Tuesday, April 23, 2019
New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players Present Reimagined ‘Mikado’
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Sunday, March 24, 2019
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players will present “The Mikado”  on April 6 and 7 at The Morrison Center in Boise.

Opera Idaho will present the famous opera at 7:30 p.m. that Saturday and 2:30 that Sunday.

“The Mikado” is the best known and most performed of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas. And that’s a lot considering “The Mikado” dates back to 1885. For decades the satirical opera could be seen somewhere in the English-speaking world every day of the year.

Its libretto has even found its way into our language, with expressions such as “the grand Pooh-Bah” and “Let the punishment fit the crime.”

But this “Mikado” of NYGASP is not your typical staging of “The Mikado” but, rather a delightfully reimagined version.

NYGASP’s all-new production brings to center stage the history and inspiration for the writing of “The Mikado,” which was set in Japan to allow Gilbert to satirize British politics and institutions more freely.

This production presents the real-life characters of Victorian London’s D’Oyly Carte Opera company,  combined with the imagined setting of Titipu, influenced by the Japanese art and architecture that reached England  in the late 19th century.

NYGASP came up with this version after the Asian-American community began protesting opera companies’ use of Caucasians to play Japanese characters in 2015. NYGASP worked with Asian-American arts leaders to build an inclusive cast and creative team, while upholding “The Mikado’s” characters, themes and its universal satire of human nature. The new version gave the cast a stage to explore the broader issues of race, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Costumes, choreography and direction are completely original—they are not depictions of Japanese people on stage but, rather, a fantastical portrait of Victorians in a dream world that is inspired by the Japanese culture that captivated England at the time of “The Mikado’s” creation.

The play still encompasses the universal truths of death, vanity, acting before thinking of the consequences, the artifices of social behavior, the corrupting influence of the powerful and other human foibles.

In this version, Nanki-Poo, a wandering minstrel, comes to Titipu in search of Yum-Yum, a girl with whom he has fallen in love. Her guardian Ko-Ko has been condemned to death for flirting but has been appointed Lord High Executioner on the assumption that he will be unwilling to enforce a law of which he must be the first victim.

The drama is compounded by the fact that Ko-Ko plans to marry Yum-Yum, who by this time has fallen in love with Nanki-Poo.

When Ko-Ko finds out his post is to be abolished by the Mikado for non-performance of duty, he strikes a deal that Nanki-Poo may marry Yum-Yum if he agrees to become Ko-ko’s first victim. But alas, it turns out that Nanki-Poo is the Mikado’s son. So where does that leave Ko-ko?

 

This is the second time Opera Idaho has brought NYGASP to Boise. NYGASP presented a single performance of “The Pirates of Penzance” at the Morrison Center during the 2015-16 season.

NGASP is America’s preeminent professional Gilbert & Sullivan repertory ensemble, now in its 44th year.

Opera Idaho has it one better, having been producing opera for more than 45 years. In the past two years the opera reached more than 40,000 people through performances, education outreach programs and children’s choruses—some even in Ketchum, Pocatello and McCall.

For more information, visit www.OperaIdaho.org.

 

 

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