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The Mikado Essay

Having never before attended an opera, and not sure what to expect, I found myself both entertained and pleasantly satisfied by the operatic comedy of “The Mikado”. The performance took place at Wallace Hall at Gadsden State Community College, George Wallace location. I attended the 7:30 performance on Saturday, June 8th. The performance lasted a little under three (3) hours, and I found myself laughing and pleased that I had chosen to attend. “The Mikado” was composed by the team of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, and was first performed in 1885. The setting was in a mythical Japanese town called “Titipu”.

Using a different country and a mythical town allowed Gilbert, the writer, to make fun of British politics without the British government being aware. He used this method in several of his operas to hide the sarcasm aimed at the British government and his dislike of them. W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan are both of British decent. Gilbert’s early career began in law and in 1861 he began publishing comic ballads that he also illustrated. Sullivan had a musical background even at an early age, composing his first anthem at age eight (8). In 1870, Gilbert and Sullivan met and began working together.

Sullivan would write the music and Gilbert would provide the lyrics. Together, they made an amazing team and an impact on the operatic world. In the performance of “The Mikado”, we are taken to the mythical town of Titipu where Mikado, the ruler of Japan has just given Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor, the title “Lord High Executioner”, and told him he must find someone to execute before his return to Titipu. The Mikado’s son, Nanki-poo, who disguised himself as a musician to avoid marrying Katisha, came to Titipu to find a girl he had fallen in love with at a band concert named Yum-Yum.

Nanki-poo later learns that Yum-Yum is already promised to be Ko-Ko’s bride and he becomes very depressed and wants to kill himself. Ko-Ko sees this as a great chance to carry out his order to kill someone but soon learns that he just cannot bring himself to do it. They plot to fake Nanki-poo’s death so that he can marry Yum-Yum and just live in hiding. When the Mikado finds out his son was killed it scares Ko-Ko and he tells the truth. He convinces Katisha to marry him and Katisha pleas with The Mikado to forgive everyone involved. The Mikado then announces that “nothing could possibly be more satisfying”.

One of the musical number that stood out to me was “Tit Willow”. This is where Ko-Ko, in deep desperation, is trying to convince the unattractive Katisha, that he loves her and wants to marry her. He tells the story in his song of a dicky bird that plunged to his death due to a broken heart. He further explains that he too, will also die if he does not win her love and if she doesn’t agree to marry him. By the time he is finished singing and begging, he has convinced her and they run off to marry. My favorite musical number was “As Someday It May Happen”, which was a “list” of everyone Ko-Ko wanted to execute.

This list consisted of everyone he felt unworthy or who annoyed him, and would say “they’ll none of them be missed”. It wasn’t performed in the original lyrics and was set to modern times making it the most comical number in my opinion because everyone in the audience could relate to the song. At least one (1) person on his list could have easily been on any one of ours. In conclusion, although, on my own accordance, I would not have chosen to attend an operatic performance of any kind, I am grateful that I did and will definitely consider attending another one.


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