The Mikado

The Mikado

Christchurch Gilbert & Sullivan Society follow up their success last year with Ruddigore, with a production of the cream of the famous Savoy operas.  The Mikado will show at the Regent in Christchurch from Thursday 27– Saturday 29 September at 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm.

The Mikado is Gilbert & Sullivan’s most famous comic opera.  It premiered in London in 1885 and was an instant success.  Indeed, by the end of 1885, there were over 150 companies producing the opera in Europe and America.

W S Gilbert first had the idea for The Mikado, when a ceremonial Japanese sword, which had been hanging on the wall of his study, suddenly fell to the floor. He had been considering a satire on British politics and institutions and by setting the opera in Japan, he could disguise the real target of his barbed wit. W S Gilbert also discovered a small community of Japanese immigrants in Knightsbridge, which provided him with all the profiles he needed for his characters in The Mikado.

The Mikado is a hilarious parody which takes place in the town of Titipu.  It is here that Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado, Emperor of Japan, has fled to escape certain marriage with Katisha, an attractive but older lady. In Titipu, the authorities have just enacted a new law that bans all flirting and making it a capital offence punishable by death.

Having disguised himself as a travelling musician, Nanki-Poo promptly falls in love with Yum Yum, the young ward of the local tailor, Ko Ko, who she just happens to be engaged to as well. It seems that Nanki-Poo is doomed never to find true love.  However, word reaches him that Ko Ko has been condemned to death for flirting.   Nanki-Poo hurries back to Titipu to find Yum Yum only to hear that not only has Ko Ko been reprieved, but that the authorities have elected him as Lord High Executioner.

The Town Council hopes to stem the rash of executions, reasoning that if Ko Ko is next in line for the chop, he would have to cut off his own head first, before he could execute anybody else!

However, the Mikado has noticed the lack of executions in Titipu and demands that there be more.  Ko Ko, desperate to avoid cutting off his own head, needs a substitute.  Ko Ko sees Nanki-Poo and offers to let him marry Yum Yum, provided he agrees to his own execution a month later.  Then, just as the wedding ceremony begins, it transpires that a condemned man’s wife must, by law, be buried alive with his corpse.

Just as Titipu descends into uproar at this news, Katisha arrives to claim Nanki-Poo as her husband!

It takes all of W S Gilbert’s biting wit and powers of satire to bring The Mikado to a happy, if topsy turvy, conclusion in this most British of romantic comic operas.  One critic has called The Mikado “the cleverest comic opera in the English language”.  However, it also boasts one of the finest scores as well, courtesy of Sir Arthur Sullivan, with such memorable songs as Three Little Maids, The Sun Whose Rays, A Wandering Minstrel, On A Tree By A River and Behold The Lord High Executioner.

The Mikado is at the Regent in Christchurch with Christchurch Gilbert & Sullivan Society from Thursday 27 – Saturday 29 September at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday at 2.30pm.