United Kingdom 2016 Gilbert & Sullivan Festival  – The Sorcerer: The National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, Festival Orchestra conducted by David Steadman, Royal Hall, Harrogate, 12.8.2016. (RJW)
Gilbert & Sullivan – The Sorcerer
Martin Lamb – Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre
Nicholas Sales – Alexis
Bruce Graham – Dr Daly
Matthew Kellet – Notary
Richard Gauntlett – John Wellington Wells
Fiona Mackay – Lady Sangazure
Jane Harrington – Aline
Pauline Birchall – Mrs Partlet
Rebecca Bottone – Constance
Choreography: Karen Halliday
Director: Donald Maxwell
The Sorcerer was the first G&S two act comic opera presented by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1877. It had been considerably shortened by the loss of an Act II scene before the opening night, but an extra number for Alexis Thou hast the power was later added to partly compensate for this loss. In this production by Donald Maxwell therefore it comes as a welcome to surprise that the opening scene commences during the overture as chorus and principals mingle to carry out meaningful business in mime.
A local parishioner, Constance, has a passion for the mentally-detached parson, Dr Daly. Their stage presence and interaction at their meeting is beautifully played and sung. The influential Sir Marmaduke and son, Alexis, here engage more effectively than is sometimes found in their conversation that takes place with a minuet backing. The level of this minuet in the background is the only place in the opera where I felt the orchestra was over-intrusive; it would have gained by being muted.
Places where asides are sung to the audience with the chorus freezing were very effective and the co-ordinated lighting changes were nicely fitting. The freezes occur both in Welcome joy! and during the first act finale where they provided a good stage picture. Wellington Wells, a highlight of Act I, was industrious and used the stage effectively with illusion of moving teapot behind a cloth adding to the interest. Perhaps JWW’s table could have been positioned more stage right to be closer associated with the flash boxes, but even so the effect of the spell worked well for this audience.
The scenery was attractive and fitting; a handsome mansion with balcony steps flanked with lion and shield mounted pillars looked very effective. The stage was well filled by the colourful chorus who sang powerfully their rousing military number, With heart and with voice. All principals were well dressed, especially Lady Sangazure in her striking grey with red trim. The cast brought out the detail in Sullivan’s music and sang beautifully.
The orchestra rose to the occasion and contributed much to the success of the performance. Some additional and fitting dynamics were added by conductor, James Hendry, and these worked well, especially the swells during the introduction to the opening of Act II, ’Tis twelve I think. The production looked well and was a memorable delight for both new and seasoned members of the audience.
Raymond J Walker