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Theatre / The Sorcerer

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The Sorcerer is a comic opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, first performed in 1877. The first revival, in 1884, included some significant revisions (mainly concerning the end of the first act and the beginning of the second) which have carried through to later productions.

The plot concerns a village in which everyone is dosed with a Love Potion by a sorcerer, with, naturally, hilarity ensuing.

The work is a parody of pastoral opera tropes and a satire on contemporary class differences.

For the William Friedkin film, see Sorcerer.

The Sorcerer provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The Sorcerer started life as a short story in which the love potion is never reversed. The names are different, but, using the names from the opera to keep it simple: Aline tastes the potion, falls in love with Dr. Daly. Alexis is upset about this — so far, pretty much as in the opera. However, the potion can't be reversed, so Alexis gets bought off with a valuable living (basically, a guaranteed income), and the story ends with Aline praising Alexis' wonderful love potion idea.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: It appears that pretty much every single person in town is sweet on somebody, who is sweet on them in return, but everyone is too proper to actually make the first move. The love potion causes every single person to end up falling in love with someone else, but once the spell is broken, everyone rushes into the arms of their designated partner.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Alexis Pointidexter.
  • Curse: The most popular item sold at Wells' magic shop is the Penny Curse.
  • Debut Queue: The show spends most of its first act introducing us to all of the main characters, each of whom gets either an "I Am" Song or an "I Want" Song, in succession. Nothing plot-related actually happens until the Incantation scene, about ten minutes before intermission. (As the collaboration matured, later G&S shows became much more wily about mixing exposition with plot.)
  • Designated Villain: John Wellington Wells is designated as the villain In-Universe. When Wells says that the only way for his spell to be reversed is for either himself or Alexis to sacrifice his life, Alexis, whose fault it all is, volunteers — but Aline protests, so the villagers vote on who should die and unanimously choose Mr. Wells.note  Justified because Alexis is a parody of the stock romantic lead and therefore the Designated Hero.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Happens to Wells in the end, breaking the love spell.
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: Everyone's paired off at the end; the pairings are supposedly the ones that existed before the love potion caused everyone to pair up randomly, but they were too shy to admit to them before. Mrs Partlet and the Notary don't get any Ship Tease in the libretto; as such, their pairing off for the finale pretty much counts as pairing the only remotely age-appropriate spares.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Wells's death sentence is marked by a gong.
  • Funetik Aksent: A chorus of country bumpkins is helpfully indicated this way. "Eh, but oi du loike you!" Then they affect the Queen's English when they're a little more wakeful.
  • Gentleman Wizard: John Wellington Wells, of J. W. Wells & Co, a family firm, is a wizard and a Victorian gentleman.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: J. W. Wells invents a fake fiancee in the South Pacific to try and get Lady Sangazure to leave him alone. She doesn't take the revelation well.
  • Grande Dame: Lady Sangazure, Aline's widowed mother.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: In some passages.
  • Hesitant Sacrifice: Wells explains to the community that at either he or Alexis must die, followed by "I would rather it were you." Parodied; he's not all that fussed, it's only that he doesn't want to leave his shop short-handed when they're expecting a busy week soon.
  • Humans Are Bastards: J. W. Wells & Co's most popular item is the penny curse. They have sold exactly one blessing, which was returned.
  • "I Am" Song:
    • "Time was when Love and I were well acquainted" gives us a tour of Dr. Daly's doleful "I Was Quite a Looker" personality.
    • "Oh, happy young heart" establishes Aline's highly optimistic and idealistic outlook on love and marriage.
    • "Welcome joy, adieu to sadness" displays the extreme amounts of Unresolved Sexual Tension between Lady Sangazure and Sir Marmaduke.
    • "Love feeds on many kinds of food" is Alexis' first solo, and introduces his worldview that drives the plot.
    • "My name is John Wellington Wells, / I'm a dealer in magic and spells..."
  • "I Want" Song: In "When he is here", we figure out why Constance is brooding.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Dr. Daly, the aging vicar, sings a melancholy song about how stunningly attractive he was as a young curate. In fact, he still makes one young female character go weak at the knees.
  • Long List: Alexis greets John Wellington Wells with "Good day. I believe you are a sorcerer." Wells immediately rattles off a Long List of his company's magical products — and then sings a song about them.
  • Love Potion: Alexis, believing that love has the power to erase social differences and create a harmonious society, hires Wells to dose everyone in the village with a potion that makes them fall in love with the first person of the opposite sex they see. (Married people are exempted.) Hilarity Ensues.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Oh joyous boon / Oh mad delight" begins appropriately upbeat and continues upbeat through lyrics like "Alas! that lovers thus should meet: / Oh, pity, pity me!"
  • Meaningful Name: "Sangazure" = "blue blood".
  • Mr. Exposition: Played straight with Mrs. Partlet in the first act, where all she does is (1) reel off an As You Know monologue that sets the scene for everything that follows, and then (2) be somebody for Constance and Dr. Daly to confide in. Spectacularly subverted in the second act, in which Mrs. P. actually gets entangled in the action; Hilarity Ensues.
  • Oblivious to Love: Dr. Daly is oblivious to Constance's feelings for him.
  • Opening Chorus: "Ring forth, ye bells"
  • Patter Song: "My Name is John Wellington Wells" is the earliest Gilbert and Sullivan example of the form.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: John Wellington Wells is a respectable Victorian businessman who makes his living practicing "all forms of necromancy".
    • Even furthering compounding the Punch Clock, Necromancy used to mean talking to the dead. Something that was quite popular to do in the Victorian era.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Subverted; Alexis offers to give his life to undo the mess he's caused, but his friends make Wells do it instead.
  • Sexy Priest: Dr. Daly laments that he was one of these. (And the events of the play demonstrate that perhaps he still is, at least to one young woman in his congregation.)
  • Someone Has to Die: Because the love potion is a product of dark magic, its effect can only be ended if either Wells (who concocted it) or Alexis (who put him up to it) agrees to be Dragged Off to Hell.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Lady Sangazure and Sir Marmaduke very patently have the hots for each other, as do Constance Partlet and Dr. Daly, but they themselves don't have the spines to do anything about it until after the Love Potion mess has worked itself out.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Alexis Pointdextre.
  • The Vicar: Dr. Daly. Despite the rather gentle treatment he gets, Gilbert was nonetheless criticized (including by, of all people, Lewis Carroll) for mocking the Church.