The Mikado

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

Operetta in two acts in English

New Production

Music by Arthur Sullivan

Libretto by W. S. Gilbert

Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis

Stage Director Gary Griffin

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago

Spirited acting and lush vocals propel the hilarious comic opera – The Mikado

Gary Griffin’s new staging of Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1885 classic Savoy Opera that has Japanese gentleman dressed in 1920’s British navy blue suits, slats while wearing black bowler hats and carrying black umbrellas is a fine holiday treat. The sets are plain and simple; the school  girls are dressed in 20’s school uniforms, the women in sleek 1920’s short skirts and short hair. The idea here, since the opening tune “”If you want to know who we are”  by the Japanese Chorus of Men, is to add bite to the satirical use of  ‘Japanese’ to mask Gilbert’s biting attack on British government and institutions. It worked nicely.

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

The Mikado is a pure delight – from the staging to the casting that found the opera stars showing their acting – and comic chops – that found them having as much fun performing the operetta as we do viewing it! You’ll not see a fine sung production of The Mikado – and – you’ll not see a funnier rendition of the most famous Savoy Opera.

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

Gilbert takes on the British Empire by thinly masking it as a fictional Japanese foreign land. Gilbert mocks death and cruelty administered arbitrarily by government officials who are presented as bumbling fools .  The libretto is filled with gags, sarcasm and wordplay that is rendered both hilarious and scathingly toward British society.

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

Sullivan’s wonderful melodic score is rich in motifs and references to European opera, British lullabies, contemporary music hall songs with hints of Oriental sounds  suggesting Japan.  The genius of Gilbert and Sullivan is demonstrated on who well the music and libretto work together to produce the desired effects in a given aria whether that aria be whimsical or serious.  Some opera purist get upset when the Lyric Opera of Chicago mounts operettas such as The Mikado. Why?  I can’t fathom since these are artistically magnificent works filled with rich light characters singing a varied mix of tunes carried by a melodies score. What’s not to like?

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

The Mikado finds Nanki-Poo (the charming Toby Spence) demonstrating his songs in “A Wondering minstrel I.”  He loves and seek Yum-Yum (Andriana Chuchman) who is promised to Ko-Ko (Neal Davies), a poor tailor now promoted to Lord High Extortioner.  Pooh-Bah (Andrew Shore in an exquisite performance) introduces himself with his many titles to Ko-Ko who must find someone to execute soon to comply with the Mikado’s law.

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

Nanki-Poo finds Yum-Yum and their love is reaffirmed.  Since he can’t ever marry Yum-Yum, he decides to kill himself but Ko-Ko wants him to wait until the month’s end so he can do the deed and comply with the Mikado’s order. Ko-Ko allows Nanki-poo and Yum-yum to marry since the marriage will only last a month and then he can marry Yum-Yum after Nanki-Poo is gone. More complications emerge as the crew mock death, torture and lost love.

the mikado at the lyric opera of chicago

Add the entrance of The Mikado (James Morris) and Katisha (the fabulous commanding Stephanie Blythe) in search of her fiance Naki-Poo and the work is filled with comic situations depicted with funny turns and smart arias and patter songs. The clarity and bite of the G & S is presented in word and song that exudes all the humor and lightness of the work.

Neal Davis is the richly devious and totally funny Ko-Ko while Andrew Shore delights as the pompous multi-minister Pooh-Bah. Toby Spence is the pure naive lover Nanki-Poo. Stephanie Blythe’s Katsha moves from rigid soul to a sweet thing as Ko-Ko woos her heart. James Morris presents the powerful Mikado as a wise soul.

I can’t thing of a finer holiday present to anyone who has never seen a Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera than to take them to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to see The Mikado. They’ll thank you for a lifetime.

Highly Recommended

Tom William

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