the composer had discussed. By June of that year details of the agreement were stated in a letter to Mr. Carte front Sullivan as follows:

My dear Carte,

Gilbert and myself are quite willing to write a two-act piece for you on the following terms.
1. Payment to us of two hundred guineas (£210) on delivery of the MS words and music. that is to say, before the piece is produced.
2. Six guineas a performance (£6 6. 0.) to be paid to us for the run of the piece in London, from this will be deducted the two hundred
guineas paid in advance so that the payment of the six guineas a performance will not really commence until about the 33rd or 34th
3. We reserve the country right. Your right to play it in London on these terms to extend only to the end of your season.

The piece would be of a musical comedy character and could be ready for performance by the end of September. If this outline of terms is agreed to, we could prepare a proper agreement upon this basis.

Yours truly,
  Arthur Sullivan.

The two-act piece in question was The Sorcerer, the plot of which Gilbert had adapted from a short story (entitled An Elixir of Love), which he had written for The Graphic. The action takes place in the garden of Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre's country mansion, where the villagers of Ploverleigh have been invited to celebrate the betrothal of Alexis, Sir Marmaduke's son, to the daughter of Lady Sangazure, whose family is so old that it goes back in direct descent to Helen of Troy.

Alexis believes that love can, and should, level all ranks and social distinctions, and since he is happy in his own love, he wants all the people who have gathered to celebrate his betrothal to be equally happy. With this end in view, Alexis has contrived with Mr. Wells of the London firm of J. W. Wells & Co., family sorcerers, secretly to concoct a special brew of tea to be served at the garden party. This brew to contain a magic love-philtre that will cause any two persons of opposite sexes, regardless of age, social or economic differences, to fall desperately in love with each other.

The matter of a suitable theatre for his new company had given Mr. Carte considerable difficulty, but eventually he leased the Opera Comique, which was described in The Times as "the pretty theatre in the Strand where English opera under the auspices of Mr. D'Oyly Carte has found a congenial home."

The original production of The Sorcerer took place in this theatre on the 17th November, 1877 under the personal direction of the authors. The
general tone of the press reactions to the premiere was warmly favourable. Although it is not the best of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, in retrospect it is obvious that it was the foundation on which the authors were to build their absurd castles of fantasy for many years to come. We recognise the prototypes of many now familiar Gilbertian characters, and the witty musical parodies with which Sullivan pointed his scores.

The Sorcerer was last performed by The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at Sadler's Wells Theatre before the war, but during the blitz on London in 1940 the scenery and costumes of this production were destroyed.

The production which Miss Bridget D'Oyly Carte now presents opened on Monday, March 29th, 1971 at the Opera House, Manchester. It was produced by Michael Heyland, with new scenery and costumes designed by Osbert Lancaster.

Mr. Heyland sees J. W. Wells as a "slick, fast talking East End tradesman set against the simple and gay villagers in this bright rustic setting". He says: "I have enjoyed giving as much colour as possible to the contrasting characters in their different classes and the music helps to illustrate these levels. While Sir Marmaduke and Lady Sangazure enjoy their out of date gavotte, their children Alexis and Aline romantically sing through the popular waltzes of the day, and J. W. Wells brings them down to earth with his patter song, nostalgic of Music Halls and minstrel entertainment."

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