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"THE SORCERER" IN THE ULSTER HALL.

From The Belfast News-Letter (Belfast, Ireland), Friday, November 11, 1881; Issue 20700.

IT is somewhat surprising that until last evening no opportunity was afforded the public of this town of becoming acquainted with the first of that series of comic opera which have made the names of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan so popular as collaborateurs in this kind of work. "The Sorcerer" was heard in a number of other towns more than a year before "H.M.S. Pinafore" started on its earliest provincial cruise; but even following in the wake of "Pinafore," "The Pirates," and "Patience," it can be highly appreciated. Indeed, many persons hearing the music of "The Sorcerer" after that of the better known of the series would be, disposed to say that the composer has degenerated during the past three years.

Certainly, the music in the earlier work is of a far higher class than may be found in any of Mr. Sullivan's other operas. Taken number by number, it will be found much more free from blemish than either "Pinafore" or "The Pirates of Penzance;" we do not say it is of equal charm to either of these pieces, but it seems to us to show less inclination to give way to the incorrect taste of the public for music containing what is known as "go." There is no doubt that Mr. Sullivan has of late years endeavoured to make his music popular at the sacrifice of many elements of true art, hence now and again some of his melodies have a music hall flavour which is anything but pleasing, except to a certain section of the public. The finales to each act, even of "Patience," is very slightly above the level of an average pantomime song, and more than one of the melodies in the other operas are deficient in many of the elements that go to make a work artistically commendable.

In the various numbers of "The Sorcerer" there is an equality of merit that must cause the work to be highly esteemed by everyone of taste, even though the element of "go" may be absent from some of the most prominent of the airs. One never forgets for a moment that an opera is being performed; and the impression that it produces upon the mind is quite distinct from that which is the result of listening to the spirited strains introduced into a pantomime. The airs are full of character and originality, and the concerted music is particularly clever. For genuine humour, too, we have rarely heard anything more delicately finished than the music in the incantation scene. It parodies in a delightful manner both Locke and Wagner in turn.

The libretto of the piece is written in Mr. Gilbert's quaintest style. It is not generally known that the original story of the wonderful love potion was published as a Christmas story by Mr. Gilbert in the Graphic some years ago, though in its present form the idea is carried out much better than in the prose version. Only the author of the "Bab Ballads" could fancy the existence of a regular firm of necromancers doing a highly respectable family business, stock-taking once a month, advertising a horoscope at three and six, which can be guaranteed, and a patent hag who comes out and prophecies disasters, and is strongly recommended. The same quaintness of idea pervades the entire piece, though in the latter act it is not so observable as in the opening.

Altogether the piece is extremely amusing in its design, and it is performed by the present company in a highly appreciative manner. Miss Marion Grahame, its Aline, sang with the greatest sweetness the charming airs assigned to the character. Her soprano is powerful, pleasing, and correct in all ranges. Miss Grahame's acting was also clever, and not without vivacity. Miss Florence Harcourt made a tasteful Lady Sangazure, singing in the duet in the first act with capital effect. Miss Armytage's acting was full of humour, and her magnificent contralto was heard to advantage in much of the concerted music. Miss Maude Durand was fresh and natural as Constance. Mr. Fred Billington made as perfect a Vicar as could well be imagined. His baritone is of remarkable power, but it is at all times trustworthy and of a highly agreeable quality. Mr. Le Hay acted with some degree of stiffness, but his singing of many of the airs assigned to Alexis was most praiseworthy. Mr. Edgar Manning cannot be too highly commended for his clever assumption of the part of the professional necromancer; several points of his humour gave evidence of careful study. Mr. Ridsdale was also admirable as Sir Marmaduke, singing and acting with spirit and intelligence.


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