Gilbert & Sullivan: The Sorcerer

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Gilbert & Sullivan: The Sorcerer; Utopia Limited (excerpts)

D’Oyly Carte Opera Company
Isidore Godfrey


Bookends from the most successful partnership in the history of English light opera, in newly remastered Decca recordings.

As the first full-length operatic collaboration between W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, The Sorcerer has never achieved the popularity of its immediate successor, H.M.S. Pinafore, yet there is much to enjoy in this satire (more gentle than in later works) on Victorian-era English country manners and the obsession with matters supernatural which held much of middle-class England in its thrall at the time.

Indeed, at the time of this, its first complete recording made in 1953, The Sorcerer had been out of the repertoire of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company since before the Second World War and would remain under wraps until 1971. Nevertheless, this premiere version has many distinguishing features, first among them being a vividly dramatic portrayal of the title role by Peter Pratt, principal D’Oyly Carte comedian from 1951 until 1959. In particular, Pratt gives a barnstorming rendition of the fiendish patter-song ‘My name is John Wellington Wells’. The cast is further enhanced by splendidly rich-voiced, aristocratic contributions from Fisher Morgan as Sir Marmaduke and, as Lady Sangazure, Ann Drummond-Grant, who was the wife of conductor Isidore Godfrey and something of a mother-figure within the company.

By the time of Utopia Limited in 1893, Gilbert and Sullivan were nearing the end of their hugely successful but often acrimonious partnership. Although the operetta ran for 245 performances, it never entered the repertory of the D’Oyly Carte company and, indeed, had to wait until 1975 for its first complete recording. Until then, the curiosity of aficionados had to be satisfied with this set of excerpts, recorded in August 1963 and first issued as a filler to the company’s 1964 LP of Trial by Jury.