What is the Sorcerer?

The Sorcerer is a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. The libretto was written Sir William Schwenck Gilbert, and the music was composed Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan. After Thespis and Trial Jury, The Sorcerer was their third operetta together. On November 17, 1877, it premiered at the Opera Comique, Richard D’Oyly Carte’s theatre in London.

Gilbert’s favorite pastime was parody, and The Sorcerer is a spoof of Gaetano Donizetti’s melodramatic opera, L’Elisir d’amore (or The Elixir of Love in English). In Donizetti’s opera, a peasant falls in love with a wealthy lady and spends all of his money on a love potion to win her. The potion is a forgery, consisting only of wine, and drinking it renders him inebriated, causing the lady in question to entrust her troth to someone else. The peasant returns to the quack, who prescribes a second bottle because the potion is guaranteed. The peasant joins the army to raise money, but his wealthy uncle dies, his commission is bought back the wealthy lady who agrees to marry the peasant, the other suitor gracefully withdraws, and the quack declares his potion’s success.

The Sorcerer is set in the village of Ploverleigh, where Alexis, a well-born young man, is about to sign a marriage contract with Alexis, a young lady of his own station, with the entire village present to witness the occasion. We learn that Alexis’ father, Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, and Aline’s mother, Lady Sangazure, were once lovers, and that another villager, Constance Partlet, is in love with the vicar, but the vicar, Mr. Daly, considers himself a confirmed bachelor.

Alexis decides to act on his conviction that marriage pairings should not be based on rank in light of the village gathering. He hires John Wellington Wells, a sorcerer, to make a love potion for everyone present, which he serves up in a teapot to the unwitting guests. All single people will fall in love with the first person of the opposite sex they see when they wake up. Everyone drinks and falls asleep.

Act II begins after the village’s upper crust has been taken home to avoid getting into any trouble as a result of the potion’s actions. Alexis wants to drink with Aline to keep their romance alive, but she refuses. The rest of the villagers awaken, and chaos ensues in Gilbert’s capable hands. Sir Marmaduke is paired with Mrs. Partlet, while Lady Sagazure is paired with the Sorcerer.

Aline gives in and drinks, falling in love with Mr. Daly almost immediately, but Alexis is not pleased. When the Vicar notices the difficulty, he offers to leave the area, but this will not be enough to make things right, because Aline has lost her love for Alexis. Mr. Wells believes that the only way to break the spell is to sacrifice himself or Alexis to the fiend Ahrimanes. The village votes, and the Sorcerer loses, and the earth swallows him up. The villagers are set free and reunited with their true loves, and a new feast is held to commemorate the occasion.