Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Mikado 4

If you want to know who we are
We are gentlemen of Japan...

Thus begins Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, arguably the most popular light opera of all time. We saw the excellent Carl Rosa Company production at the Ferst Center last Saturday night, and a fine night it turned out to be indeed. Sitting in our second-row seats, we were close enough to see the orchestra conductor mouth the words to all the songs, see the gouts of saliva fly out of the performers’ mouths, see the details of the gorgeous costumes and props.

Back in my University days, I knew several young men who were knowledgeable Gilbert and Sullivan aficionados. Given that the musical interests of 99.9% of us were focused on rock – with a few tentative forays in the direction of progressive jazz – our natural tendency was to dismiss these individuals as hopeless nerds. Which, by the by, they were...but they knew something many of the rest of us did not: that this stuff was fun.

Mikado 2
Fenton Grey as Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner.

As for me, I will state right at the outset that, even though my musical tastes are much more eclectic than they were 35 years ago, I am not much of a G&S fan even today. It’s mainly owing to lack of effort. My affection for opera of any stripe is confined mostly to the work of modern composers such as John Adams and Philip Glass. But Gilbert’s lyrical playfulness and Sullivan’s deft hand with musical composition make for a thoroughly enjoyable blend. In the case of The Mikado, throw in the plotline - a Swiftian satire of English politics and society clothed in a gaudy Japanese kimono - and you have the perfect show for a Saturday evening, a show that stands up beautifully despite being a tad over 120 years old.

And even better, for me, was the knowledge that in one short week, I would be on my way to Mikado-Land itself.

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