As has been noticed before, Oxford audiences have been treated to a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan over the past 6 weeks. The Sorcerer marks the end of this glut of Savoy operas – presented in updated form by the always enterprising Opera della Luna.
The Sorcerer is a slight piece at best – a rural romp based around the effects of a love potion on a collection of comic rural stereotypes – the Squire, the Vicar and the like. Performing with a cast of 9 (and no chorus) the director, Jeff Clarke, has shifted the action to the 1970s. This in and of itself is not a bad thing – the talk of love fits well with the flower-power movement of the time. However it is hard to reconcile the talk of everything being 'groovy' and then going into an overblown Victorian parlour song.
There is no doubting the commitment and dedication of the cast to the production. There are some very strong voices and some nice comic touches throughout. However it never quite rings true for me. There is something too forced about the way the concept is implemented that fails to fully satisfy me. I am by no means a G&S purist – I just like things to be done coherently.
Clarke has added in some additional music from the Sullivan back-catalogue. Whilst this adds length, it does nothing to drive the plot or to enhance our understanding of the characters. He also chooses to repeat certain sections of the piece – ostensibly for comic effect. However the moments he selects for encores are not the strongest of the script and the result rapidly becomes somewhat tiresome.
All in all, I came away disappointed by the production. G&S can work in updated settings (the continuing success of the ENO Mikado is testament to that) but Clarke has pushed things too far for me and the result lacks the finesse of some of his other treatments.
A little less pork-pie humour next time, Mr Clarke (as Mr Gilbert might once have said).