The Sorcerer is the latest production by the Minneapolis-based Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company. The sophomore effort by the renowned Victorian-era comic opera duo, I had never heard of The Sorcerer before learning it was next in the company’s lineup. The Sorcerer is a curious exploration of the power of love–or love potions–to be more precise.
Ever subverting convention, G&S have their leads, lovers Alexis and Aline, sign a binding marriage contract (effectively an enforceable engagement) within the first half of Act I. With their matrimonial bliss on the fast track, what could go wrong!?
So convinced is Alexis that the power of blissful love can unite people across class and age and profession, he seeks out a sorcerer to spike the tea of his and Aline’s engagement party and put the whole town under a love-at-first-sight spell. When all the villagers awake from the effects of the potion and pair off in absurd matches, Alexis then demands that he and Aline take the potion to cement their love forever. Aline believes their love needs no supplement, but ultimately concedes to Alexis’s browbeating and promptly falls in love with the aged, celibate vicar. The only way to reverse the spell is to sacrifice a life to eternal damnation, but (for reasons only a 19th century audience could understand), instead of Alexis accepting responsibility for his scheming and manipulations, it is the Sorcerer who is cast to the pits. Everyone then finds more suitable matches and celebrates with another party, presumably with unadulterated tea this time.
Although I was pretty thoroughly confused by the whole plot situation, it takes a back seat to the delightful performances. Bringing their customary gusto and commitment, the GSVLOC cast tackles the material in a brisk, charming production. This time around, the vocal talents of the performers exceed the acoustics of the theater, making it difficult to understand a significant portion of the libretto. This was both from some performers being too strong (most of the sopranos), as well as from some being too soft. Sifryn Oberon does a remarkable job of embodying the eccentric, mysterious (possibly diabolical) sorcerer, but it was sometimes difficult to hear their voice over the orchestra and the other performers.
In all, it’s an enjoyable performance, but if you’re not as familiar with the material, it may be a good idea to bone up on the script before you arrive.
The Sorcerer is playing at The Howard Conn Fine Arts Center in South Minneapolis through April 2, 2023.
This review has been updated as of March 16th