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					                                Gilbert & Sullivan Archive

                                      THE MIKADO

                                              OR

                               THE TOWN OF TITIPU

                                      A DISCUSSION

                                Compiled by Bill McCann

                                          April 1998
______________________________________________________________________
The Mikado was first produced at the Savoy on March 14th 1885. It is easily the most popular
work in the canon. It had an initial run of 672 performances - which remained the record at the
Savoy for a quarter of a century. It was, however, composed at the time of the first serious
disagreement between Gilbert and (the newly knighted) Sullivan. It was composed under
pressure from D'Oyly Carte who was anxious to replace the failing Princess Ida and the germ of
the plot was probably supplied by the hugely popular Japanese Exhibition in London in 1884-5.
In order to forestall the usual pirate productions, an English company was smuggled into New
York and gave the first American performance, at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, on July 20th 1885
with a run of 250 performances.

The following discussion is a compilation of the thoughts and opinions of subscribers to the
Savoynet Maillist between April 17th and May 17th 1997. It should be noted that, while many of
the contributors have performed in, and/or extensively researched, The Mikado, the following
opinions reflect the personal views of the individual contributors to which they are attributed.

The archivist's comments, which are generally kept to a minimum, are given in italics in order to
distinguish them from the main discussion. The original words of the individual contributors
have been retained with, in general, only light editing. However, verbosity did rear its head on
some occasions and judicious pruning was undertaken where necessary. A total of 273 individual
postings were finally selected for inclusion and, in order to allow the readers as much freedom as
possible in navigating through these, a comprehensive index has been compiled. Just follow the
HTML links to those parts of the discussion that appeal to you.

Many Savoynetters are fond of using acronyms for some common (and, occasionally,
uncommon) phrases. However, for others in the group these remain a profound mystery and even
an irritant. I had originally thought of substituting the complete phrase where these occurred in
the discussions but that would be to remove what is a characteristic aspect of Savoynet postings.
Instead, I have left them untouched but provided Appendix One where all those that occur in
these discussions are translated.
                                           INDEX
1. General thoughts about the Opera                              1
     1.1 Mikado - Aaaargh!                                       1
            1.1.1. Invisible eponymous character                 1
            1.1.2. The wettest Tenor in the canon                1
            1.1.3.A nauseating soprano                           2
            1.1.4. Inadequately developed promising character    2
            1.1.5. A stereotypical fatman                        2
            1.1.6. Endless encores                               3
            1.1.7 Subsidiary female ciphers.                     3
            1.1.8. An unbelievably unbelievable Ko-Ko            3
            1.1.9. Katisha introduced too late                   3
            1.1.10.A ridiculous denouement.                      3
            1.1.11. A vomit inducing duet.                       4
            1.1.12.A ridiculous 'list' song.                     4
            1.1.13.A pile of sentimental tosh                    4
     1.2. Dubious Plot - Trite Music - BUT                       5
     1.3 Most Consistently Popular                               5
     1.4 It's Overrated!                                         6
     1.5 Diminishing Credibility                                 7
     1.6 Plus ca Change                                          7
     1.7 Not Director Proof                                      7
     1.8 Was she amused?                                         8
     1.9 All but perfection                                      8
2. The Plot                                                     10
     2.1 Essentially a Farce                                    10
            2.1.1 A Farce of Deceptions                         10
            2.1.2 An Opera of Two Capacities                    10
     2.2 Becomes a Novel                                        11
     2.3 Updates                                                11
            2.3.1 Red Mikado                                    11
            2.3.2 The Corruption element                        12
            2.3.3 The Tuppenny Mikado                           12
     2.4 Nanki-Hal?                                             12
     2.5 And for the attentively challenged.                    13
     2.6 Nanki-Poo Up - Ko-Ko Down                              15
3. The Music                                                    18
     3.1 General Observations                                   18
     3.2 Act II                                                 19
     3.3 Individual songs                                       20
           3.3.1 Tit-Willow                                     20
           3.3.2 Hearts Do Not Break                            22
           3.3.3 The Sun Whose Rays                             22
           3.3.4 Here's a Horrid                                22
           3.3.5 See How the fates                              22
           3.3.6 Braid the raven hair                           25
     3.4 Influenced Puccini?                                    25
     3.5 Chorine Tribulations                                   25
4. The Libretto                                                 28
      4.1 One Catalogue too Many?                          28
      4.2 Yam - A vegetable or Not?                        28
      4.3 No Minstrel He                                   28
      4.4 Ko-Ko's Promotion                                29
      4.5 The Kaishaku                                     29
      4.6 A pessimistic little train?                      29
5. The characters                                          31
     5.1 Katisha                                           31
     5.2 Nanki-Poo                                         31
     5.3 Yum-Yum                                           41
     5.4 Pitti-Sing                                        43
     5.5 Ko-Ko                                             44
     5.6 Pish-Tush                                         45
6. Stagecraft                                              48
      6.1 THAT Handshake                                   48
      6.2 Make-up & Costumes                               48
            6.2.1 Occidental eyes                          48
            6.2.2 Kabuki makeup                            48
            6.2.3 Wigs are the key                         49
            6.2.4 Free of stifling collars and corsets ?   50
            6.2.5 A Mikado Memory                          50
      6.3 What Address?                                    50
      6.4 Rewriting the List                               52
      6.5 Stock Staging                                    56
      6.6 Cheap Pickets                                    56
      6.7 Differentiating Officers of State                56
      6.8 Choral bleating                                  58
      6.9 Katisha's scream?                                59
      6.10 The heir's airs                                 59
      6.11 Encores                                         60
      6.12 Katisha's entrance                              60
      6.13 Business old and new                            61
      6.14 Ko-Ko's toe                                     61
      6.15 Traditional business                            62
7. Recordings                                              63
     7.1 Film                                              63
8. Also Happened in 1885                                   64
      8.1 David Duffey's Patter                            64
           8.1.1 British politics                          64
           8.1.2 Irish Nationalists                        64
           8.1.3 Sexual and fiscal scandal                 64
           8.1.4 Praying Ladies of the Night               64
9. Mikadiana                                               65
     9.1 Web Sites                                         65
     9.2 Mikado Quotes                                     65
     9.3 Parliamentary Trains?                             65
     9.4 Train(?) Spotting                                 65
     9.4 A Minstrel's Anecdote                             66
10. Appendix 1                  67
     10.1 Acronyms translated   67
1. General thoughts about the Opera

[The role of moderator at the time of the discussion was undertaken by Rica Mendes-Barry who
also made some significant contributions to the proceedings.]

1.1 Mikado - Aaaargh!

              , as an up-front Devil's Advocate, wrote: The Mikado! Well, I suppose we had to get
to it eventually! Hmmmmm! Why is this work so popular? This is an opera which contains the
following:-

[All replies to Ian's specific points have been interpolated in his posting to maintain the ongoing
threads. Anything leading to a new thread has been moved to the relevant section as noted.]

1.1.1. Invisible eponymous character
An eponymous character who doesn't appear until the thing is nearly over.

                  : Agreed. But it doesn't matter a bit. The suspense is well worth it. Plus, it means
      you can use your best bass voice to bolster the chorus in Act 1.                 : Is this
      common practice? If so, does the Mikado sing from offstage, or is he present, like Nanki-
      Poo, in disguise?                    replied: In productions of The Mikado as well as Pirates
      that I participated in, I was in the men's chorus for the first act and then donned new
      makeup and costumes for the second.(I was the Mikado and the Sergeant) It was not only
      to "bolster" the sound, but because I wanted more to do!

                   : But don't you think that this works, dramatically? There is this terrific build-
      up, with the letters and so forth, long before he arrives. IMHO, the most dramatic song is
      "A more humane Mikado". And what an opportunity for characterization! Audiences in the
      1920s, when Darrell Fancourt first took over the part, complained that his performance was
      nothing like the "suave and oily" Mikado created by Richard Temple. I believe both
      Donald Adams and Darrell Fancourt used to grumble about this opera because it took them
      so long to make up. And from the player's point of view it at least works better than King
      Gama, who appears early on and then spends much of the rest of the show waiting in the
      green-room for his entrance in Act III!                     : But whose presence looms over
      the action from the second number ("Our great Mikado, virtuous man") One of Gilbert's
      greatest "coups de theatre" was to build up this character for an act and half and, when he
      finally appears, he lives up to his publicity.

1.1.2. The wettest Tenor in the canon

A tenor 'hero' who HAS to be the wettest in the canon.

                 : He's not the most interesting character, but others are wetter. There is stiff (or
      limp?) competition for the role of wettest.                : I don't understand this term - can
      anyone elaborate?             : Hmmmm...a close one, this; however, on reflection I would
      probably vote for Hilarion as the slightly more amphibious tenor.                 : Oh, I
      dunno... how about the Duke of Dunstable?                        : Nay. Alexis is surely the
      wettest, assuming that the vestigial tenor role in Patience doesn't count. Any tenor who can
      get through a bravura number like "A wandering minstrel, I," which parodies several
      different musical genres, is immediately established as un-wet, practically he is dry. And if
     he is dry, why not say so?                     asked: What means 'wettest'? (I need to know
     whether I shall wax as indignantly wroth about this description as at most of your others!)
     And                 pleaded: One of the first things I learned in journalism was "don't be
     afraid to ask the dumb question." in light of which: Would someone explain the state of
     humidity of tenors? What is dry (no vermouth?) or wet--I can only think of Iolanthe and
     Strephon's first 25 years?                     replied: Is it a purely English expression?
     "Wet" here means, basically, having all the character and backbone of a damp flannel. As
     in the expression, "Don't be so bloody wet!" [Andrew went on to develop this - see Section
     5.2 below.]                replied: I haven't encountered this expression before in New
     England. The closest we come might be calling someone a "wet blanket" for depressing
     people who are enjoying themselves. Thank you for explaining that one.

1.1.3.A nauseating soprano

A soprano whose twee self regard is nauseating.

                     : Ditto, as above.            : Agreed without question. I'd probably add
     excruciatingly cringe-worthy.                     : Or funny, depending on how you look at it.
     (Actually I consider Rose Maybud much funnier.) Charles                  : Nah. She's just
     another variation on one of Gilbert's favorite targets - the sweet young thing who is really a
     ruthless egotist.                asked: Now that I know all about the humidity of tenors, how
     about "twee". At first, I figured it was a typo, but it seems to have something to do with
     coyness?.                 replied: It was me what used the word Guv! As I use it, it means
     affectedly dainty, pretty and innocent, in a way that one suspects may be contrived! Hope
     this helps.              added: The American equivalent of twee is cutesey.

1.1.4. Inadequately developed promising character

A promising character (Pish-Tush) who is not adequately developed.

                       : Agreed.              : Do you feel that he needs to be? Surely he is Pooh-
     Bah's sidekick, the man who has no real existence except as toad-eater to the Great Man. If
     I'm right in this, then his character cannot develop!                    : Developed just
     enough, I should say. He is the smooth bureaucrat who keeps his head down and survives
     all regimes. WSG characterizes him neatly and economically but doesn't get so carried
     away with creation as to allow him to overrun his dramatic function.

1.1.5. A stereotypical fatman

A stereotypical fatman/politician (Pooh-Bah).

                      : Yes, but stereotypes have been around since ancient comedy, and Pooh-
     Bah is funnier than most. And             : Can't agree here. One of the best characters in
     the canon. Capable of practically stealing the show if well acted.             : Ah yes - but
     Pooh-Bah is the epitome of every pompous, asinine, self-important petty official who ever
     occupied an office. He is the man every Englishman loves to hate. It is tempting to wonder
     whether Gilbert had anyone in particular in mind when he wrote the part.                      :
     A killingly funny stereotype with some of the best lines in the piece. Also, numerous as the
     Pooh-Bah characters have been in subsequent drama, how many precedents are there? The
     run-of-the- mill bio-copied-from-prior-Xerox-copies-of-prior-bios inevitably cites one prior
     verse by an earlier writer which touches on the same multiple-jobs joke but with much less

                                                  2
      wit and polish. Practically, Gilbert created the stereotype. And if he did create the
      stereotype, why not say so?

1.1.6. Endless encores

Endless unnecessary and unwelcome encores.

                 : Not if you're in a David Craven production!          : Only if the MD lets
      them! Both Isidore Godfrey and Flash Harry were pretty stern about this.                :
      That's the fault of the performers. G&S didn't write the encores.

1.1.7 Subsidiary female ciphers.

Subsidiary female characters who are mere ciphers.

      Nick Sales:  ..such as irrepressible Pitti? Piffle and poppycock, sir! And besides, it never
      did Pinafore any harm, did it?               : You ever seen Peggy-Ann Jones as Pitti-Sing?
                       : As opposed to the vivid characterization of Lady Saphir? Of Celia, Leila
      and Fleta? Of Fiametta, Vittoria and Giulia? Actually, Pitti-Sing is one of the largest and
      most rewarding of the secondary female characters.

1.1.8. An unbelievably unbelievable Ko-Ko

Ko-Ko; A character whose unbelievability is unbelievable!

                 : Me not quite equal to intellectual pressure of that last remark!                  :
      Believability isn't WSG's strong point. It's when he tries to be believable that he fails most
      badly.                    : Mmm. Not sure what you are getting at, here. No character in
      G&S fits into a strictly realistic, kitchen-sink drama. Within the infernal machine of a
      Gilbert plot, Ko-Ko is more consistent than most.

1.1.9. Katisha introduced too late

A sole interesting character (Katisha) who is introduced too late.

                  : Not true, similar comments as for Mikado.                      : Nay. If she turned
      up earlier, there would be no second act. As it is, she threatens to run away with the piece
      and you might argue that it is strange that she visits Titipu as early as the finale to Act One.
      Practical question: What do we need to know about her (for dramatic purposes) that we
      don't get as the piece stands?

1.1.10.A ridiculous denouement.

A ridiculous denouement.

                       : Yes, I've never been happy with it; I prefer Ruddigore's.           : Yes.
      Agreed. Oh, is there a problem with that? It's GILBERT and Sullivan,remember?
                : Ah, here is where I think that analysis based on naturalistic drama completely
      misses the point with Gilbert. Bear with me, here. Why is it that appreciation of Gilbert is
      so great among lawyers and law school graduates (you ask?) Because the ridiculous
      denouements of his plots are almost always based upon an absurdly literal application of

                                                   3
      legal principles. Seen from this point of view, the denouement of Mikado is the best of all
      of Gilbert's equity dodges. Ko-Ko's argument amounts to, "Almost good enough is good
      enough for government purposes" and it arrives at a decision that pleases all the parties
      involved (except Ko-Ko himself, to some extent.) Ergo, even for the Mikado, the
      embodiment of mindless application of The Law, "nothing could possibly be more
      satisfactory."

PLUS: Songs which include:

1.1.11. A vomit inducing duet.

A vomit inducing soprano/tenor duet.

                        : I find it funny (in concept-it does slow down the action).             : If
      you don't like soprano/tenor (love) duets, I suppose that's your problem; and they're
      probably all "vomit inducing" to a greater or lesser degree. I do like them; immensely, for
      what I hope are obvious reasons; that said, it's probably my least favourite one to perform -
      you do tend to feel a bit of a twit. On the other hand, it does contain one of my most
      favourite Sullivan bits - the part following the "toco toco toco" bit, and particularly the
      sweep to top A on "would I kiss you fondly thus"; sublime just about sums that up; I love
      singing that bit.                     : As I observed in another message, the duet is pure
      legalism. I never threw up hearing it, even once.                 quipped: Don't forget the
      primordial ooze

1.1.12.A ridiculous 'list' song.

A ridiculous and contrived 'list' song.

                         : No-TWO ridiculous and contrived list songs.                : That one's all
      right unless somebody mucks up the words! If there is one thing I wish more than anything
      else, it's that people wouldn't try to make this song 'topical'. It works and it spoils some
      brilliant and subtle Victorian humour.               : Oh. So "modern major general"' isn't
      ridiculous? hello? HELLO? it's a comic opera; it's supposed to be ridiculous. I don't see
      that it's any more contrived than any number of other numbers. Colander-type argument,
      IMHO.                      : A clever and witty list song, I should say.

1.1.13.A pile of sentimental tosh

A pile of sentimental tosh about a 'tom-tit'.

                 : Yes, but I think that's intentional.                 : Bless you, it all depends (on
      your point of view). [This gave rise to the discussion in Section 3.2.1 below.]                 :
      But surely the whole idea is that it sentimental - it is that which causes Katisha to break
      down and accept Ko-Ko! The cream of the joke is that this tough-as-a-bone harridan is
      overwhelmed by sentimental tears at this affecting if perhaps rather improbable tale.
                        : Ko-Ko is lying his head off and "Tit-willow" is a satire of sentimentality.
      When sung straight, it is not sentimental tosh, it is a song by a man threatened by imminent
      death fabricating sentimental tosh to save his own life. Funnier yet, the most ruthless,
      murderous character in the entire piece falls for it. With all my talk about Gilbert, I almost
      forgot to mention that Sullivan's score, whether it is his best or not, hits every number right
      on the button, without a single weak moment.                   enthused: Charles Schlotter's is

                                                  4
      an absolutely first-rate analysis, whether or not it's in response to a devil's advocate. To
      take Charles's last point about the music a bit further; Sullivan's work in Mikado is perhaps
      his most satisfactory in the genre. Yeomen may be more virtuostic, Ruddigore more
      adventurous, Gondoliers more sparkling, and so on -in Mikado he was as one with his
      collaborator. The result is probably the most evenly balanced as to words and music,
      whether or not it is Sullivan's absolute peak. (Iolanthe takes a close second if this criterion
      is applied, IMO).

                  observed: In general, I consider The Mikado G&S's masterpiece (not perfect, but
great). And                     wrote: The Mikado cannot be faulted. The music is great and the
story holds its humour still today. I just hope that I can convince 80 or so adolescents to hold the
same opinion!


1.2. Dubious Plot - Trite Music - BUT

                wrote: I think I've read all the criticisms and analyses of Mikado none of which
explain its durability and incredible popularity. Sure the plot is dubious - is Lohengrin or
Rigoletto, for examples, any better? I think there are two simple things that make it: An
incredibly singable score and a political satire that never needs updating (although it does get
updated--I think entirely unnecessarily.) The NYCity Opera did a Mikado here in DC in the
middle of Watergate. It could have been (and I'm sure many members of the audience thought it
had been) written the day before. Isn't there ALWAYS something going on it could be applied
to? The music could seem trite to those of us who've sung it since our cradles, but it IS easy to
sing.                 replied: I think we may be dealing with an intangible here - the quality that
makes something a "hit". Why do some songs, movies, operas, plays have a huge success while
others that might seem far more interesting to connoisseurs do less well? If I knew I'd be rich. As
someone once said, if it were so easy to write Mikados everyone would do it, for what could be
more profitable? The other side of this, of course, is a natural tendency for we specialists to sneer
at the biggest hit G&S wrote precisely because the hoi polloi (a Greek remark) like it without
having the sense to prefer Ida, Ruddigore, Iolanthe or whatever. The trick, I think, is to come
back to it after a long absence. No, it isn't my favourite G&S - but what a good show it is, and
how well it keeps up a consistent level of energy and humour (to me its only longueurs are "Were
you not to Ko-Ko plighted" and the glee, and the dialogue crackles from start to finish)!


1.3 Most Consistently Popular

                  wrote: Since we're looking for the reason for The Mikado's place as the most
consistently popular of the series, and we've noted (correctly, as surely most of us will agree) that
though both G and S performed magnificently their performances are not THAT much more
magnificent than in several other operas in the canon - could we perhaps find the reason in the
simplest fact of all - the Japanese setting? Japan is, to Western eyes, both exotic and beautiful -
ancient Egypt, say, or pre-conquest Mexico, are exotic but not beautiful; lots of places and times
from European history are beautiful but not exotic; but Japan is both (of course, I'm talking of the
superficial, stereotypical if you will, impressions that most people have) - and traditionally,
productions of The Mikado evoke the cherry-blossom-and-kimono image that stirs the European
imagination so delightfully. In support of this, the second most popular G'n'S (to the general
public, not necessarily to connoisseurs like us) is The Gondoliers which also combines the two
partners at their best with an exotic setting (though much less so than The Mikado). Of course,
I'm a Japanophile but does this strike the Net as plausible, or just as too obvious for comment?

                                                  5
              replied: My opinion is that you've hit on of the factors which make Mikado
posterity's choice. But it goes further than that: the sharpness of the conflicts in the story and the
high stakes, with others have mentioned; the sureness of plotting and pacing; and the overall high
level reached in the dialogue and the music. It's so beautifully constructed as a theater piece, and
flows so well, that we tend to overlook the technique and craft which went into constructing it --
because all that effort is so wonderfully concealed. It is truly an example of art concealing art.

                 wondered: Or is it that Mikado may be such a favorite with the general public
because it requires less "expectation or preparation" for a general or "unschooled" audience to
appreciate? This is not the case for Ruddigore, for example. I wonder whether the REAL answer
lies in the fact that those G&S operetta which are more easily understood with considerable
background are enjoyed by the "specialists" and those like Mikado which make perfect sense on
first hearing are enjoyed by the public-at-large, including those who don't often go to other
theatrical comedies?

              replied to this: The reason Mikado is more successful with the public is that it is,
quite simply, a better written work than Ruddigore. It flows more smoothly, dramatically, and
has fewer inconsistencies of style. Sullivan (again quite simply put) scores more perfect 10's in
Mikado than he does in Ruddigore, and gives us fewer of what we might term "serviceable, if
less inspired" musical numbers. Whatever considerable merits Ruddigore possesses, it is not as
felicitous a collaboration, when all is said and done, as is Mikado. A less charitable way of
explaining the characterization in Ruddigore vs. in Mikado is that, however complex or deep the
characters may be, the fact is that they are probably more memorable in Mikado than in
Ruddigore. Is there a single character in Ruddigore who has become sui generis, as has Pooh-
Bah? Is there a female character in Ruddigore who makes as strong an impression as does
Katisha? Is Robin a match for Ko-Ko? While it would be a stretch to call Ruddigore pale in
comparison to Mikado, it would be equally misguided to suggest it is superior to Mikado. We
who love G & S may find Ruddigore fascinating for any number of reasons, but let's not make
the same mistake as the Verdi enthusiasts who are unable to enjoy the towering masterpieces as
much as the Luisa Millers.

              replied to this: I agree that by any reasonable analysis, Mikado is a highly superior
work, and its craftsmanship and originality are virtually unchangeable. But, speaking personally,
I would rather listen to Ruddigore. For me it has more musical highs, and a fair amount of
extremely attractive and outrageously exaggerated characters. I like it more than I do The
Mikado, even as I must admit that Mikado is a superior piece of (unified) work.


1.4 It's Overrated!

            wrote: OK, time for me to put in my oar. Is it just me, or is The Mikado vastly
overrated? Certainly it's , as is all G&S - even when they're at their weakest they're still miles
better than the very best efforts of certain other authors/composers (the task of filling in the
blanks I'd rather leave to you). But I don't think, even from as objective a standpoint as I can
muster, it's much better than Ruddigore, or Ida, or Patience. [Mike later developed his
arguments about the Plot - Section 2.1 below- and the Music - Section 3.1 below.]


1.5 Diminishing Credibility



                                                  6
                replied: I'm inclined to an opposing view to that of Derrick. I had been trying to
think of reasons why we of the "inner sanctum" don't rate Mikado up there right at the top of our
favourites - although, of course, we value it highly. We ranked it third favourite - well behind
Iolanthe, just behind Yeomen, and just ahead of Patience and Gondoliers. [At the time of this
discussion, members of Savoynet had recently conducted a survey to rank their favourite operas
in order of preference.] I don't believe that you can say that our greater familiarity with Mikado
would cause us to like it less, and perhaps there is something in Mike Nash's comment that you
get all the opera's beauty after seeing/hearing it a couple of times, whereas operas like
(especially) Patience seem to grow on you. (Like Mike, I didn't much like Patience the first few
times I made its acquaintance, but it has got better and better.) To get back to Derrick's point, I
think the Japanese setting might (I say, might) help the big bang impact on anyone first seeing
the performance, but it seems to have a negative effect on my appreciation of the opera in my
mellowing years. The reason is that it tends to lessen the credibility of the characterisation, and
makes it more difficult for us to empathise with anyone in the cast. I feel the same way about
Gondoliers, incidentally.


1.6 Plus ca Change

              wrote: I believe The Mikado to be a very useful literary source for the study of late
Victorian history. It certainly provides an insight into the success and acumen of Japanese
business: the strategy which made things Japanese longed for and The Mikado topical must be
one of the marketing triumphs of all time. Contrast this with the commercial policies of Britain at
the time, which, in broad terms, relied on an artificial export market based on the 'civilising' of
under-developed cultures and nations. In Pooh-Bah one has glorious evidence that corruption
was as endemic in central and local government then as it is now - a fact unacknowledged in
most standard text books; but of course it would be, those in power tend to choose the text
books. The mores of society are also well reflected. There are men willing to use the body of a
women to attain their own ends, and the woman is adept at using that asset to attain the best for
herself. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and those with it have no regard for the feelings of
others, again well reflected in The Mikado. Ah! A literary source for the 1880s? Not much has
changed has it? Perhaps that is why The Mikado is still relevant.


1.7 Not Director Proof

                wrote: A while back we were arguing which, if any, of the G&S Operetta's were
director proof. Several people have argued that Mikado is the most director proof. The more that
I look at it, the more that I realize that while it is not as delicate as say Sorcerer, it is still an
opera which can be very easily destroyed by the wrong kind of hand at the wheel. For example, it
is VERY important, as noted by Cathlin Davis, [Section 6.2.3 below] to understand that the show
is not Japanese, but rather is about English people playing at being Japanese. Trying to be
"authentically" Japanese or trying to "parody" the Japanese (ala the "Gentlemen of Japan" with
briefcase in hand) simply does not work. It is also a show in which, quite frequently, a poor
director will misinterpret the villain of the show. The Mikado is not a villain, and in fact, is not a
particularly sinister character. (For example, William Conrad as the Mikado would not at all be
effective (even if he were still alive)). Rather, the Mikado is best played as a light comic figure.
Further, Nanki-Poo can be misplayed as a clean upstanding hero, when in fact, he is the villain of
the piece, unwilling to live up to his legal and contractual obligations and willing to let others
pay for his mistakes while he goes off in bliss and joy. In sum, the show has many levels, and if
these levels are not properly played, the show will end up coming across as flat. (As an

                                                  7
interesting sidenote... I have never seen or been in a bad production of Patience, but I have only
seen or been in one acceptable production of Mikado. The rest ranged from not good to horrid. In
fact, two of the three worst G&S productions that I have ever seen or been involved with were
both Mikados (and the other a Sorcerer.)

              replied: I agree with David but only in part. The character of the Mikado, as played
by its creator Richard Temple under the author's direction, was much closer to what David
describes than the stock villainous character some of the D'OC people turned him into after 1911.
But Nanki-Poo is a villain in only in torturously twisted post-feminist thought. We have long
discussions about this, but to sum up the non-revisionist side: Nanki-Poo was involuntarily
committed to wed Katisha, whether or not there was any legality to it, and a "contract" implies
the consent of both parties - assuming, of course, there a contract, of which there is no evidence
in the text. To have submitted to this situation without a struggle would have made Nank into a
terminal wuss. Katisha, on the other hand, is obsessive, disruptive, clinging, and altogether (in
the immortal phrase of Tom Shepard) a pain in the ass. Eventually she is dissuaded from this
path, and yes, she is on occasional a pitiable figure, but hers is a longing not shared by the object
of her desire. No amount of rationalizing or wishful thinking will change that fact, nor the
concurrent fact that she wants to get her way by any means necessary. Surely her behaviour is not
admirable, nor should it be condoned. Pitied, perhaps, but not condoned. She deserves what she
gets at the end - nothing more, nothing less.


1.8 Was she amused?

               observed: For those interested, this is Queen Victoria's review (reprinted in
"Queen Victoria Goes to the Theatre") of The Mikado:
     "The music is gay, but to my thinking, inferior to "The Gondoliers", and though there
     are witty remarks and amusing topical allusions, the story is rather silly."
Bring back The Gondoliers?


1.9 All but perfection

                opined: Act I of Mikado is marvellous. It has a great opening chorus, the best tenor
song in the canon, two fantastic trios (BTW, have you noticed how may really brilliant trios there
are throughout all of G&S? - perhaps we should try to rank them all one day - a difficult job!),
great dialogue and lyrics, and a succession of Gilbert's best characterisations (for instance, if
you've been able to follow the endless discussion about whether or not N. Poo is a villain or a
hero, you'll surely conclude that he is an admirable shade of grey, just like real people - q.v. the
discussion of characters in OOTW: Yeomen). Best of all, in Act I the plot keeps moving forward
at a good pace.

Act II cannot possibly sustain the excellence of Act I, and it doesn't. After a pleasant and
unexpected musical interlude, we are launched into the weakest number in the opera. When Leta
was bemoaning the dearth of good women's music in Mikado, I suspect she had "Braid the raven
hair" in mind. Neither Bruce, Rica nor Dan, who took issue with Leta, [See section 3.5 below]
mentioned this number as being good. It seems that Sullivan was unable to fit Gilbert's lyrics
properly: "weave the su-uh-uh-uh-upple tre-ess", "her lu-uh-uh-uh-uhve-liness". I know I'll be
attacked for this, but I am not a fan of "The sun, whose rays", either. I can admire the
counterpoint of the soloist's voice over the droning accompaniment, but I don't like the tune. For
me, the song is merely an excuse for the lighting technician to show what can be done with sun

                                                  8
and moon backgrounds. Barclay Gordon's posting [See section 3.3.3] echoed my reservations
about this number. Then we come to the madrigal. This is OK, I suppose, but there are much
better examples or madrigals in the other operas. Around these numbers, the lyrics and dialogue
are uninspiring, and the plot completely stagnates. The next song is "Here’s a how-de-do" -
vigorous enough, but not up to the standard of the other three trios in the piece. IMHO, its
propensity for being encored owes more to the slackening of pace from the start of Act II than to
the innate worth of the number. Finally, the Mikado is announced, and we get back to the
brilliance of Act I again. With one exception. I do not like, and never have liked, Kasha's song. I
think it is boring, unnecessary and incomprehensible to the average audience: what is a
theatregoer to make of "the living eye"? The number almost always comes over as the excuse to
hear the fat lady sing before the end of the opera. But don't conclude from the foregoing that I am
not a fan of The Mikado - I have just highlighted what, to me, are the weaknesses. The rest is
great.

               replied: Paul, you're throwing your spanner in once again, which is always
enjoyable. I disagree with most of what you said, but in particular your comments about .. "Here's
a how-de-do". This is one of my favourite songs in all G&S. How can I be objective? I was
nurtured on it and will continue to regard it fondly. The words are delightful and the music
rollicking. So there.

           had two points to make on this:

1.    Wandering Minstrel is almost certainly the most popular with audiences, but speaking as
      primarily a G&S tenor, I'd place it a long way down my list of favourites to sing. Give me
      "Is Life A Boon", "A Tenor, all singers above", "Thine Is The Power" etc. any day.

2.    The Madrigal, and its surrounding dialogue/plot. - Part agreement here. I find the plot, and
      more particularly the dialogue hereabouts to be among the worst and most stilted I am ever
      called upon to utter. The lines "..a week? well, what's a week.." and "....there's a silver
      lining to every cloud.." I always find very awkward, and IMO, this scene just doesn't work.
      However, regarding the madrigal, I'm firmly behind Bruce. It's wonderful to sing in, the
      interplay of the four voices is great, and, given sensitive singers, can be very rewarding
      indeed to sing.




                                                 9
2. The Plot

2.1 Essentially a Farce

2.1.1 A Farce of Deceptions

                     wrote: Sandy Rovner makes some interesting points about The Mikado
[Section 1.2 above]. But, it occurs to me part of its charm is that it isn't bound to its own time as
much as the other operas are - there is very little real satire in it - just Pooh-Bah and the two
topical songs, which are incidental to the main business of the opera. Gilbert's never-never Japan
is obviously a fantasy realm, which happens to bear one or two resemblances to England: its
most important function is to allow Gilbert to invent some rules for it which will allow a funny
plot to develop. One of Gilbert's libretti, Princess Toto, had this note about location in the
programme: "TIME: Never - PLACE: Nowhere" - and this seems to apply to The Mikado pretty
well. In this opera we're freed from many of the incidentals of the Victorian age - exchanging
stiff collars and tight corsets for free-flowing kimonos. (I've a theory that these freeing costumes
and the general atmosphere of pantomime encouraged the original performers to ad-lib more than
they did in the other operas: maybe this also influenced later hybrids like The Hot Mikado?)
Anyway, in this opera the central motives for the actions of the characters are the most basic of
all: love, and fear of death. It's Ko-Ko's desire to stay alive that provokes many of the best plot-
twists. The love between Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum seems rather sappy to me, but maybe that's
just my cynical nature talking. The point is that Gilbert goes back to the elements, and so ensures
that he keeps our attention from start to finish. (I noted in my thesis, still under construction, that
it is only with the final spoken words in the opera that the plot is finally resolved and death-
threats are lifted.) The Mikado is essentially a farce. In Act 2 Ko-Ko almost gets to the point of
shouting, "Oh, my God, the Mikado's coming! Quick, hide in this cupboard!" It's a farce of
deceptions, hair's-breadth escapes, spur-of-the-moment inventions, and running about - and all
for the very highest of stakes. For this reason I think it's vital we should believe the Mikado is
perfectly capable of carrying out his death threats.

2.1.2 An Opera of Two Capacities

            wrote: Yes, here we have a farce that basically works. The story twists and turns, and
although the "happy" ending of Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum ending up together for life comes
through as one would predict from the beginning, there are a lot of rebounds off the cushion (to
use a snooker/pool phrase) before we get there. Yet each step does follow on logically from the
previous one, unlike in some of the earlier operas, where Gilbert tended to pull things out of a hat
either to resolve the situation (The well-born babe was Rafe, your captain was the other) or to
create a difficult situation (the 29th February thing). The weakest point is Ko-Ko's explanation to
The Mikado at the very end, but at least it's still logical, and maybe it's all the funnier for being
weak. However, I find a conflict of interests on Gilbert's part. On the one hand, the story is a
farce, a manic situation-comedy. On the other, we have characters who are, if anything, too
fleshed-out and human. One of the reasons I like Ruddigore so much is precisely because the
characters are so starchy and stereotyped (and then they change and act in the exact opposite way
to their original type). But we have in The Mikado a "villainess" who is really a sad and lonely
woman, well deserving of our sympathy, and in Ko-Ko, a very real ordinary man trying to deal
with an increasingly-impossible situation. This is what it is for an opera to have two capacities,
and they clash, my lords, they clash! The farcical nature of the plot surely demands characters
who are much more stereotyped, like a Japanese marionette. Or else, if you want to bring the
human side of the characters to the fore, I find the setting and the jokey character names spoil
what could be taken as a "serious" romantic comedy.
                                                  10
2.2 Becomes a Novel

             wrote: Gilbert re-wrote the story as of The Mikado a children's book in 1911; it was
the last thing he wrote before he died. It wasn't published until 1921, however.
observed: Gilbert did the same with H.M.S. Pinafore - although I'd say it's not so much a novel as
a "story."               asked: Is the children's book you refer to a small blue hard cover book
with excerpts of the music here and there? I have a children's book that I thought was put
together by D'Oyly Carte at home. Are these two different children's adaptations?

                    observed: Just to be annoyingly pedantic. WSG wrote The Story of The Mikado
in 1909, and he did write one or two things after it, notably The Hooligan (1911). The book's
publisher, Daniel O'Connor, wrote a Foreword attributing the delay in publication "mainly to the
difficulties which have obstructed the production of books, especially those with coloured
illustrations, during the last seven years." But we can see another reason in a letter written by
Gilbert in 1910, quoted in Hesketh Pearson's biography of Gilbert. Offended at having not been
consulted over illustrations, he concludes by saying "I must decline altogether to associate myself
with the publication." (To refer back to O'Connor's Foreword, he says: "Sir William Gilbert
accepted the project with even more than his usual geniality, and many talks about it with him
will always be remembered by those who had the good fortune to be present." Yes, I'm sure!) The
book contains some very funny touches, including the elderly Gilbert's sardonic comments on
shortcomings in his original lyrics - split infinitives, lines which don't seem to mean anything,
etc. He puzzles a bit over "Oh blind, that seest/No equipoise!" and finally concludes that "when
people lapse into poetry you can never be quite sure what they mean."


2.3 Updates

2.3.1 Red Mikado

               wrote: At a concert earlier today I met a G&S aficionado who started to tell me all
about a set of records that her mother has of a production called the "Red" Mikado which,
apparently, was presented by the ILGWU. The records are still in pretty good shape, but she
would like to get another copy. Does anyone know anything about this production or whether
recordings of it are available... (It sounds quite interesting..... )           replied: "The Red
Mikado" was a sketch in the revue Pins and Needles, which was produced by the International
Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in New York, beginning in 1937. Most of the music and lyrics
were by Harold Rome. The show was changed periodically during its initial four-year run, and
"The Red Mikado" was not a part of it until 1939. Several numbers from the original production,
including The Red Mikado were recorded. They were released on LP by JJA records in the
1970's. I don't know of any CD reissue. A 1962 commercial recording of Pins and Needles,
featuring Barbra Streisand, is on a Sony CD, but The Red Mikado wasn't one of the selections
recorded in 1962. There is another song in Pins and Needles called "Four Little Angels Of Peace
Are We," sung by actors portraying Hitler, Mussolini and others. The title (and first line) are
certainly inspired by "Three little maids," but the music owes little (if anything) to Sullivan.
Perhaps the sketch and the song made the same political point and were not used in the revue at
the same time. ("Angels" is on the 1962 recording.)                   wrote: I believe that a song
from The Red Mikado (an anti-Communist work, by the way) was used by Harold Rome in his
Broadway revue for the Ladies Garment workers- Pins and Needles- before world war II. If my


                                                11
memory serves (I really was a very little kid then) the four little maids were Hitler, Mussolini,
Stalin and Hirohito.

2.3.2 The Corruption element

                   wrote: My father was with me at the production of The Mikado I saw this
week, and he said he understood the satire more than he did before. (He's seen the opera a
number of times.) And that set me thinking about that aspect of things. Really it's set in the same
kind of world as The Government Inspector - corrupt local officials, whose worst fear is that
someone higher up will come along to check up on them. But Gilbert is really on their side, as
Gogol isn't. It occurred to me that if a director was really set on taking The Mikado out of its
original setting (and there seems to be no way of stopping directors doing this), it could very
easily be transplanted into a Stalinist Soviet setting. The same kind of absolute fear of an
arbitrary authority. (I've just been reading Shostakovich's Testimony, which contains a lot of
anecdotes of the black absurdities of life in Stalin's Russia, and The Mikado really does fit in
perfectly with that kind of setting, except for the frivolity of Gilbert's approach.)


2.3.3 The Tuppenny Mikado

[During the course of another Savoynet discussion]                 wrote: I am not interested on
how Brecht would do Pinafore anymore than an exact recreation on how it was done originally
(except as an historical exercise). He elicited the following from                   : Oddly
enough, I was thinking of cooking something up along these lines myself, in a desperate attempt
to amuse. The idea would have been that Brecht would have been urged to come up with a
follow-up to the 3PO, and would have turned to another English opera for inspiration - thus The
Tuppenny Mikado! A chorus of Nobles explaining in bitter verse the social, political and
economic situation which they are exploiting for the subjugation of the proletariat - one can
imagine all too well how the Pooh-Bah material could be slanted to Brechtian political ends. Oh,
it would have been too dull for words - no wonder I couldn't be bothered to do it. But
replied: Actually, it sounds like great fun.


2.4 Nanki-Hal?

             wrote: There was a thread some months ago noting parallels between Mikado and
Hamlet (the phrase "a thing of shreds and patches" etc.). This got me to thinking about my own
preferred Shakespearean parallel for Mikado, and I make bold to note the parallel between
Mikado and the Henry IV plays. Nanki-Poo, like Prince Hal, is a fun loving prince who rebels
against the constraints placed on him by his moralistic father, leaves the court, and finds
adventures among the common people of the realm. I don't claim that Mikado is in any sense a
"version" of the Henry plays, and see no point in piling up points of similarity. For one thing,
there are far more differences than similarities. The two princes' situations bear a certain
resemblance, but Hal goes on a series of larks, with companions who know he is the prince, and
from which he routinely returns to the palace. Nanki-Poo, by contrast, has been a fugitive for
months, his identity unknown to all around him. There is no Hotspur's rebellion to reconcile
father and son. Falstaff (in the text) and Pooh-bah (by tradition) are identified as fat, but what of
that?

So if I'm not going to play the "Romeo and Juliet-West Side Story" game of listing counterpart
characters and plot incidents, why bring the Henry plays up? Only because both make use of the

                                                  12
figure of the incognito prince. Gilbert did not steal this device from Shakespeare (I have no
reason to believe that he had Hal consciously in mind) any more than Shakespeare invented it--
both had a long heritage of fairy tales and legends with such a character from which to draw in
their portrayal. The incognito prince, like other heroes on a quest, is intended to win a prize or
gain wisdom from his experience. We know that Hal does this because we see the sequel. He
becomes a greater king than his father (we moderns may or may not agree, but by the standards
of his and Shakespeare's day--the seizing and holding of French real estate--he established clear
superiority) and he does so in part because of the common touch he developed pub crawling with
Falstaff and the boys. Before Agincourt he inspirits his troops in two ways. Immediately before
the battle, in the St. Crispin's Day speech, he acts the part of the literary warrior king as well as
it's ever been done. But the night before he goes among the troops (incognito again, as it
happens) speaking to small groups, even joking with them. A conventional hero king, trained
exclusively in the ways of royalty, might give a rousing battle speech, but the former madcap
prince can do more. He can go among his troops, with "a little touch of Harry in the night."

We don't get to see the sequel to Mikado. We don't know what kind of emperor Nanki-Poo
becomes. But I like to think that, like Henry of Monmouth, he will surpass his father. He has
escaped the rarefied air of the palace and lived among the common folk. He has seen the mess
that an imperial edict (which seems such a good idea to the Mikado who decrees it) can make
when an ordinary town, minding its own business, is forced to implement that edict. He has seen
these things, and hopefully learned from them. His spell as a second trombone will, IMHO, be
good for him and good for Japan when he succeeds to the throne.


2.5 And for the attentively challenged.

            proffered this: Following is the "short attention span plot" of The Mikado that
appeared in 1994 in the Seattle G&S Society newsletter "Paragraphs.":

"THE Mikado" Book by Bill Gilbert, Music by Art Sullivan, "PG-45" - Mature sense of humor
but virtually no adult situations. Sexual innuendoes include a lady "who dresses like a guy,"
some public kissing, a left shoulder blade, a left elbow, a right heel, and a bare right arm.
Implied violence includes knifes, hangman's nooses, an executioner's axe, death by burial alive,
a sabre cutting through cervical vertebrae, boiling oil, melted lead, a severed head standing on
its neck and bowing to people, tigers, thunderbolts, and a suicidal dickey-bird. Parents - you
have been warned!

   The Mikado has the type of plot that would drive certain members of Congressional
   Committees right up the wall. If it weren't a classic, you wouldn't let your children watch it
   on Saturday mornings. It would make a wonderful vehicle for a video game - THE
   TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES MEET MADAM BUTTERFLY. For those of you
   who can't wade through the whole plot by the time they dim the theater lights, here is a
   quick sketch of what's really going to happen:

What's a Japanese kid to do when his old man insists he marry an older woman? (Particularly if
she's got a face that would stop a bullet train.) Add to this that father's word is law because he's
the Emperor of Japan, that he's politically quite a bit to the right of Ollie North, and he's also into
heavy discipline. For example, he has passed some pretty stiff laws to keep young punks straight.
You can't even dye your hair puce anymore, or scribble on windowpanes, and don't even think
about cheating at billiards. What he's really hung up on though is flirting! All you gotta do is
wink at someone and you're immediately beheaded! I mean total bummer! Being fiscally

                                                  13
conservative as well, the Emperor has restructured and rightsized the judicial system so that all
judges perform their own executions, thus eliminating a lot of middle management fat.

The obvious answer, if you are inflicted with such a father, is to join the homeless and find work
as a street musician. When the Emperor had his fun new laws executed (if you'll pardon the
expression), a bunch of pseudo-intellectual town fathers in a burb called "Titipu" came up with a
loophole you could drive a Mitsubishi through. Since the next guy on death row in their town
was a wimpy tailor who go caught flirting, they decide to promote him to be Lord High
Executioner. The scam was based on the rather thin legal argument that, since he was next in line
for beheading, he'd have to cut off his own head before he could cut off anyone else's. This
naturally stretched out the already lengthy appeal process. While living as a street person, the
Emperors son, with the dubious name of "Nanki-Poo," falls for a local groupie named Yum-
Yum. (I thought only certain Congressmen still got away with calling women things like that.)
Anyway, their romance doesn't get far because she is engaged to marry her guardian, the above-
mentioned wimpy tailor.

Now the bad news for the audience at this point is that even though I've laid all these plot details
on you, the opera hasn't even started yet! The Emperor's son hears that the tailor has been
condemned for flirting, but by the time he gets back to Titipu, the tailor has been promoted to
executioner and is about to marry Yum-Yum. At this point we meet the all-time great role model
for aspiring public servants, a bureaucrat's bureaucrat named Pooh-Bah. Pooh-Bah will do or say
anything for an appropriate stipend - sort of like some Arkansas Troopers. He introduces Ko-Ko,
the Lord High Executioner (nee tailor) who, it turns out, is now a man with a social agenda. For
example, if you've got flabby hands and peppermint breath, you better hold on to your hat! (And
anything you keep in it!) Ko-Ko, it would also seem, is one of those guys with a strong interest in
young girls, all of whom seem to be suffering from terminal giggles. They really get excited
when they learn that Nanki-Poo is back in town. By the time they straighten out what's
happening, however, Nanki-Poo is back in the depths of depression.

As part of his wedding preparations, Ko-Ko is busy bribing all of the city officials (namely Pooh-
Bah) so that he can get his wedding paid for. During all this, a letter arrives from the Emperor,
pointing out that there have been no executions in Titipu for some time and they'd better get
cracking. Suddenly, Ko-Ko is faced with the somewhat unpleasant and technically complicated
task of cutting off his own head! His only way out is to quickly find a substitute. Naturally, at
this point, in walks poor depressed Nanki-Poo with a rope in his hand. They quickly strike a
simple bargain - Nanki-Poo can marry Yum-Yum tomorrow on the condition that he allow Ko-
Ko to behead him at the end of the month. Then, as a widow, Yum-Yum would be free to marry
Ko-Ko. This scheme pleases the townspeople and they launch into a celebration, when what to
their wondering eyes should appear, but Katisha, the aforementioned ugly older woman!
Although Katisha scares everyone half to death, they ignore her attempts to rat on Nanki-Poo so
she storms back to Tokyo to fetch the Emperor and while she's gone, the audience can finally
take a break

When we rejoin the action, Yum-Yum is getting ready for her wedding and having to endure only
a few cute jokes from her girl friends about having her wedding plans "cut short" at the end of
the month. Unfortunately, Ko-Ko wanders in at this point having just learned from his lawyer
(Pooh-Bah - again) that the fine print in the Emperor's law says that if a married man is beheaded
for flirting, his wife must be buried alive! This news, in general, dampens the spirits of the
wedding party somewhat. Yum-Yum says, "let's call the whole thing off," and Nanki-Poo goes
despondent on us again.


                                                 14
Meantime, Katisha has fetched the Emperor and they are just coming into town. Ko-Ko,
assuming that the Emperor has arrived to see if an execution has taken place, decides he had
better come up with one. Nanki-Poo volunteers but Ko-Ko still hasn't quite mastered his axe
swinging bit yet. Suddenly he comes up with the bright idea of bribing all the city officials (Yep -
Heeeer's Pooh-Bah!) into claiming that he had beheaded Nanki-Poo. In order for this fabrication
to hold up, they have to get Nanki-Poo out of town fast. So the Archbishop of Titipu (name of
Pooh-Bah) marries him to Yum-Yum and sends them both packing.

Since the Emperor is a great fan of the efficacy of punishment, the detailed description of the
decapitation is well received up to the point where Katisha notices the name "Nanki-Poo" on the
death certificate. This of course, means that the Emperor must conjure up a suitable punishment
for person or persons who inadvertently kill the heir to the throne of Japan. He decides that
something lingering, involving boiling oil and melted lead will suffice. While they are heating
the cauldrons, the Emperor does lunch. Since Ko-Ko, Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah aren't particularly
hungry, they find Nanki-Poo and try to convince him to come back to life. Nanki-Poo refuses
since if Katisha discovers him still alive, she will insist on his an Yum-Yum's death. They finally
decide that the only possible way out of the problem is for Ko-Ko to woo, win and marry Katisha
during lunch! Thus follows a whirlwind romance, a relieved Emperor (he finds that not only is
his son still alive but he won't have to put up with Katisha as a daughter-in-law), and everyone
dances off into the sunset in their inimitable Japanese way.


2.6 Nanki-Poo Up - Ko-Ko Down

            offered this analysis: The Mikado tells the story of the rising fortune of Nanki-Poo
and the concurrent falling fortune of Ko-Ko. There is a tide in the affairs of men and in the
beginning one man's is at the ebb and the other at the flood. Before the curtain Ko-Ko has gone
from condemned prisoner to high public official while Nanki-Poo has gone from crown prince to
vagabond fugitive. When he enters he at least has the hope of marrying Yum-Yum but he loses
even that with the information Pish-Tush and Pooh-bah give him. When Ko-Ko enters his fate is
as high, and Nanki-Poo's as low, as either will ever be again. The rest of the opera works out the
process of the reversal of fortune between the two men. By the end there is complete symmetry.
The choice Nanki-Poo faced at his father's court--death or marriage to Katisha--is forced on Ko-
Ko.

Consider this simplified chronology of the two men's situations as the story unfolds after their
first meeting:

NANKI-POO                                       KO-KO

Planning suicide                                Enjoying high office, about to marry Yum-Yum

Gets to marry YY for a month, then die          Faced with Mikado's decree, must give up YY for
                                                a month
Gets to marry YY permanently                    Must give up YY forever and fake the execution
                                                to keep his job
Married to YY, free and clear. Katisha          Condemned for killing the heir apparent, can only
and his father think he's dead, so no risk      escape death by marrying Katisha
of further pursuit



                                                 15
Married to YY and restored to his                Married to Katisha, barely able to save his skin by
flimsy position.                                 legal argument to Mikado

For me the single line that crystallizes this reversal of fortune is Nanki-Poo's "Very well then,
behead me." This is the moment at which Ko-Ko, if he were other than as he is, could at one
stroke (literally) have both Yum-Yum and his job. But being who he is, a man who can't kill
anyone or anything, he lets the moment pass and, by deciding to fake the death certificate, sets in
motion his eventual fate. From that line, and Ko-Ko's response to it, Nanki- Poo's success and
Ko-Ko's failure follow.

The line is conventionally viewed as standard behaviour for a sappy romantic lead, and it is
certainly consistent with his suicidal posturing in Act I. However, I interpret it differently. For
one thing, Nanki-Poo throughout shows a cleverness and resolve unlike the stereotypical sappy
romantic lead. Can one imagine Frederic or Strephon manoeuvring as adroitly as Nanki-Poo does
throughout the show? Ralph and Nanki-Poo both plan suicide late in Act I, but Ralph, once he
has decided on that course, just stands there looking silly, singing with the pistol to his head,
plodding on towards the death that would have come but for Josephine's intervention. Nanki-
Poo, by contrast, seizes the opportunity to turn Ko-Ko's problem to his advantage by working out
the marriage- for-a-month deal.

I don't doubt that in his initial despair over losing Yum-Yum Nanki-Poo sincerely planned to kill
himself. But by his second apparently suicidal moment ("very well then, behead me") he has
gotten to know Ko-Ko, and to size him up. He has the chance to understand Ko-Ko's character,
and particularly his unfitness for the job of executioner. After "Here's a how-de-do" temporarily
puts Ko-Ko back in the one-up position (Yum-Yum is unwilling to be buried alive, so she backs
out of the marriage to Nanki-Poo) Nanki- Poo again threatens suicide. He knows from Act I how
his suicide will upset Ko-Ko's plans.

He may still be sincerely willing to kill himself, but he has to realize that he has to some extent
restored the status quo before the Act I finale. As on the earlier occasion, he has a bargaining
position because he has something (his life) that Ko-Ko needs. As he and Ko-Ko argue the point
Pooh-bah arrives with the news that the Mikado is almost here. This adds the press of time to
Ko-Ko's problems. This is the moment at which a shrewd judge of character might realize that
Ko-Ko, with a little more pressure, could collapse entirely. Nanki-Poo is willing to risk all on a
single throw of the dice. When he says "behead me" there is a chance that Ko-Ko will take him
up on it (in which case he will be no worse off than if he had hung himself back in Act I), but
there is also a chance--and a good chance, given Ko-Ko's observed character--that this final bit of
pressure will force Ko-Ko into complete capitulation, as it does.

This is the crisis of the story of their interconnected fates and proceeds as it does because of the
character of each man. The situation is set up by Nanki-Poo's willingness to risk his life and
resolved by Ko-Ko's unwillingness to take that life.

Now, as to the practical business of presenting this in performance. I freely admit that everything
I have written above may be lit crit theorizing that can't be made to work on stage. Still, I'd like
to see it tried. I have generally seen Nanki-Poo's line delivered with a Dudley Do-right
ingenuousness very much at odds with my interpretation. After Ko-Ko's speech about being
under contract to die at the hands of the public executioner I would like to see something like
this:

NP: [very deliberately, while staring straight at him] Very well then. Behead me

                                                  16
KK: [looking away, flustered] What, now?

NP: [still staring, still deliberately] Certainly [staring even harder] At once.

Then Pooh-Bah chimes in with the comic relief of "Chop it off, chop it off." and their exchange
leads to Ko-Ko's long speech about guinea pigs and blue bottles. By the end of that speech Ko-
Ko is weeping that he can't kill anybody. It is clear that the pressure is working.

NP: [more jocularly] Come, my poor fellow {Note the patronizing tone. He realizes he is in
control now}, we all have unpleasant duties to discharge at times; after all, what is it? If I don't
mind, why should you? Remember [resuming the forceful, deliberate delivery] sooner or later it
must be done.

KK: Must it? I'm not so sure about that?

With that Ko-Ko's fate, and Nanki-Poo's victory, are sealed. Nanki-Poo's next line "What do you
mean?" can be taken literally-- he doesn't know what specific plan Ko-Ko has in mind--but he
has offered his life, and Ko-Ko has refused it. By the successful outcome of this gamble he has
regained, this time permanently, the one-up position.

For purposes of this discussion I take no position in the controversy over whether Nanki-Poo is a
hero or a villain, and whether or not his flight from Katisha is justified. Whether for good or ill,
Nanki-Poo is unusually intelligent and forceful for a G&S tenor, capable of taking shrewd action
in his own interest and of manipulating a character like Ko-Ko.

             pointed out: But surely if he really behead Nanki-Poo, Katisha would still have
found out from the death certificate that he had beheaded the heir to the throne. Ko-Ko's fate is
sealed much earlier, at the instant he chooses Nanki-Poo as substitute. Presumably there were
many others on death row (or not) and he could have chosen any one of them with impunity,
forged his death certificate, satisfied the Mikado, and Katisha would have been none the wiser.
Nanki-Poo would have committed suicide and Ko-Ko would have Yum-Yum. Katisha would
have been distraught at arriving in Titipu about 10 minutes too late to marry Nanki-Poo.




                                                  17
3. The Music

3.1 General Observations

             wrote: Start with the good points:- The music has a very high proportion of catchy
tunes - if the show were premiering in 1997, these would no doubt be released as singles. This is
why I think the show has remained popular - many people like a catchy pop song. Tunes, like
phrases, go into a nation's or civilization's consciousness, and people quote them even when they
don't know who wrote them. (Example: "Tit Willow" being spoofed as "Portillo" on The Rory
Bremner show - FTBONUKN, Rory Bremner is an impressionist who specialises in political
satire, and Michael Portillo is one of the more right-wing members of the Conservative party,
who always makes me think of one of the characters out of "The Godfather"). The orchestration
is lovely too; underneath the aforementioned catchy tunes, there is a lot going on. Sullivan used a
lot of variety in his instrumentation, which give the piece a lot of colour which it loses when it's
hammered out on a piano, or when it's butchered as "The Hot Mikado" or something. (Though I
have a hard-rock arrangement of "So Please You Sir We Much Regret" floating around my poor
mad brain...) All in all, it makes Mikado one of my favourite operas to - I like to put on the CD,
collapse on my bed and mellow out to "The Sun Whose Rays".

And the Bad bits:- Having said that the music for The Mikado is one of the easiest to pick up, I
find that having picked it up, it didn't continue to grow on me the way that many of the others
did. For instance, the first time I heard a tape of Patience I wasn't struck by it at all, but after a
few listens (and learning the bass line) I discovered lots to enjoy. I don't find much in the music
of The Mikado that's under the surface, so to speak, apart from the aforementioned subtleties in
orchestration. That's OK in a stage show, where your audience are only going to hear it once, and
won't even want to analyse it even if they had the chance. But I do feel that the score of The
Mikado is more like the score of a modern musical than of an opera - a series of catchy pop songs
strung together. Again, maybe that's why many people like it; after all, in terms of box-office at
the very least, musicals outsell opera (at least in the UK). The only "extended" musical passage is
Finale Act 1, and even that is really a series of songs ("With Aspect Stern", "The Threatened
Cloud" etc.) Compare that with the "Hark, What Was That, Sir" scene from "Yeomen", which
always strikes me as being more "operatic".

           replied: I think that The Mikado being more like the score of a modern musical has as
much to do with the success of the opera as anything. Three of my top favorites are Mikado,
Patience, and Yeomen, and one finds, on close inspection, that all of these operas contain no
musical "scenes" (i.e., with a bunch of song strung together) except at their act endings!

             opined: In the discussion of music for Mikado, Ron mentioned "Were you not to Ko-
Ko plighted" and the glee "See how the fates their gifts allot" as its two least memorable
numbers. If these are indeed the weakest in that opera (many of us would agree) then the score's
overall strength is once again demonstrated. Neither of these two movements is less than
serviceable, although Sullivan did write better examples in both forms; both are amusing (those
who vomit are no doubt in a small minority); and neither is anything near a failure due to a dearth
of inspiration - whereas in the latter category one can point to various examples scattered
throughout the canon.

Against this are:




                                                  18
     The most brilliantly successful trio in G & S (Three little maids from school, or The
      flowers that bloom in the spring, {               asked: Wearing my pedant's hat at a
      particularly rakish angle; isn't' that a quintet?}or Here's a how d'ye do, or I am so proud -
      take your pick).
     Possibly the most brilliant and thrilling opening chorus (If you want to know who we are).
     Arguably the finest Act I finale in G & S, rivalled perhaps by those in Iolanthe and Yeomen
      but not surpassed. To dismiss it as a "succession of songs" is to miss the brilliance (there's
      that word again) of Sullivan's (and Gilbert's) sense of dramatic sweep and contrast which
      distinguishes it.
     The finest single aria in the entire canon "A wand'ring minstrel I".
     The strength of musical characterization given to each individual role, as typified by the
      solo writing allotted to them in solos and ensembles.
     The striking aptness of such movements as "There is beauty in the bellow of the blast", "So
      please you sir", "My object all sublime", "Behold the Lord High Executioner" and many
      others.

Compare these strengths to the other operas. It's an impressive list. You'll find examples of the
above in most of them, but not necessarily on so consistently high a level or as numerous, and a
main reason for Mikado's high ranking in the eyes of posterity.

              replied: I agree. I think we all have grown up with The Mikado and tend to take it for
granted. I know I do. And then I listen to it and realize how great a work it is. Otherwise we have
to characterize the opposing opinions in terms of A is Happy, B is Not. And                  : And
don't forget the terrific melodic rhythms which Sullivan invents for Gilbert's words. For melodic
rhythmic variety, there is no other Savoy opera to surpass The Mikado.

            commented: Bruce's comment about "A Wand'ring Minstrel interests me, not because
I necessarily disagree (though if I thought about it long enough, I'm sure I would), but I would
like some justification/explanation, if you please, Bruce.


3.2 Act II
Prompted by Paul McShane's dismissal of much of the music in Act II [See section 1.9 above.]
              wrote: The Mikado - Act II - Musical excellence continued: BRAID THE RAVEN HAIR -
While I've found it surprisingly difficult to make work in performance, it is easily an above
average women's chorus; certainly it ranks far above Utopia's Act I opening, and is more
effective from the strictly musical aspect than Ida's 2nd or 3rd Act openings. No, it's not quite as
inspired as some of the other choruses in Mikado, but for its place in the opera it works quite
nicely, thank you. As to the mellisma on "supple" (of "supple tress"), that is a particularly
felicitous example of Sullivan's tone painting. The long, flowing second melody "Art and nature
thus allied") is gorgeous and in beautiful contrast to the opening tune. Coupled with inspired
staging, costumes and lighting, this number can be stunning if well carried out.

THE SUN WHOSE RAYS ARE ALL ABLAZE - this solo is one of the few in the canon which has been
     successfully sung on the concert stage apart from its context. For me, anyway, it's one of
     the very best musical numbers in Mikado and, again, it works quite well in the location it
     finally was placed - much better dramatically than its original location in Act I. I'd rank it
     as just less than absolutely superb.

BRIGHTLY DAWNS OUR WEDDING DAY - If not Sullivan's very finest madrigal, certainly one of his
     finest. Maybe people get tired of it with over- familiarity, but I find it has just the right

                                                 19
      blend of rejoicing mingled with the sadness and regret to come. However one ranks this
      quartet, it is far from being a loser.

HERE'S A HOW-D'YE-DO - The first absolutely brilliant number in Act II, having been preceded by
     three winners. It's extremely amusing, admirably advances the plot, beautifully compact
     and quite original. It recalls the can-can while spoofing in a pseudo-Japanese manner, and
     highlights Sullivan's wit as well as (and perhaps more than) Gilbert's. Singers tend to
     dislike it because it's difficult to sing well, because the movement directors often require
     tends to be inconvenient.

ENTRANCE OF MIKADO AND KATISHA/MY OBJECT ALL SUBLIME. The former is acknowledged by
    Paul to equal the best of Act I. The verdict of posterity seems to echo the chorus of the
    original production, which implored Gilbert to put it back after he had cut it at a rehearsal.

THE GLEE (SEE HOW THE FATES) - To repeat an earlier post - it's fun, and while not an
     overwhelming success, certainly at least adequate, and far from being a failure.

THE FLOWERS THAT BLOOM IN THE SPRING (which I earlier erroneously called a trio) - Another
     brilliant number which must be ranked among the very finest ensembles in the canon.

ALONE! AND YET ALIVE - Another number which is difficult to bring off in performance. it
    requires a first rate singing-actress playing Katisha, who can play this scene straight. I have
    seen it work superbly, with the audience really showing great sympathy for her. Although
    Katisha has brought this on herself, her pain is real and there shouldn't be any hint of satire
    here. Musically this is a strong movement, but it only works given the right actress (and
    orchestra).

TIT-WILLOW - A masterpiece, purely and simply.

THERE IS BEAUTY IN THE BELLOW OF THE BLAST - Ditto.

ACT II FINALE - How could they lose when reprising those two numbers?

               admitted: I must agree with Bruce. I love Brightly Dawns. The lines weave so
nicely together, the text's sarcasm sweetly sneaks up on you, and it is the first madrigal that
includes fa-la-la's that I don't detest listening to and singing. Even the ding-doings are excusable.
I do, also, have to admit that I think "Here's a Howdy Do" is a really annoying song, especially
the dippy "Here's a pretty howdy-doooooooooo!"


3.3 Individual songs

3.3.1 Tit-Willow

                   noted: I find this song funny (though I have a weird sense of humor), for
instance:

       "Is it weakness of intellect, birdie?" I cried,
       "Or a rather tough worm on your little inside?"



                                                  20
Actors may play this for sentiment (and even do so successfully), but I don't think that's what
Gilbert intended. It seems to me a clear satire of sentimental tosh.

To which                   replied: This is a good point, Arthur. When I did Ko-Ko, I played it
completely for sentiment in the first couple of verses, the rationale being that I had to knuckle
down to do some hard convincing to Katisha, and needed to get carried away by my own words.
There's a very nice gesture that you can incorporate - that of reaching out a finger to an imaginary
branch for the bird to hop onto so you can address most of the first verse to him at eye level, then
release him back to the branch on the last line of the verse. I believe that the best time to start
reverting to humour is from the end of second verse, after eyeing off Katisha, and noticing that
she has become affected. And Tit-willow, when sung completely seriously, is a much better
number than Katisha's preceding solo.                  observed; I don't really see this as a fair
comparison. Either song, out of context, or without the other, doesn't really work. Given two
good actor/singers, the scene from "Alone, and yet alive" through to "There is beauty in the
bellow" can be among the funniest, yet most moving from the entire canon. The pathos evoked
by Katisha's recit/aria can be awe-inspiring, and it is the mark of genius on the part of S & G that
it is immediately followed by one of the funniest scenes ever committed to a stage; the mere
thought of a large, irate Katisha terrorising a pathetic, cowering Ko-Ko makes me chuckle.
Follow this scene with a clever, sensitive rendering of "tit-willow", allowing us to see Katisha
melting and I should say that just about sums it up. Oh, and I've just remembered my favourite
line in the show - the "teeny weeny bit bloodthirsty" line; most Katishas I've seen have had one of
Ko-Ko's cheeks in each hand at this point are shaking his head gently from side to side. Ah well-
a-day!                  exclaimed: Heavens, what am I missing? Tit-Willow doesn't really work
out of context? I don't agree. I sing this a lot as a get-up-and-sing-something-for-the-old-folks
type number, and it is always highly successful. It is also a money-in-the-bank choice for
auditions if you want to get across your aptitude for 'authentic style' (that is, if you're going for
Ko-Ko). So I repeat, I must have missed something.

              wrote: With regard to whether to play "tit-willow" as funny or straight; It seems to
me the key is Sullivan's orchestration, and tempo. If done in "Andante" 6/8 time, this implies a
fairly fast pace - for the pulse is in 2 beats per each bar (not 6). Two beats in a walking tempo,
moving at a metronome beat of ca. 75-80 for each dotted quarter note, has the signature "tit-
willow" motive chirping rather briskly. This sounds and feels very differently from the standard,
one might say lugubrious, pace affected by those adherents of the Martyn Green pathetic/sad
school of interpretation. If one accepts that Gilbert was parodying a specific, serious model (as
Leslie Bailey seems to demonstrate), then this is yet another example of Sullivan entering fully
into the spirit of Gilbert's fun; and the faster pace seems more in keeping with Sullivan's
characterization of Ko-Ko in other movements. This first came to my attention when I heard
Peter Pratt's version in the first stereo Mikado. The music sounded so different, and his delivery
far more deadpan than Green's. I don't believe Pratt really was the best exponent of Ko-Ko,
judging from his records (he seems to have missed the "espressivo" part of Sullivan's "Andante
espressivo"), but I also believe Green's interpretation of Tit-willow, however effective it may
have been taken in isolation, was a real misreading of the song and its function. Ko-Ko is not
Jack Point.                commented: I wish you all would realize that not even Jack Point is Jack
Point.

             replied: On stage, however, Peter Pratt's Ko-Ko was outstanding. Described as "like
a hopeful mole", he was bewildered by the elevation to LHE, surprised but delighted by his
power and riches and totally bemused by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The was a
comic inevitability about all that he did, but with the real timid Ko-Ko looking on from inside
himself and becoming ever more confused. PP was always on the lookout for a topicality, which

                                                 21
he usually slipped into one or other of the trio encores (and I have seen eight taken) Usually this
took the form of a small item of costume, or headgear or a prop to suggest a person currently in
the news.

Also, I think the effect of Green's "Tit-willow" was the contrast with the hammy and forced
business used by Lytton. The thing which amazes me about it is his (Green's) description in his
autobiography of the occasion he first sang the song straight. From memory it was something
along the lines of:-'between acts I sent for Godfrey, our musical director and told him to have the
strings muted', implying that it was done without rehearsal or consultation, surely something no
professional would ever do.

3.3.2 Hearts Do Not Break

               wrote: "Hearts do not Break" is easily one of my favorite moments in The
Mikado. I am used to hearing it sung very well and very effectively. It makes me feel like a boob
to have to sneak in and say "Katisha!"

3.3.3 The Sun Whose Rays

                 wrote: My only quibble with The Mikado, and it's a small one, centers on Yum-
Yum's solo "The sun whose rays..." To my ear, it is an attractive melody, the pace is unhurried,
and it seems to be placed comfortably for the soprano voice. Yet even accomplished sopranos
seem to have trouble putting the song across effectively. The audience is either waiting for the
topsy- turveydom to begin again, or they don't have a clue as to what Yum-Yum is singing about-
or why. I wonder if the fault is Gilbert's? Is the lyric a little tangled (what with a few well-chosen
words from the Sun himself mingled in with Yum-Yum's?) Or is the song inadequately
introduced in the dialogue that precedes it? What's wrong here? One last point: Yum-Yum, I
know, is the most equal among equals, but nothing in her character before this song prepares me
for the assertiveness of "I mean to rule the earth...etc." What am I missing?               replied: I
agree that it does seem to "be comfortably placed for the soprano voice", but I would contend
that it is much harder to sing than it sounds. It seems to me to be almost in a category of its own
amongst Sullivan's soprano arias; (or it may be that I've just forgotten some); it demands an
immense amount of control from the singer, and the vocal line is of course, much exposed; in
short, it has always struck me as "awkward" to sing; (of course, I've never sung it in public, not
being a soprano, you know; my singing it in the bath falsetto is but the merest gossip).

3.3.4 Here's a Horrid

            opined: I think "Here's A How-De-Do" is the worst song G&S ever wrote together.
            replied: It's good fun to sing if you're Nanki, and I have to admit that I've always
enjoyed it; I have been told by a couple of Yum-Yums that they don't enjoy singing it, and Ko-
Ko's do occasionally seem to struggle, but that could be due to the carefully choreographed-and-
laid-down-in-stone dance moves for each of the verses/encores! (;o)

3.3.5 See How the fates

            observed: Mikado fell rather low on my list of "favorites" because of my
uncomfortableness while playing at Ko-Ko, but Mikado is one of my favorite pieces in regard to
Sullivan's music, which is, IMHO, pure charm mixed with bushels of technique. I will not
attempt to cover this subject, for which we have the esteemed Mr. Miller, much more qualified to
the task than I. I will mention, however, that "See How the Fates" is one of my favorite numbers

                                                  22
in the canon, and I hate to see it cut as much as enjoy singing it. During this discussion, I have
heard this favorite of mine criticized, and I believe that this thought process harkens back to a
previous discussion about musical numbers that do not "further the plot". I love the piece in
question because it suspends our moment of "gleeful" terror, so that we may roll it around for a
while like a Cabernet.                  concurred: This is one of my favorites too! I think the
contrasts are wonderful - the trio vs. the duo, each side kind of playing devil's advocate and the
genuine glee of the Mikado over the irony of the whole thing. It has a bit of the feel of the
Paradox trio about it. Plotwise, I think it firmly establishes that Ko-Ko et al. are done for, despite
a tantalising ray of hope that maybe, using logic, the unfortunate trio can persuade the Lucius
Junius Brutus of his race not to execute them. Moreover, I find it to be a catchy tune! Musically it
does some neat things. I especially like the sonorities in the full quintet, dropping to a unison line
for all, then splitting back into harmony at the end. Really striking effect, a bit like the opening of
the English Madrigal "Amo, amas, I loved a lass." (No, not alas, above my station!)

And              purred Very glad to hear my opinion backed by a competent authority! The very
first complete G&S I sang chorus in was a Mikado and the Glee was very warmly received.
"Odd, I thought. Green says this quintet sucks" Then, some years later I directed Mikado and
took a completely different tack on staging it. It worked yet again! I've seen Mikado twice since
then and both times I watched the audience around me squirm in delight, then erupt into applause
at the end. I could go on and on about what I like about the ensemble (mostly the brilliant
simplicity of the writing and that the mezzo gets the melody), but basically I have found that one
of the great strengths of Mikado is similar to the great strengths of Mozart's Da Ponte operas; the
music director just has to get musical singing and the stage director just has to let the music be
the guide. Bingo! Good show. Now the question that has bugged me: why did Martyn Green hate
this number so much?                  mused; I wonder whether it has to do with the voicing of the
parts, which has Pooh-Bah singing a higher line than Ko-Ko? Incidentally, my earliest vocal
score has Pish-Tush singing the Pooh-Bah line up to "Happy, undeserving A", then changes to
Pooh-Bah (singing the middle line) for "If I were fortune".

And                    had this to say: Did someone really dare to criticise this number? For shame!
I agree with Aaron and Jeff that it's tops. Apart from the catchy music, and excellent staging
possibilities, it is notable for a string of wittily and original (I think) Gilbertianisms. I recall many
years ago, when a totalisator jackpot betting system got introduced into our local horse racing
scene, one of our newspapers ran a set of 4-5 cartoons, over the words: "See how the nags their
gifts jackpot, for A is happy, B is not, Yet B...etc." I thought it was hilarious, and wondered at the
time how many readers would have recognised the quotation. However,                            chimed in:
I don't much care for "See how the fates," for a couple of reasons. First, I dislike the A,B,C
gimmick that Gilbert turned to with tedious frequency in his later librettos. After its appearance
in Mikado, we have "D may be dull and E's very thick skull..." and "Both A and B rehearsal
slight..." and probably other examples that my befogged brain isn't retrieving at the moment.
Second, I've never understood the logic behind the A/B model, or who sings what. Who are A
and B supposed to represent? Why would Katisha respond, to the question "Is B more worthy?":
"I should say / He's worth a great deal more than A?" This view makes her agree with Pooh-Bah,
Ko-Ko and Pitti-Sing that "B should enjoy A's happy lot"? Do the trio (P,P,K) and the duet
(M,K) differ in their interpretation of who A and B represent? Does Katisha think that "B" is
worthy of more prosperity than A because SHE is "B"? When I played Katisha myself, I found
her position in this number completely bewildering. The music, I acknowledge, is pleasing, and
structurally a quintet is desirable at this point in the opera.               added: In a production
about 8 years ago, we tried the expedient of having Pish-Tush hang signs around the necks of
Katisha (a Japanese-looking capital A) and Ko-Ko (a similar "B"). Katisha was slightly to stage
right of the Mikado, who was center, and the three "B"'s (with Ko-Ko in the middle) in a group to

                                                   23
stage left of Mikado. This made everything intelligible for the audience, and it worked fine. I also
like the music, but have to admit it's not among G & S's very finest ensembles.

And                     added: I too have never cared a lot for "See how the fates." I don't dislike it,
and there's nothing wrong with it; it just has the misfortune to come right after several brilliant
numbers ("The criminal cried" seems to me one of Gilbert's best lyrics--even the "throwaway"
lines "He always tries to utter lies, and every time he fails" and "he speaks the truth whenever he
finds it pays" strike me not only as funny but perfect for the characterization of Ko-Ko and Pooh-
Bah) and before a show-stopper. I think that's the same reason I've never cared a lot for "Oh
living I." If these songs were in Sorcerer or Utopia, I'd probably like them better. But
           observed; Interesting: I much prefer "See How the Fate" to " the Criminal Cried" I think
Criminal is set up weakly from a dramatic standpoint, or rather, it is not fleshed out much.
Anyway, JMOHO.                       ventured this: I haven't dared to study the questionable algebra
of "See how the fates". It probably makes perfect Gilbertian sense. As for his penchant for such
things, perhaps it was a fashionable idiom at the time to refer to hypothetical people in such a
way. I hope so. I, too, find it rather weak, and I naturally assume that WSG knows better than I.

                   mused: Musically I think it's a gem, but I agree that the words are puzzling. the
Mikado's opening quatrain could be just a general observation, and a perfectly true (not to say
banal) one - some people are more prosperous than others, and prosperity has no relationship to
merit. But WHY does Katisha come in so dramatically with "I should say he's worth a great deal
more than A"?? If the Mikado's verse is not a generalisation but has a specific reference, then the
only POSSIBLE meaning is that "A" is himself and Katisha, and "B" KK, PB and PS. And later
on, the reference is made quite explicit with "But condemned to die is he". Katisha can't
realistically think they are more worthy than she is, and presumably not even she would venture
to suggest that they're more worthy than her Emperor. Anybody got an explanation for this one?

                   mused: I suspect this is yet another example of my theory that Gilbert's
dramatic situations often hinge upon differences between strict interpretation of The Law and
more flexible Equity jurisdiction. Katisha is certainly a representative of strict interpretation.
Once the problem has been defined as "Fate ordains: A is happy. B, though worthy, is not." her
course of action is clear. The Mikado's verse a generalization. The Law must subscribe
unhesitatingly to this generalization. B is a great deal more worthy than A because that is how the
case has been defined in Law (and Fate) and A must prevail. Questions of Equity, such as "But
B more worthy?" must be violently rejected for to do is to cede ground to the Equity notions of
fairness and looking at the facts of each case. Note, however, that Gilbert has already introduced
an additional legal joke into the song (and we haven't even gotten through the first verse!) Ko-
Ko, Pooh-Bah and Pitti-Sing are making an Equity argument on behalf of A and B, yet A and B
not real people but complete abstractions! (To go a step further, this heated argument is advanced
by fictional characters.) Now KP&P attempt to redefine the problem in terms that M&K will
accept. They turn the case on its head by redefining the worthiness of A and B. M&K, suspecting
an Equity trick, ask whether, given the newly defined facts of the case, KP&P will insist upon
strict application of The Law (Fate). No, because KP&P are using Equity theory to serve their
own self-interests (as M&K use The Law to serve self interests.) Equity will only be used to
advance B if they are defined as B. Now M&K have sniffed out the logical flaw behind KP&P's
attempt to remove the case to Equity and destroyed it. So the case lapses into The Law, where
wretched meritorious B is condemned to die. I find Gilbert's lyrics to this number are among his
most subtle and ingenious. He may have used letters to designate characters elsewhere ("Oh, A
Private Buffoon") but he never played with so many levels of reality. He seems here to anticipate
20th Century writers who play with perceptions of reality. Thank you for forcing me to analyze
and understand my instinctive love of this particular number.

                                                   24
              offered this: This is my interpretation of that, and, the way that I played it:

The Mikado intends to define A as himself/Katisha and PS, PB and KK as B. Katisha, seeing
herself as worthy and unhappy over NP's demise, defines herself (mistakenly) as B. Then the trio
comes in, following the Mikado's lead and defining themselves as B and, IMHO, Katisha as A.
But, of course, no one is 100% sure of who is who, so the trio has to redefine themselves as B at
the end of their verse. And                     observed: It seems as though performers have a hard
time fitting questions of motivation and identity into 'See how the Fates their gifts allot'. I'm not
sure that audience members feel the same difficulty. After all, the text of the quintet is more or
less a standard theme in moral philosophy (down, no doubt, to the references to individuals by
letters). There is rather more of a lyrical touch to it, thanks to the quaffing, chaffing, and so forth.
Still, the idea would readily have come from ethics text (or, for that matter, a sermon) with 'B'
being Boethius. (Finding the ethics text would take a little more work.) If the song were to have
been put in Princess Ida, it would be just another pseudo-academic exercise and weigh it down
further. Among the lightness of The Mikado, it is reminiscent of other songs giving a certain
academic seriousness in the midst of sunshine (e.g., the Quintet 'Try we life-long' in Gondoliers).
That doesn't help Katisha's difficulty in sounding convincing in asserting B's value relative to A,
but it may suggest that the audience is not in need of another conviction.              surmised: For
me (as for Thomas Drucker), the use of "A" and "B" in "See How the Fates" suggests not algebra
but moral philosophy. Didn't G. E. Moore, a moral philosopher writing at Cambridge (UK) about
the turn of the century, use such a scheme in his Principia Ethica? That would be Gilbert's era.

3.3.6 Braid the raven hair

               observed: In our production of The Mikado, by the way, we gave the solo in "Braid
the raven hair" to Peep-Bo. This arrangement seems to me superior to that in the opera as written.
Not only does it give that soloist a little more to do, but the solo strikes me as much more in
keeping with Peep's character. Her few lines of dialog suggest that she's much more catty and
manipulative than the good-natured and ebullient Pitti-Sing.                      noted: A very
interesting observation, with which I agree. In the "Lytton" recording, this solo is given to Peep-
Bo (Beatrice Elburn), though this may have been purely accidental, depending on what singers
were available for which sessions. But I have always felt that the only reason Pitti-Sing has so
much more to do than Peep-Bo is because Jessie Bond was a much better performer than Sybil
Grey.


3.4 Influenced Puccini?

              wrote: I seem to recall reading somewhere, that at the time when Puccini was
composing Madama Butterfly, he vouchsafed to one of his friends that Sullivan's scoring of
'Japanese' music was so inspired that he (Puccini) could learn from it. It certainly seems to be a
matter of record that Puccini had a copy of 'Mikado' in his musical library, and they both appear
to have used the tune of 'Miya Sama' in their respective scores.                replied: This rings
true. Both were superb orchestrators, and although Sullivan was writing for a much smaller
orchestra, Puccini could have felt as reported. Sullivan's full orchestral score was, by the time of
Madama Butterfly's composition, in print - although it's unclear from your message precisely
what form of score Puccini was supposed to have had in his library. I suspect it was a piano-
vocal score, which wouldn't have provided the kind of information Puccini could have used as to
details of orchestration. The full score was a limited edition of 75 copies. It's nice to think that
Puccini may have been able to consult one of them.

                                                   25
3.5 Chorine Tribulations

          wrote: I am a lyric soprano of adequate ability, which means that I usually sing in the
chorus. I will happily sing chorus for most G&S shows, even Pinafore and especially Pirates or
Yeomen or Ruddigore. But Mikado! Herewith are my objections, from the chorine's POV, to
Mikado:

     All the best music ("I Am So Proud," "Beauty in the Bellow of the Blast," the madrigal,
      etc.) happens when we are off stage. Sure, we can hang out in the wings and enjoy it, same
      as the audience, but it's not the same.
     We have to sing "Three Little Maids." I know, I know, TLM is one of the most beloved of
      all G&S numbers ( highlights CD has it), but I loathe it. Its CP is enormous and it's
      redundant because everything it tells us is expressed elsewhere, to wit:
      1. Yum-Yum is leaving school and coming to marry Ko-Ko (Pish-Tush's dialogue);
      2. The young girls are innocent of the ways of the world ("Comes a Train of Little Ladies");
      3. They are also silly hoydens ("Oh Please You, Sir"). Cut it and you loose nothing, except
             that the audience would lynch you during intermission.
     We are expected to act stupider than usual in order to satisfy the stereotype that's being
      satirized.
     We are usually forced to carry Japanese-style parasols or fans or both. I'm 5'7, so I'm
      usually one of the tallest of the women's chorus. During Mikado rehearsals and
      performances I'm in constant danger from the wood & paper props. In Pirates we wear
      mobcaps during the second act. No one's ever hit me in the face with a mobcap.

If I lived in a town that didn't have a G&S society, only the annual Mikado society, sure, I'd sign
up. Even the worst Gilbert & Sullivan (which Mikado isn't) is better than no Gilbert & Sullivan -
god forbid. And if Gillian Knight were performing, I'd buy a ticket every weekend. And I love
the dialogue.                replied: I strongly disagree. "Three little maids" was obviously
intended to be a sharp, surprising contrast to the chorus that precedes it. It's a transition between
old-fashioned and modern young women right in front of the audience. The chorus portrays
innocence but the trio that follows is supposed to show the opposite. Silly hoydens? Perhaps, but
we need to know this as soon as we meet the three principal girls.

And               replied thus: I respectfully but urgently disagree with your contention that "all
the best music" in Mikado happens when the [female] chorus is offstage. You are thus
discounting:

    So please you sir (a number which, in my experience, the women's chorus loves to sing).
    With joyous shout - absolutely magnificent and exciting music to sing.
    For he's going to marry Yum-Yum.
    Act I Finale closing chorus, culminating in "We do not hear their dismal sound" -
     Sullivan's answer to Meistersinger, and way up on the spine-tingling chart.
    Entrance of the Mikado and My object all sublime.
    Act II Finale, wherein the chorus gets to reprise two of the best of the Act I Finale.
No, my dear Leta - if you find this dull, I submit to you the fault is not with Sullivan (or Gilbert).

              replied to this: Agreeing with THBM, I have to chime in and add "Criminal Cried".



                                                  26
           replied: One of the many benefits I receive from Savoynet is the chance to have some of
my more fat-headed opinions revised after input from the more learned members of the group.
(No, I am not being sarcastic; I really mean it.) You're quite right - the music in the two finales is
terrific and I do enjoy "With Joyous Shout" very much. My mistake. On the other hand, I still
disagree with some of what you've said. "So Please You Sir," for instance is a great number and
women's choruses often enjoy singing it - in the context of Mikado. It's lively, it's fun, and the
tra-la-las stop just this side of being giggles. But I bet that if you gather together a women's
chorus and give them the entire canon of women's chorus music from which to pick for general
singing, it will be quite some time before "So Please You Sir" gets mentioned. (Some numbers
from Iolanthe will be sung twice before you get to it, in fact.) Perhaps I should have made clearer
that I was speaking only from my experience as a chorine. As an audience member for Mikado I
enjoy the whole show. In fact, the next time you music direct it, let me know and I'll come up
from Maryland to see it. And I'll leave the theater whistling all the airs. Of course, now "So
Please You Sir" is stuck in my head. Thanks Bruce. Thanks a lot. And Dan - the point you
outlined had never occurred to me. And it's a good one, too, especially since subtext is one of
those things I get all excited about. I'll have to think about it and (oh dear), possibly withdraw my
objection. Sigh. Of course, I notice that no one has rushed up to defend the experience of being
hit in the face with parasols. Hmmmm.




                                                  27
4. The Libretto

4.1 One Catalogue too Many?

                 asked: Am I the only Savoyard who thinks that TWO songs that catalogue the
people disliked by the singer is ONE song too many for a single opera?                      replied:
A certain W.S. Gilbert felt as you do, and wanted to cut one of them just before the opening, but
was dissuaded by the company. And                      : This never occurred to me before. I think
Princess Ida has Mikado beat for catalogs of dislikes, but I am counting the Ape song which isn't
really a catalog. I have certainly never used this as a criterion of any judgement of a given work.


4.2 Yam - A vegetable or Not?

                wondered: When Yum-Yum sings "and for yam I should get toko" what does
'yam' mean? 'Toko' of course means punishment (from the Hindu), but can 'yam' mean something
other than a vegetable?


4.3 No Minstrel He

                    confessed: This has been bugging me for years. During the Act I finale, when
Katisha tries to "unmask" Nanki-Poo, why do all the Chorus members try to silence her? I
understand Nanki-Poo's motivation and Yum-Yum's motivation to want his father being the
Mikado kept secret. But why the chorus? This trashes the idea that Gilbert's choruses were real
people, not just parrots of refrains. Real people would want to hear this secret. Any ideas?
         replied: Very simple: Yum- Yum squawks, "Ah-hah! I know!" The one action that Yum-
Yum takes (the only intelligent one, if you ask me) in the entire show is, assumably after having
this epiphany, is to quickly get the chorus to shout "Oni bikkuri shakurito!" And
replied: What often happens at this point is that Yum-Yum rushes about telling the chorus to
interrupt. I can see your point that the average villager would be keen to hear exciting
revelations. But I have always taken this moment to be a satisfying example of small-town
solidarity against those interfering b-----s from the capital.

As did                  : Good point, but I can think of two reasons the chorus would interrupt
Katisha:

1. She has probably antagonized them, and the female chorus are friends of Yum-Yum, so they'd
      do what she wants them to.
2. More important, and supremely logical: if they DON'T interrupt her, the opera ends (and joins
      Trial as the only G&S one-acter), and the chorus will cease to exist.

And                 suggested: Nanki-Poo & Yum-Yum are nice young people, while Katisha is a
terrifying harridan. Why should not the people of the town take side with personable, amenable
folk? Of course, their hearts should break when she voices her lament, but, well, short shrift to
her till then.

              offered this: I saw an effective technique wherein the reason the crowd shouted
down Katisha is that Nanki-Poo and Num-Num started passing out money to the crowd right
after Num-Num squawked "Ah-hah! I know!". I can't think of any other reason that they might
help her out.                observed: Real people do not sing in choruses, at least not on my

                                                 28
street corner. Also, despite its obvious plot necessity, I can convince myself that Yum-Yum
knows how to work a crowd and appeal to mob rule when necessary.                            twitted:
You must forgive them; they're all quite mad. Quite. But don't worry, they're under treatment for
it. And              chimed in: It's also within the realm of possibility that the townspeople know
perfectly well what Katisha is trying to tell them, but want to avoid her actually being able to say
that she tell them. Ever hear of avoiding being served with a subpoena?


4.4 Ko-Ko's Promotion

                    wrote: I have just been reading through The Mikado in preparation for
producing it as our school musical and I noticed that there are two reasons given for Ko-Ko's rise
to Lord High Executioner. In Pish-Tush's song "Our Great Mikado" he explains that Ko-Ko is let
out on bail because he is next to be condemned, and therefore could not cut anyone else's head
off until he remove his own... implying that relief was given to the town, as no one else could be
executed for flirting. In the dialogue that follows, it is explained by Pooh-Bah, that the Mikado
being quite logical could not see any difference between the judge who condemns and the
"industrious mechanic" who carries out the sentence", and therefore rolled the two offices into
one. It would seem that Sullivan and Gilbert were following slightly different aspects of the plot.
                  replied: Surely Pooh-Bah explains how the post of Lord High Executioner came
to be established in the first place, and Pish-Tush explains how Ko-Ko came to hold it? The two
explanations are not contradictory - they refer to different accents.            observed; I agree
with Derrick. The implication of Pooh-Bah's "It is" speech, is that just as there are also circuit
judges (lesser ones, for those who don't know the English judicature), there are also circuit
executioners. Now why wasn't one of those given the job of beheading those flirters on Death
Row? I think their ranks must also have been filled from amongst those condemned to die. We
know only the story of the most famous of them.

4.5 The Kaishaku

          wrote: This is another of the minor errors that can be found throughout Mikado - not
that they detract from its enjoyment ! Japan did have appointed executioners, but they were
usually tanners. The " industrious mechanic" who carried out the sentence was usually a close
friend or relative of the condemned, chosen for his skill with the sword. This gentleman, for the
post of Kaishaku was that of such rank, did the deed. Although decapitation was commonly used
for the lower classes as well as the upper, there is no record of the 'boiling oil or lead' being used
on anyone; as Ko-Ko was by decree a gentleman, he would have been offered hara kiri (as would
have the other two), which usually ended with decapitation. Pitti-Sing would have been allowed
to save her honor by cutting her throat, rather than disembowelling herself, before being bisected.
(               drily interjected: Not to mention being divisible into three!) Customs of execution
in Japan are detailed in a scholarly work, "The Book of Execution," by Geoffrey Abbott, a retired
Yeoman Warder.

4.6 A pessimistic little train?

[During the OOTW discussion of Princess Ida                           made passing reference to the
words of Comes a train of little ladies and elicited the following reply from]                    :
Andrew, I don't agree that the lyrics of "Comes a train of little ladies" are "essentially
pessimistic": to "IS it but a world of trouble?" the answer could easily be "No, it's not!" And look
what follows in the opera: three of that very "train of little ladies" asserting the most joyously
optimistic outlook imaginable! No, "Comes a train..." does not express pessimism but wide-eyed

                                                  29
wonder, a hint of apprehension (natural on stepping for the last time out of the school gates into
the big world), and a delighted response to the beauty and joy that there IS in the said big world.
To which            replied: I see your point.... But notice that all their questions point the same
way. They don't ask, "But on the other hand, could the world be a much jollier place, and the
glory of its treasures exactly what it seems to be?" They're toying with this mood of callow
disillusionment - though admittedly they're nowhere near as far gone as Ida. The fact that they're
inclined to dance and sing isn't incompatible with the idea that they're also inclined to cynicism.
I'm sure flesh-and-blood parallels could be found.




                                                 30
5. The characters

5.1 Katisha

              wrote: I have to say that Katisha is the funniest and most interesting of all G&S
ladies - she also gets all the best tunes!


5.2 Nanki-Poo

[ARCHIVIST'S HEALTH WARNING - NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED: There follows a very
long discussion on whether or not Nanki-Poo should be considered the villain of the piece. This
is a question on which strong opinions are held and these were fortrightly expressed and argued
over in the discussion. Of course, if you have strong views on this question the discussion is a
must however, if it has never even remotely occurred to you that Nanki-Poo is anything but the
Romantic Lead and one of the all time Good Guys, then read on and be prepared to experience a
completely different world view.....]

                   wrote in response to 1.2 above: Wet seems the perfect word to describe Nanki-
Poo. Anodyne and utterly unmemorable. To me, Alexis wet - unpleasant, of course, but at least
he's got character. Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum remind me somewhat of Hero and Philia in A
Funny Thing Happened On The Way to The Forum - who were, I believe, deliberately designed
to be utterly boring and, yes, "wet".

                   indignantly asked: What IS this perverse streak that makes some Netters
describe Nanki-Poo as "the villain of the piece"?? [See David Craven in section 1.7] What's
villainous about him, for Heaven's sake? In the realm of high drama, that word is applied to Iago
or Richard III: presumably nobody thinks Nanki-Poo resembles them. In the realm of light opera,
it might perhaps be applied to Kecal or Dr Falke. What has Nanki-Poo done to deserve
classification with even that company? He flees the court rather than marry Katisha - what's
wrong with that? He hadn't made any promise to her. If a man is faced with the choice of (A)
marrying a Gorgon, (B) getting his head chopped off, or (C) running away, he surely doesn't have
to be a villain to choose the last. He persuades Ko-Ko to marry Katisha (I assume this is what
David means by "letting others pay for his mistakes while he goes off in bliss and joy"). OK, but
Ko-Ko has only TWO choices - marry Katisha or boiling oil and melted lead. Nanki-Poo gives
him an escape by suggesting the easier alternative - that's not villainous, surely? And what
"mistakes" of Nanki-Poo's are "others" paying for? He hasn't made any mistakes at all: he's
"succeeded in all he does", and left everybody rejoicing. Have some sense, David!

             replied to this: In all fairness, Nanki-Poo does not make these suggestions for Ko-
Ko's own good, but to get Katisha out of the picture. Nanki-Poo leaves it not only to Ko-Ko, but
to Pooh-Bah (who is always getting his oars entangled into things) and Pitti-Sing to cover his
tracks. Come to think of it, it isn't Nanki-Poo that is willing to face Katisha, but Pitti-Sing!
Hence, in comparison, Nanki-Poo is among the three bad-doers in the show.

As did                 : It is all relative. In terms of Light Opera, Nanki-Poo is a villain of the first
order, up there with "the greatest villain unhung" Col Fairfax (and no other) and the arrogant
ignorant blue blood Alexis Poindexter. What has Nanki-Poo done? I will explain. Fleeing the
court is the first of his many sins. Whether or not it was just, Nanki-Poo is under a legal
obligation to marry Katisha. Many marriages in history have been made among heads of state for

                                                   31
dynastic or other purposes which have little, if anything to do with love. In this case the Mikado
COULD have made an exception for his son, but to do so would have created the presumption
that the Mikado and his family are above the law. The greater good was served by this marriage,
and Nanki-Poo, for his own selfish reasons, chose to risk the greater good for his own personal
comfort.               suggested: What Nanki-Poo has done is to choose to have a life, and at no
one's expense, not even Katisha's, since her "claim" on him was false.

               replied to this: I am sorry. I really don't see how we "know" that the claim was
false. We have a Monarch who is very very scrupulous about following the law. He won't even
exempt his own son or parties to whom the administration of the law would be unfair. He is, in
many ways, a literalist. As such, is it not equally reasonable that he would examine Katisha's
claim and, UNDER THE LAW OF THE MIKADO, determine its validity. The claim might not
be "fair" in a 20th (or even 19th) Century Western way. It might not be Just... but there is no
reason to suspect that it is "false".

                continued: Fairfax was obviously cavalier and cruel, and Alexis was a great
idealistic and selfish moron. All Nanki-Poo wants is to live and love, and not to inflict his views
or attitudes upon others. What is going on here with all this N-P bashing? Why begrudge a nice
princely young guy his chance to be happy? I can't believe that WSG would ever have intended
such revisionist attitudes of villainy to apply to Nanki-Poo. This is all the more curious to me
because most of the characters in The Mikado are truly unsympathetic; they are about as cold-
blooded as WSG ever created. But N-P is practically the exception: he's a hell of a nice guy, and
he is surrounded by people whose agendas are far less agreeable than his own. Everyone else is
on the take or on the make or around the bend or whatever-----but Crown Prince Nanki-Poo just
wants to live and let live. To which                 had this to say: Yes. That is the twist. The
villain is the apparently nice guy who is twisting the knife, ever so kindly to get his way. Heroes
don't have to be likeable guys... in fact heroes are often rather lousy people from the Greek hero
Heracles who killed his music tutor for daring to correct him, who killed his wife Megara and
their children, his fiend Iphitus.. to War heroes who outside of the military are drunks and wife
beaters. And some of history's great mass murderers have been "nice quite guys". Don't be fooled
by outward appearances.

                replied: But Nanki-Poo is just not a villain. I'll (grudgingly) grant that he broke his
father's law, but this in itself doesn't make him so much a villain as perhaps an opportunist who
happens to be very much in love with someone who loves him. In his pursuit of happiness, he
upsets Katisha quite some and no little, but I would claim that she is the villain for pursuing and
persecuting a guy who clearly doesn't want her, and she then enlists the law of the land to try to
force him into a loveless relationship. She's been around the planet about 20 years longer than N-
P, so she had at least a two-decade head start to corral someone other than the Crown Prince who
she virtually blackmails. Who can blame Nank-Poo? Just suppose any of us were grossly
misunderstood and then pursued (in the courts) by an unrelenting harridan? If N-P had given in
to Katisha's demands, would he THEN be a hero, and K the villain? Putting WSG aside for a
moment, and quite seriously, a contract for a lifetime relationship is pretty important and is not to
be undertaken lightly or without some thought of what the future will bring. If we believe this,
then let's look at WSG again, at Nank-Poo, and figure out why he should sign up for a miserable
life because if he doesn't, then we'll all call him a villain. Relationships at best are tough. It is not
villainy to try and create one that gives promise of being mutually satisfying. If we begrudge this
of N-P, then we really do NOT wish him happiness and good fortune.

              , returning to the original thread, asked: How is the greater good served by this
marriage? Katisha is not a foreign royal of a country that Japan is at war with, or any other

                                                   32
diplomatic necessity. She is a lady of the court, and the only good that will be done is that the
Mikado keeps her, and maybe her family happy. Now the director can interpret the events prior
to the show any way he wants to (including, as suggested here, a pregnant Katisha), but there's
nothing in the script to show a larger, more important purpose.           answered with: I suggest
that this is, in fact, grounded in the script. The Mikado makes it very clear when he agrees that
the law is unfair (thereby ordering the deaths of Pitti et al) that he must follow the law as written.
Nanki engaged in some conduct which resulted in the imposition of a legal burden upon him - he
was legally obligated to marry Katisha. To exempt Nanki-Poo from this law, merely because he
was the son of the ruler, would result in a government of men, not laws. (In fact, many would
argue that much of the present problems in DC arise out of various members of the government
acting as if the laws do not apply to them) A key ingredient to a proper social order is that laws
must apply fully and fairly to everyone. Nanki-Poo, however, does not want to follow this rule....
and much like the punishment for Chelsea Clinton for smoking Marijuana (not that she ever
would) must be firm and strong, so to must be the enforcement of the law on Nanki-Poo. He may
not like it, it may not be "fair" (in a 20th century shifting values way), but it is correct. And for
him to avoid his legal obligations is, if not villainous, at least Cravenly.

               asked: Where does this legal obligation appear in the libretto? I confess that I
cannot find it. And               observed: It must be a legal obligation, or else the Mikado
would not have come along with Katisha to reclaim Nanki-Poo etc. But                     reckoned
that: This doesn't compute, as they say. The Mikado may just have gotten so sick of Katisha that
he made the trip in order to shut her up. It was perhaps a family problem, but I don't yet see the
legal connection.

      replied: Nanki-Poo states:

      "She misconstrued my customary affability into expressions of affection and
      CLAIMED me in marriage, UNDER MY FATHER'S LAW. My father.... ordered me
      to marry her".

In other words, Katisha made a claim before the appropriate legal authority (the Mikado) and the
appropriate legal authority issued an order. We may dispute whether the legal authority was
CORRECT in making this decision, but that does not alter the fact that such order was made.
This is a legal obligation. For example if you sued me for slander on the grounds that I had
unfairly sullied Mr. Poo's reputation and the judge issued an order in your favor, I would not be
free to ignore the order. The order from the court, whether in fact the judge had any real basis
(for the judge ignored the basic fact that Mr. Poo, like an honest lawyer or politician is an
imaginary character), would be a legal obligation unless and until it was either satisfied or
overturned by a higher legal authority and in Katisha v. Poo the opinion is from the highest
(earthly) authority and not subject to appeal. Courts in the US have issued stupid orders which
have been overturned by higher courts.... but violate one of those stupid orders, even if
subsequently overturned, and you will still have trouble. It is the difference between a system
governed by the rule of law and a system governed by the rule of a mob. To which
admitted: You are right. Mea culpa.

      continued his original argument: (While this may seem trivial, think of a War. The general
must send someone out to face near certain death in order to save the army. If this person thinks
like Nanki-Poo, he will not take the risk, resulting in the loss of the army or even the country.)
Acting for one's personal benefit in lieu of the greater good is villainy. At which
observed: It is the job of the General to go fight enemies (his personal life has almost no
bearing.) Maybe you can argue that's its the job of the prince to marry whoever his father tells

                                                  33
him to, but marriage is highly intimate, and its for life. To this   noted: Historically, it has
been one of the jobs of Royalty... even within G&S... we have several examples, the most
prominent of which are the Crown Prince of Barataria and the Daughter of the Duke of Plaza-
Toro and the Daughter of King Gama and Crown Prince Hilarion. At this point
observed: But Gilbert and Sullivan's monarch had made a very public "love match" which kind
of influenced things later on for royal marriages. The Crown Prince of Barataria (Luiz) and the
Daughter of the Duke of Plaza-Toro (Casilda) were kind of nuts about each other even before
Luiz knew he was the Crown Prince, so this pair wasn't exactly unhappy about the end
arrangement anyway. (Okay, if Nanki-Poo is running around in disguise as a "second trombone"
and Luiz (unknowingly "in disguise") is "His Grace's Private Drum", are there enough G&S
Crown Princes for a whole band?)

           asked: How old is Katisha anyway? What if Nanki-Poo wants kids? To which            had
this to say: His father made the determination, and in any event, if Katisha is really THAT old,
then it is probable that Nanki-Poo can take a child bride when he is much older... one of his own
choosing. After all Henry VIII had several wives of his own choosing.

       continued his original argument: Nanki-Poo, when it is discovered that a number of people
are to be executed, but that he can stop the execution merely be revealing that he is alive, refuses
to do so. A "hero" certainly would be willing to give up his life for the life of others. (Witness the
heroes in wartime who dive on grenades) Is it the act of a villain? Well it is at least cravenly. To
which           : He's already married Yum-Yum at this point. Anything along those lines would
affect her too. As NP himself points out: Nanki-Poo: Katisha claims me in marriage, but I can't
marry her because I'm married already - consequently she will insist on my execution, and if I'm
executed, my wife will have to be buried alive. But          observed: And he is deciding that the
lives of two are worth more than the lives of at least three.... in any event, Nanki-Poo can go and
face his death with honor, while Yum-Yum can run away.

      continued his original argument: He is prepared to marry Yum-Yum in full knowledge that
she will be buried with him upon his execution. In other words, he is willing to throw away
another's life for a month of PERSONAL bliss.             asked; Which time do you mean? At the
end of the first act, he doesn't know that Yum-Yum would be buried alive. (        : I suspect that
he does know this.) Ko-Ko tells them this in Act 2, where he lets Yum-Yum go. He doesn't
marry her until Ko-Ko tells them both to leave in safety.

       continued his original argument: Alternatively, if he believes that the punishment will not
be implemented once his true identity is disclosed, then he is engaged in manipulation to serve
his own pleasure, without regard to the horrible consequences to the Town of Titipu... which will
be demoted in rank.             remarked: Huh? He left home in the first place because he knew
that he was not exempt from his father's law. To which           replied: As administered by his
father - not by lesser mortals. Nanki-Poo shows a disregard for the law, and would undoubtedly
use his position of power to convince those with less power than his father to let him off. (Much
like a Supreme Court Justice here in Illinois who reputedly flashed his judicial id card to get out
of various and sundry traffic stops.) I suspect that Pish-Tush would give in, after all, ALL of the
officials in town (Pooh-Bah) have shown a susceptibility to corruption.

        continued his original argument: With regard to Ko-Ko and Katisha, he is forcing Ko-Ko,
AT THE THREAT OF DEATH, to do what he, Nanki-Poo has refused to do. Does Ko-Ko shirk
his duties by running off (in a Nanki-Poo like fashion)? No. He is a true man, willing to face the
consequences of his actions. And             : Well, what I said about forced marriage for Nanki-
Poo also applies to forced marriage for Ko-Ko. But Ko-Ko has duties of his own that he shirks.

                                                  34
            NP: Very well, then - behead me.
            Ko: What, now?
            NP: Certainly, at once.
            Ko: ...I can't kill anybody!

Although, this is not such a bad fault, come to think of it. But anyway.        pointed out: And
Ko-Ko is not being asked to perform his duties at the proper time and place. Merely because Ko-
Ko is the executioner, does not give him power to perform executions except at the designated
time and place. (For example, if Ko-Ko, the tower of London's designated headsman) were to
sneak into Col. Fairfax's cell the night before the scheduled execution and cut off his head, it is
likely that Ko-Ko would be charged with and convicted of premeditated murder....) In this case,
Nanki-Poo is surprising Ko-Ko with an unreasonable and unexpected demand. At some point
during the time period Ko-Ko might well have gotten his nerve up. But Mr. Manipulator cannot
wait until then and must control everything.

        continued his original argument: The fact that everything turns out well is not fully
relevant. It certainly had nothing to do with Nanki-Poo's actions. Based on Ko-Ko's conduct, I
suspect that had Nanki-Poo not turned up, Ko-Ko, being the honorable man that he is, would
have eventually cut off his own head. That his passing would have been noted in the papers and
mourned by his family (and maybe, just maybe, a little bit by Yum-Yum). That time would have
passed in the town. That Yum-Yum would have married Pish-Tush and the town would have
settled down to as normal a life as possible in a town in a country with a leader with as bizarre a
sense of humor as the Mikado. In time, the Mikado would have died and the new Mikado, Nanki-
Poo (with his wife Katisha) would have risen to power and the lives of the people would have
been improved... (although that does not make a very good show.)                insisted: But this
way Ko-Ko lives, Peep-Bo can have Pish-Tush, and Nanki-Poo can still rise to power with a
determined wife. Pooh-Bah and Pitti-Sing can be the powers behind the throne, Titipu stays a
town, and Ko-Ko gets to live a life of ease (maybe. How long does Katisha hold grudges?) To
which           had this to say: And social morals breakdown. Pish-Tush is arrested for ordering
the cover-up of the break-in of the opposing political parties headquarters and Pooh-Bah is
eventually forced to resign after he and his wife are found to improperly been involved in a land
scheme... all because the placing of a man, Nanki-Poo, above the law, resulted in a loss of
respect for the law.

                  wrote: I concur with most everything that David says in this regard. But I would
like to take this point further - in fact, all is not at all well in the state of Titipu. Though (for the
time being) Titipu is out of danger and Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum are together, what about
Katisha and Ko-Ko? Does it really turn out well for either of them? There is no evidence in the
libretto that Katisha is pleased with things by the end of the opera. Is Ko-Ko? Well, that depends
on the interpretation - has Ko-Ko REALLY been in love with Katisha all this time (an
interpretation one could use) or has he been tricked into it by Nanki-Poo?

My guess as to why Nanki-Poo showed up in the first place was a) for the finale and b) because
Yum-Yum dragged him back to save her fellow ward, Pitti-Sing, from death! He has no reason
other reasons to show his face. As far as the potential greater good as a result of the marriage of
Nanki-Poo and Katisha, I don't know what the basis for the marriage was, so I won't fight that
battle.

                       observed: I think this discussion is getting a bit out of hand. If you're going
to analyse all Gilbert's characters and judge them on their willingness to sacrifice themselves for

                                                    35
the greater good, you're going to have a pretty thin time of it, I think. One of the basic
assumptions in his comic plays is that everyone is looking out for Number One. (All right, all
right, there are exceptions - e.g. the horrible fate of J.W. Wells, but let's ignore those for the
moment.) Everyone in the world of The Mikado takes this as read. Everyone is in pursuit of
selfish desires (                 interjected here: Excuse me, for what selfish reason are Pitti-Sing
and Peep-Bo acting? Or, for that matter, Pish-Tush?) But                continued: - as is more or less
obligatory in farce - and the beauty lies in working out a way for these selfishness to coincide to
create a Happy Ending. How incredibly dull it would be if Pooh-Bah reminded Ko-Ko of his
public duty to execute people, and Ko-Ko, chastened, was recalled to his senses; if, in return, Ko-
Ko told Pooh-Bah to stop taking bribes and assuming multiple offices; if both, reformed
characters, ensured Nanki-Poo faced up to his civic responsibilities and married Katisha - etc.,
etc.

                  suggested that: Perhaps one's opinion of Nanki-Poo is something of a litmus test
of the opinion-holder. I have seen some pretty judgmental things said about him, his putative
obligations to a manipulative crone, his (God forbid!) desire to have some personal happiness. I
just don't get the obviously hidden agendas of the Poo-blasters because Nanki-Poo is never
unkind, sacrifices much to win the girl he loves, offers himself to Ko-Ko to be beheaded, - he is
nothing but charming and kind, fleeing the court of a tyrannical father and his daughter-in-law-
elect. He never vowed to marry Katisha; he was only polite to her. He never apparently argued
with his father. He spent quite a lot of time before pursuing Yum-Yum again. I'm sorry to be so
uncharitable to those who disagree with me, but I can't help but feel that only an unhappy or
frustrated person would twist this innocuous little story in order to begrudge Nanki-Poo his
chance for happiness.

                 observed that: The main point is, Nanki-Poo is the heir to the Chrysanthemum
Throne. This should be first and foremost in his mind. Private happiness is all well good, but
duty comes first to public people. And from Katisha's extremely haughty attitude, it can be
hypothesized that she is not ill-connected in the hierarchy of Japan. If she is snubbed, it is a lack
of face for her AND her entire family, possibly leading to civil war. So the Mikado is no fool,
and orders his son to marry the woman HOWEVER he has behaved, whether or not she has
misconstrued his affability, it is politically expedient to marry her. And that's why concubines
and second wives were invented!

And              made this impassioned plea to the inestimable and incomparable author of the
Thespis discography (set to a possibly recognizable tune):

      Oh, Mr. Schlotter, what's to be done?
      They're turning a wand'ring minstrel
      Into Lieutenant Pinkerton!
      This is comic opera, not Wagner, Freud, or Jung,
      Give us the Mikado, not Gotterdammerung.

              observed: If David Craven SERIOUSLY thinks N-P is a baddie on a par with
Alexis and particularly Fairfax, then he must be going off his chump. To which
replied: I guess so. For I feel that he truly is a baddie at least on a par with the aforementioned
cads. I think that what we may be experiencing is a case of "All About Eve-ness". (If you have
not seen this marvellous film, don't read this message as it will diminish the initial impact of the
film).

[You must now avert your eyes if you have not yet seen this great film!]

                                                  36
All About Eve, as you may remember presents the rise of a young girl through the Broadway
theatrical ranks. She is, at least very early in the film, portrayed as a sweet innocent young thing.
Yet her actual conduct is horrid and she quickly slashes her way to the top. Yet everything turns
out rather well for everyone. The playwright gets a new hit with a young star capable of doing his
work justice. The theater critic gets a new protégé. The young actress wins a Siddons award. The
old star gets her true love. And so on.... Yet the villain is CLEARLY Eve. In a similar fashion,
we have a very appealing character in Nanki-Poo. He is young and Handsome. He is in love with
the girl and the girl is in love with him. He spouts all sorts of platitudes about love and honor.
Everything turns out well at the end... yet if we really analyze the conduct, and are not taken in by
the external trappings... we see that he really is a disreputable cad of the first order. In fact, this is
one of the strengths of Gilbert. He is able to clothe his heroes and his villains in the garb of the
other in order to get the audience to misadjust their expectations. Some of his true heroes
(Katisha and Dick Deadeye to name two) are made to look like stereotypical villains while some
of the most vile characters (Alexis, Dauntless, Nanki-Poo, Fairfax) are given all of the outward
characteristics of heroes. Yes, I believe that Nanki-Poo is a villain, and I submit that the support
is present if we analyze his true conduct and are not fooled by the outward trappings. (For a more
current example, I am reminded of the Bloom County (a late lamented very left wing comic strip)
Episodes involving a space alien who looked like a cute puppy dog. He was quoted as saying that
he had come to destroy the earth.... but as he looked like a cute and friendly puppy dog, no one
viewed him as a threat.

             replied: Sorry, David, I still don't buy this. No, not even a little bit. Gilbert was
brilliant, an unsurpassed genius (IMO), but disguising N-P to to be a hero when he's actually the
villain of the piece? To use one of my least favourite anachronisms - give us a break! (And as for
Katisha being the heroine of the Mikado? I'm getting that old familiar ache about the
temples........) To which                quipped: Never fear, Nick... no one is arguing that Katisha
is the heroine. After all, as pointed out, the true heroine is Pitti-Sing. [See section 5.4 below.]
                    answered this with: From their own selfish points of view, the best thing they
can do is clearly to stay on the sidelines of the fraught and highly dangerous plot of The Mikado.
For this reason they submerge their characters almost completely, so that the casual observer
might suspect that they had very little character at all.... Pitti-Sing, however, isn't as good at this
as the others, and gets caught in the crossfire when the Mikado is spraying execution orders
about the place. Or something like that.                  replied: Excuse me. There is only one
scene, really, where Pitti-Sing goes to the sidelines where, logically, she could have some play,
and that is only because Gilbert has scripted her off-stage - the scene that prompts "I Am So
Proud". Pitti-Sing is constantly helping for the good of Yum-Yum & others through out the
show, proving she has little fear, for no selfish reasons whatsoever!

1)    She scouts out the "tremendous swell"
2)    She faces Katisha head on when Nanki-Poo is ready to run away - AGAIN - and Yum-Yum
      is quaking in her boots
3)    She gets the chorus riled up against Katisha BEFORE Yum-Yum even thinks of any kind
      of proactive "Ah-hah!"
4)    She leads the chorus for "Braid the Raven Hair" in honor of Yum-Yum
5)    In a very sweet manner, she tries to keep Peep-Bo from hurting Yum-Yum's feelings re:
      Nanki-Poo's beheading
6)    Pitti-Sing goes along with pulling the wool over the Mikado's eyes with "Criminal Cried"

How can you say she is in the sidelines?                       responded thus: Very easily. As to
why I said so, it was really just a desperate attempt to justify an opinion which I feared wouldn't

                                                   37
stand up to much examination - which was, if you remember, that all the characters in The
Mikado acted from entirely selfish motives. A former British Prime Minister (Wilson?) had this
very wise saying: "If you're in a hole, stop digging." I now propose to stop digging, and will
therefore not rack my brains trying to make Pitti-Sing seem more peripheral to the plot than she
is. Instead, let me reformulate my original theory about The Mikado: All the characters act from
selfish motives - except the ones who don't. I think that covers it.

And          had this to say to Nick: I am very sorry that you can not see it. To me, it is clear. I
know that I would not trust Nanki-Poo one bit in any kind of a crunch. He is likely to do what is
best for him and to h*** with the consequences for anyone else. And I think that it adds another
layer of colour to the show. Without this underlying streak of villainy, Mr. Poo is a pretty dull
character... and I don't think that he was intended to be dull. Would you at least concede that the
vast majority of Mr. Poo's actions are UN-heroic (Fleeing rather than facing a legal obligation,
manipulating someone into giving up something he deemed valuable to him, placing others in
deadly peril in order to save your own skin, forcing others to do what you yourself will not do)?
(              asked tartly: Do you think Nanky is related to Winnie the?)           continued
blithely: I think that Gilbert has clearly disguised the villains as the hero in a number of cases.
Fairfax and Alexis are two other prime examples. And I do not deny that it will not "work" the
other way, but I think that the show loses some of the bite which is clearly there.... and I think
that the All About Eve analogy makes a great deal of sense. Of course, all of this may well
revolve around how one defines the term "hero". PS And for the familiar ache - I would suggest a
dram of whisky followed by a restful night of sleep.                 observed: All About Eve is one
of my favourite films, and I thought the message was that Eve was lonely and unhappy at the end
(even though she won an award) thus not profiting from her evil ways - N-P, however, ends up
very happy indeed.

                   wrote: Really, David Craven has had me rolling amongst the "dust-bunnies"
here in my office. He has taken you all over the edge with his satiric assertions that Nanki-Poo's
behaviour patterns are villainous. David is an intelligent person who realizes that he is discussing
an imaginary character in the Victorian equivalent of a Broadway musical. He knows that no
character in G&S can or should be analyzed in the same fashion as Ibsen and/or Chekov. So, will
all of you please quit arguing with David so vehemently. It's a joke. Well, it is a joke; isn't it,
David? You don't really believe what you've been saying, do you? Please, you're not really that
far out-of-joint?

              lamented: If anyone needed evidence to highlight our cultural decadence, he or she
need look no further than the recent Nanki-Poo - as - villain thread on Savoynet. The wilful
twisting of a rather uncomplicated story, as found in The Mikado, into the psycho-babbling
nonsense we've seen here recently is typical of the kind of thinking going on at colleges and
universities - not to mention "cutting edge" thought in theatre. In the exciting new world of
academe, 2 + 2 do NOT equal 4, white is black (or chartreuse), good is evil, and so forth. Orwell
was right, he just got the date wrong.               offered this: I am not sure but isn't there a song
about this sort of thing in Haddon Hall? I can't imagine that grown-up people would undertake
the Nanki-Poo discussion seriously. But then the analysis and moping over Jack Point went on
endlessly. Agreed, he is a more serious character but the wailing was, to my mind, at least
excessive. It would be interesting to ascertain how many SavoyNetters are in High School. And
                    pointed out: My problem is, I agree with the main point - that Nanki-Poo can't
really be called a villain by any reasonable understanding of the conventions - but Bruce's terms
are so, um, forthright that I almost start to sympathise with the opposition. Gilbert is taking a
slight dig at the usual hero, as he so often did. Nanki-Poo is, I think, not very interesting as a


                                                  38
character - he's just a pastel-shaded cardboard cut-out who's convenient for the plot. But a
villain?? Oh, my reason totters on its throne! My head is swimming! Aargh! Aaargh!! Aaargh!!

And                rose to the bait: Cultural decadence? Psycho-babble? You have to be kidding.
If someone in real life were to behave like Mr. Poo, the FIRST people to complain would be the
conservative element and they would cite it as an example of the decadence of society. Lets look
at Nanki-Poo's conduct.

1.    He fled to avoid a legal obligation imposed by the legal authority in his country.(note: The
      question of whether the obligation is JUST is very much a current day issue.... and usually
      the right wing cite the failure to follow the letter of the law as cultural decadence. Now you
      are citing following the letter of the law as an example of cultural decadence. Which is it?
      It can't be both.... can it...) To which               replied: What was this legal obligation?
      Where is it stated in the libretto?
2.    He managed to turn the affections of an engaged woman away from her fiancee.
                observed: Yum-Yum apparently never had affection for Ko-Ko.
3.    He assisted in providing false documents to the government.                     asked: But
      exactly how did Nanki-Poo assist in providing the documents?

       continued: All of these are certainly examples of the breakdown of social values... and you
claim that the person who is the primary actor is a hero.... I suspect rather that you are calling
something names because you truly don't know how to engage in anything beyond a superficial
analysis. Or don't you have anything substantive to say beyond name calling. Give Gilbert some
credit, he did craft a "complicated story."

          wrote: I see the deal on Nanki somewhat differently. If, in fact, he flirted with Katisha,
he is ipso facto condemned, whether or not he marries the woman later on. So she must then be
looking only for revenge in her search for him. Now, since it is a well-known fact that married
men don't flirt, and that the flirting act doesn't apply to married men, Nanki should be completely
safe after he marries Yummy. Even if he should loose a non-connubial sigh in Katy's direction
(Buddha forbid !) he should be exempt from capital punishment. Except, possibly, at the hands
of YumYum.

                      opined: I still think some folk are making themselves look awful silly in this
thread, but just to keep it going for fun. A villain, on any showing, is somebody who acts
MALICIOUSLY - that is, he wilfully and deliberately seeks to harm others. In that sense (and
that IS the sense of the word), the ONLY villains in G'n'S are (A) Scaphio and Phantis,
unequivocally; (B) arguably Dick Deadeye, though there's the mitigating factor that his
motivation is basically honest; and (C) Richard Dauntless, though in the comic context in which
he operates it seems inappropriate to use as serious a word as "villain" of him. Now, regarding
Alexis, Nanki-Poo and Fairfax. First of all, they have nothing whatever in common, except that
they're tenors (and we can't call them villains on THAT account - they can't help it). Their
dramatic contexts are different: in The Sorcerer the comedy arises from the introduction of one
crazy element into an otherwise realistic setting; in The Mikado the entire dramatic situation is
one of comic lunacy; in Yeomen you have a romantic melodrama with no crazy or topsy-turvy
elements at all. Alexis is a figure of fun - the laughter is directed at him, for his besotted notions
about love and the fantastic step he takes to promulgate them. Nanki-Poo is a COMIC romantic
hero - his words and actions are funny because the whole play is funny, but he's not held up to
ridicule. Fairfax is a rather unsuccessful attempt at a SERIOUS romantic hero - a brave warrior
who faces vicissitudes with courage and wins through to love and happiness. NOT ONE of them
is guilty of malicious or wicked actions. Alexis is an ass (that means "donkey", norteamericanos,

                                                  39
not anything else), but his intentions are of the noblest - OK, we know what the road to Hell is
paved with, but a man who brings about disastrous results when acting from good motives is not
a villain. Nanki-Poo - well, to my mind the Nankiphobes who have been contributing to this
thread should be in the opera themselves. Fairfax, admittedly, shows up as callous and unfeeling
in his treatment of Jack Point; but even so, he doesn't act out of spite: he has no actual ill-will
towards him, they just happen to be in love with the same girl, and they can't both win. Now can
we stop bandying the word VILLAIN about where it simply doesn't apply?

And                   replied: I guess it all depends upon your definition. My primary point is, and
continues to be, that the portrayal of Nanki-Poo as this resplendent hero, which appears to be the
primary method of portraying him, is paying far too much attention to the "flash" of the character
and too little attention to the actions. My somewhat hyperbolic statements about Nanki-Poo as a
villain were, in large part, intended to get people to see that the character is more complex than
often portrayed. And I think that our performances would be better served by adding this
additional layer to the performance. Too often modern G&S performances miss the bite and the
satire by merely focusing on the trappings and missing the underlying issues. Mikado is, for the
most part, not a love story, rather it is a play on how following the strict letter of the written law
can create rather bizarre situations, and how "natural" law, in which love, truth and justice reign
supreme, is the better system. In order for this to work, it is important that Nanki-Poo, therefore,
play the role straight, which in turn emphasizes the strangeness of the end result, thereby
strengthening the underlying message. To me, in the context of G&S, a villain is one who avoids
his responsibilities and is willing to let others answer for the consequences of his action. The
only major arguments that I have with your position, is that I think Deadeye (and I will discuss
this at a latter date) is arguably the most heroic figure in Pinafore, and I simply cannot agree that
Nanki-Poo is a "hero". Aside from the fact that he gets the girl and gets to sing some nice songs,
he displays none of the attributes that one associates with a hero. A lead, yes. A major character,
yes.. the chief protagonist, yes.. the first bow, yes... but the hero? That is like saying that Macbeth
is the hero of the play of the same name.

            replied to this: This is an unusual definition of villain. That would make Pontius
Pilate the villain of the Passion story - not a usual interpretation either for Christians or for
others. And Macbeth is the hero! We all learnt at school that a tragic hero is a good man
(courage) brought down by a fatal flaw (ambition). I'm afraid I think Nanki-Poo is neither a hero
nor a villain, just a bore! And                 shot back with: I must be dense. I don't see, in any
way, how Nanki-Poo is a good man. To me, he is just a typical self-centered individual who
doesn't give a d*** for anyone else. (The kind of "I, I, I,.. Me, Me Me.. type that is now so
prevalent in society... whose primary question appears to be how will "I" benefit from this...)
Those kind of people bother me a great deal in real life and I see those traits significantly
manifest in Nanki-Poo. I just don't see any good in him.... And I realize that this is a minority
opinion. To me, since he is not a good man, the concept of the tragic hero does not apply. Alexis,
in contrast, is far more likely to meet this definition. He is well meaning, but he has a fatal flaw
(he is as dumb as a box of rocks...) And          replied: I think you misunderstand me. I was
talking about Macbeth. I said that Nanki-Poo was neither a hero nor a villain.

                wrote: Although I, too, see Nanki-Poo as hero, not villain (as well as dashing and
lots of fun), I appreciate David's perspective. It is extremely interesting to see the natural-Vs-
written law theme emphasized, and this emphasis brings out more layers in Mikado. The theme
appears elsewhere in the canon. For instance, Strephon asserts the primacy of natural law, and
Ida feels she is following an imperative higher than arranged marriage. But, David, I thought you
had found Nanki-Poo villainous because he was flouting (thanks, Judith & Ann) his father's law.
You had argued eloquently that disregard for the law resulted in chaos. Deadeye is a tattletale,

                                                  40
but a soothsayer. The truth emerging from a source not believed because of outward appearance,
like the fools in Shakespeare. The unpleasant truth embodied in an unpleasant form (like Gama).
(Sorry for incomplete sentences.) I think Deadeye's great, too! Alexis means well but he don't
know, as DD says. But, is he dumb or just one or two hundred years ahead of his time? He is
cushioned by his social stature, of course, but is he not a young idealist? Of course, "It's bad to
fool Mother Nature" as the old commercial said, and he shouldn't tamper (kind of back to the
nature theme again).

               suggested: Poor Nanki-Poo, no rocket scientist he - just a man in love who tries as
best he can to get for himself a pleasant future. But he's a prince, and therefore has a few hurdles
to get over. BUT HE ISN'T HAMLET - he's just a comic tenor - and he withers and disappears
under the microscopic scrutiny he has recently been subjected to. His character is just not
ambivalent and/or fleshed out enough to withstand this psychological probing. This has turned
into revisionist character analysis and is getting increasingly tedious. And admittedly I am not
helping matters any by my continuing to stir up the pot. But I do hope we can leave the poor
princely guy alone. He is sinking under the detritus of adolescent psychobabble (I have no idea
what I just said, but it felt so good to say it!)

                averred: I will reiterate my Humble Opinion that the Mikado himself is the only
villain in G&S who both 1) drives the entire plot by his villainy and 2) himself appears on-stage
He's a tyrannical sadist (the famous dentist-chair fantasy). He enjoys watching decapitations. I
don't see how you all let him off so easily.

              capped it all with: The only comment we have from WSG in this connection:

      The amateur tenor whose vocal villainies...

Now, Nanki-Poo is a tenor, but is he an "amateur?" Yes! As he tells Yum-Yum, "I am no
musician!" Therefore, he has vocal villainies, and by topsy-turvy extension, he must be a villain.
QED!


5.3 Yum-Yum

             wrote: When I gave the first in what has turned out to be a long line of Pooh-Bahs,
Mary Reddich played Yum-Yum and gave an eye-opening performance as quite the self-
knowing, gold-digging, eye on the main chance little lady. The look of alarm and disagreement
followed by calculated wheedling on hearing, "I would merge all rank and station", is one I have
used as a yardstick ever since, and have only rarely seen emulated. When I have directed the
show, several Yum-Yums rejected the idea out of hand, or were unable to carry it through.

            wrote: I've read several interesting posts on choices for the soprano in our OOTW; I,
as someone else mentioned, find this lady much more interesting than many of the other G&S
leading ladies because I feel that she can be easily portrayed as a passive/aggressive "textbook"
case. Ko-Ko doesn't rule, not really. Pooh-Bah is busy with his "insults". Pish-Tush is IMHO,
"Figaro-ing" himself into a frenzy keeping the town of "Pu" running. Seems to me that Yum-
Yum gets her way, in that arch little Japanese way of hers, about absolutely everything. When the
chorus goes along with her whispers in the Act I Finale, covering whatever gossip Katisha is
about to spread, don't you think this is a town of people who are adhering to the wishes of the
"favorite daughter"? In the Aria, which, as has been mentioned, a "b" to deliver successfully,
Yum-Yum states her Credo, showing that she is the dominant personality that we guess her to be

                                                 41
up to that point, in the phrase "I mean to rule the Earth...". She does mean to rule the Earth. She
rules the town, and the Government of the Town, and all of the ladies in the town, even the
Pooh-Bah of the town is subjected to her whims, and she has captured the heart of the prettiest
boy in town. Quite a young lady, I would say, I force to be reckoned with. Kitten with a whip, I'd
say. Hum...

            replied: I ! (what's to be done with this 'ere 'opeless chap?) :-) I think the chorus is
being a typical Gilbertian chorus, agreeing with whatever has been most recently propounded by
a lead, any lead. All that's missing are the "yes, yes, yes"'s. Consider:

     Katisha appears and berates Nanki-Poo. Chorus agrees (if a little faintly ("if true her
      tale...")).
     Katisha berates Yum-Yum. Chorus agrees (with the same reservation).
     Pitti-Sing tells Katisha, "Hey, Kat babe, knell THIS." Chorus agrees.
     Yum-Yum "squawks 'Ha-ha, I know" (thank you Rica) [See section 4.3 above]. Chorus
      agrees ("oni bikkuri shakurito!").

               replied: I, too, disagree. Though Yum-Yum is passive save in one fleeting moment,
she doesn't do squat to help her situation. She flits in, is told what to do, may complain a bit or
try to keep strong etc., but then, inevitably, flits back out. Keep in mind that passive aggression,
technically, is not being passive and having what you want happen to you by chance. Passive
aggression is the use of passivity to be aggressive - for example, ignoring someone in a
conversation until they get so frustrated that they give in.              responded: I must continue
to disagree with Rica. Yum-Yum is being passive/aggressive as far as her station allows her in
the society that she is working. The behaviour of many folk, men and women alike, that I would
call passive/aggressive is that they realize their boundaries, and, rather than attack them "head-
on", smile, and appear to be working "within the system", while in reality, they are guarding their
winsome reputations in order to gain control over those who are not clever enough to see their
plan.

          observed: Actually this one is fairly easy to explain. While it's true that the usual G&S
chorus agrees with whomever they've just heard (except, I think in the Ruddigore Act I finale,
when their condemnation of Robin is pretty consistent), if you keep in mind the concept of Duty
v. Desire, it's very easy to play. Yum-Yum is your friend, especially if you're a member of the
women's - er, girls' - chorus, but "if true her tale" Katisha does have dibs. It's your duty to support
Katisha's position, but you'd much rather support Yum-Yum's. Why does the chorus then shout
Katisha down? I don't know for sure, but I'd guess it's because Yum-Yum was whispering
something like "Don't let her talk - please! I'll explain later!" which would allow you to do to
help out your friend, without entirely abandoning duty. Far easier than dredging up a laugh for
one of Hugh Ambrose's groaners. It isn't that Yum-Yum is passive-aggressive because she
doesn't confront things head on, she is merely acting according to the dictates of her time and
country. Acting "ladylike" has always involved a certain degree of non-straightforward
behaviour. And as Rica points out, Yum-Yum largely doesn't anything, she lets situations be
resolved for her. If she were truly passive-aggressive, she could find all sorts of ways to be
seemly sweet but actually very destructive, all in a very non-confrontational way.
replied to this: You seem to suggest that Yum-Yum's "ladylike" behaviour is "non-
confrontational" as a dictate of society, and therefore, not passive-aggressive, since that sort of
character would design to cause harm. What I am suggesting is that Yum-Yum's characterization
is more plausible, at least to me, and more in keeping with her private moment in the aria, if she
is not merely shy and retiring, but a young lady who knows how to work the system, and does so.
In order to "flesh out" this somewhat stock soubrette, I would suggest that the soprani who aspire

                                                  42
to breathe more life into her, and to have a better time, find places, not necessarily attached to
dialogue or music, for Yum-Yum to show this "internal" working. I think you are having a
problem with this idea, because you feel that the term "passive-aggressive" denotes a person who
wishes to be "destructive"; This is not my understanding, rather, I believe that many folk who
suffer/enjoy this fetish usually have what they believe to be everyone's best interest at heart.

               murmured: You had me agreeing with you with the idea of using her private
moment until that last statement "and does so". Her aria clearly shows that she see herself as
bold etc., but she act on that. The only time that she does is in her song. Ok, ok... she does let
Nanki-Poo approach her and give her a peck or two (or however many the pair can fit into the
rests during "This Oh This") - but "Sun Whose Rays", "Ah-hah! I know!" and that scene with
Nanki-Poo are THE ONLY SCENES where we see her take ANY action - and the results aren't
really that great. She does not, however, work the system. It is Ko-Ko/Pooh-Bah/Nanki-
Poo/Katisha/Pitti-Sing who do anything like that.

Mind you, INTERNAL. Yes, it makes her far more interesting, and I am all for that, but to say
that she is a proactive heroine is simply false. Josephine, Gianetta, Tessa, Ida etc. are pro-active.
Yum-Yum, on the other hand, simply is not. No, I am not having a problem with this idea. But
someone who is passive with an aggressive result. Yum-Yum is passive, but without an
aggressive result (hence the term). An example of a passive-aggressive G&S moment: The Bell
Trio. Josephine is being very obliging with her father and Sir Joseph knowing full well that by
being passive, she is getting the result that she wanted - allowing them to open up and, without
their knowing it, agree with her.

Your final point is hardly correct because: a) The term "fetish" is completely wrong - passive-
aggression is not a sexual turn-on on it's own (though some people use passive-aggressive
behaviour as a fetish). b) It wouldn't be listed as a defense mechanism/psychological disorder if it
were for anyone's best interest but the passive-aggressive person.

              sent this reminder: Don't forget Yum-Yum's greatest moment, when she says to
Nanki-Poo, "Darling--I don't want to appear selfish..." and then proceeds to break her
engagement to save her life. This is the moment when a conventional heroine is supposed to tell
the man she loves that she will gladly die with him. You could even change the name of the
opera to The Mikado, or, I Don't Want To Appear Selfish, if it would help illustrate the
importance of this line. Ko-Ko's "Bother Yum-Yum!" later on is an even stronger variation on
the same theme. That's what Mikado is really about--looking out for Number One, and Yum-
Yum does it as well as anyone.                  applauded: In my opinion, this is as good a
summation of The Mikado as I have ever read. Whereupon                     exclaimed: ACK! Good
point! I stand corrected - I completely forgot about this scene. (smacks self in the head).
HOWEVER, I still don't think that this ranks her as being a passive-aggressive protagonist. I still
say that her actions do not make as great an impression as other characters in the show. But a
good point, nonetheless.


5.4 Pitti-Sing

              wrote: I blush for shame in throwing this out there, but... In my opinion, the true
heroine of this show is Pitti-Sing. Proofs:

     She's the only one (and the first one) to stand up to Katisha ("Away, nor prosecute your
      quest... "

                                                  43
     She is the only one who has any guts, really (save Nanki-Poo, but, well, not quite...) After
      all, she is the first one to approach the "tremendous swell".
     Not to mention that she jumps in for "Criminal Cried" to help out her Yum-Yum (whatever
      their relationship is) not for personal gain, but because she feels the need to protect those
      that she loves.

Whether tis nobler to be Yum-Yum or Pitti-Sing, the answer is clear! Huzzah to Pitti-Sing!

            wrote: We've heard some arguments that Yum-Yum [Section 5.3] and/or Pitti-Sing fill
the role of "heroine" in The Mikado, and how they possess craftiness or chutzpah or whatever. If
that is true, WHY AREN'T THEY EVER PLAYED THAT WAY? In every production I have
ever seen (even ones I thought were generally excellent), Yum-Yum was a ditz, Pitti-Sing was
hammy clown, and the female chorus did nothing but giggle like munchkins. (Tee-hee-hee-hee-
hee-hee-hee. It's even worse when one is in the chorus, and has to titter like that!) This is one of
the major reasons that Mikado was far down on my list of favorites. To this
replied In case you hadn't noticed, I am adamant about the fact that Pitti-Sing is really a
wonderful character. I never played her as a hammy clown, but rather as a bold, meddlesome,
mischievous girl (the eldest of the T.L.M's). Then again, even before rehearsals started, just from
the script, I never got the idea that she was a . Peep-Bo is more of a clown than Pitti-Sing. I think
the reason why Pitti-Sings and choruses can be seen as shallower than they really are is simply
because it is easier that way. My guess is that directors have less time to devote to character
development as operetta involves music and therefore time must be taken from somewhere
and/or they take for granted that performers are already aware of the characters. In addition, I
doubt that many performers really do that much independent character development work - I
think this is a fault in general of amateur & musical theater - the performers take the scraps that
the director throws at them as gospel without realizing that they aren't the full picture.

                chimed in: The relationship between Yum-Yum and Pitti-Sing, as I see it, is very
similar to the relationship between Ruth and Eileen in Wonderful Town; Yum-Yum (Eileen) is
quite conscious of her effect on those around her, and works her magic by appearing helpless
while others take care of her, and Pitti-Sing (Ruth) is the sister, not as attractive, definitely the
"caretaker", covering her need to be needed and cared for with her firecracker whit and
outspoken behaviour. To my mind, that makes our soprani passive/aggressive. Does that make
Pitti-Sing the heroine? I would never be silly enough to argue directly with Rica about this
character. I will leave that to those of you who know not where the bee sucks.                  replied
to this: Rica is correct, passive-aggressive behaviour isn't the absence of direct action, but instead
indirect action on which one can't be specifically called. I think that the difference between Yum-
Yum and Pitti-Sing can be compared to the difference between Scarlet O'Hara and Melanie
Wilkes; one is bold, the other more acceptably retiring, etc.


5.5 Ko-Ko

               wrote: I had the chance to play Ko-Ko for the first, and maybe the last, time last
year in a production that has been mentioned in this discussion as championing a Director that
missed the boat, no that would be Pinafore, missed the gong, there we are. Some of you may
remember that I found Ko-Ko NOT to be the comic lead, as Sir Joseph may be, but to be the
straight man(only in the comic sense, I could think of NO other way to say it) much like Captain
Corcoran, to Pooh-Bah, Pitti-Sing, and even the Arch-Villain, Nanki-Poo-Poo. It seemed to me
that the "jokes" and "bits" all belonged to the bigger "characters" that revolved around Ko-Ko,
and that poor Ko-Ko is left on stage for the entire Ring Cycle, in uncomfortable shoes, to set up

                                                  44
everyone else's laughs and to sing middle "c" incessantly until he bleeds. Now that I have read a
post by someone who actually SAW this thing, maybe I felt at sea, not because of the way that
Ko-Ko is written, but because of what was going on around me. Still and all, Ko-Ko was the
LEAST fun of the patter-singers that I have had the privilege to portray, and I don't think I will be
hunting him up again until I get better shoes.                         was bemused by this:
Speaking as a spectator of, rather than performer in, G&S, I really can't understand how anyone
could say Ko-Ko doesn't have enough comic opportunities. Surely this role is one of the best
"Grossmith" roles in this respect? He's at the centre of the plot - I always say he's the real hero of
The Mikado, because it's him (he?) who pushes the plot forward, not that passive dummy Nanki-
Poo. He's the typical farce hero. (I've said this before, I know, but do try and hide your yawns.)
He's the ordinary bloke who only wants a quiet life, pushed into a desperate spot and desperately
trying to struggle back to safety. This, surely, is one of the few sure-fire jokes in literature? He's
vulnerable, he's out of his depth - he's ingenuity on the edge of panic. He needs to be ordinary to
gain the sympathy of the audience - hence the touch of indomitable cheekiness, the friendly
relationship with the audience, which the "tradition" has built up round the part. Having thought
about it in tremendous depth for about thirty seconds, I think it's quite right that he should be
allowed to clown about as he is - much more than the other "Grossmith" roles. Apart from
winning the audience, it fits in with the idea of the setting being an ersatz Japan, which isn't
supposed to fool anyone for an instant. Possibly. Anyway, that's what I think.

                 agreed: He strikes me that way too - as out of his depth. For me at least, a good
deal of the humor involving Ko-Ko is his constant failure to be in control of the situation. He
seems to feel he's on top of things - yet you could diagram each of his schemes and how each of
them falls through. In fact with each "brilliant idea" he comes up with, he only seems to dig
himself in to deeper trouble requiring more desperate ideas. In Act Two in particular his situation
grows more and more desperate, and simultaneously so do his attempts to gain control of the
situation. In fact in ACT II the only two efforts on his part that are truly bear fruit are:

1.    Wooing Katisha - which he was initially loathe to do - and wasn't even his idea anyway but
      Nanki-Poo's, and
2.    the desperate (at least I read it as desperate) "rabbit out of a hat" as 't'were, that he pulls out
      to explain Nanki-Poo's appearance to the Mikado. Anyway, FWIW I find that most
      amusing & entertaining about the character.


5.6 Pish-Tush

               made this observation: Pish-Tush, as we all know, almost disappears in Act 2 after
being fairly prominent in Act 1. His appearances in Act 2, brief though they are, show a
noticeable change from Act 1. In Act 1 he is shown, from his first line on, to be distant with
Nanki-Poo and closely allied with Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah in the political arrangements of the
town. From the original scheme to circumvent the flirting law by Ko-Ko's appointment, to the
delivery of the Mikado's letter and the search for a substitute, Pish-Tush (despite holding no
formal office) is involved with Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah. When the scruffy minstrel arrives he
coldly asks what may be his business with Yum-Yum. Later, when Ko-Ko says to take Nanki-
Poo away, Pish-Tush removes him.

In Act 2, Pish-Tush has nothing to do with Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah other than to tell the Mikado
that their execution is prepared. His former allies are on their own through the various schemes
(discovery of the burial alive law, decision to fake the execution, etc.) which drive the plot in Act
2. He is never on-stage with them except when the full chorus is on-stage. In his only scene

                                                   45
without the chorus he accompanies Nanki-Poo on for the madrigal scene (I know that vocal
exigencies sometimes require use of the artificial character Go-To, but the scene was written for,
and generally staged with, Pish-Tush). Why is Pish-Tush now acting for all the world like the
best man in Nanki-Poo's wedding? It is possible that his cordiality is part of the general effort to
make the doomed man's month of wedded life happy, but I suggest that there is more to it than
that.

IMHO, by the end of Act 1, Pish-Tush knows Nanki-Poo's identity. Consider: a shabby musician
appears in town asking after Yum-Yum and is promptly put in his place. For complicated
reasons, the shabby musician is allowed to marry her for a month. So far, all very
comprehensible, even if a bit complex. Now something happens that is not so comprehensible. A
fancy upper-class lady blows into town claiming the shabby musician in marriage. When the
chorus sings "If she's thy bride restore her place" they might more appropriately be thinking "If
she's thy bride who the hell are you, really?" Katisha is drowned out when she tries to sing the M
word, but she does manage to sing enough to make it clear that he is not really a minstrel (and,
unlike Yum-Yum, she is sure of it without hearing him play) and that the most important thing
about his identity, the thing she most wants to tell, is whose son he is. Finally, unable to secure
him on then and there she warns those around her to prepare for woe because she is going
"Mikado-wards." To sum up, the supposed minstrel is the son of somebody important, is claimed
in marriage by an aristocratic lady, and the lady is going to the Mikado to seek redress.

I think Pish-Tush is sharp enough to put all of these clues together. Pooh-bah and Ko-Ko might
be as well (though the point is certainly arguable. I think Pish-Tush has the greatest political
savvy of the three) but they are not on-stage to hear it. Ko-Ko exits after "Take her, she's yours"
and Pooh-Bah after the "Long life to you 'til then" cadenza. They may hear about it from
witnesses, but it was a sudden confusing scene, with the probability of witnesses contradicting
each other and misquoting what was said. Pish-Tush had the opportunity to hear every word and
the shrewdness to put it all together. He knows who the gentleman really is, just as surely as if it
were written on his forehead, or even his pocket handkerchief (if he had a pocket handkerchief
which, being Japanese, he doesn't). If you accept that Pish-Tush has it figured out, his actions,
and non-actions, in Act 2 make perfect sense. With Katisha off to fetch the Mikado, something
odd is bound to happen, and whatever it is, self-interest suggests that the safest course is to be
cordial to the disguised prince and keep one's distance from the schemes of Ko-Ko and Pooh-
Bah. Incidentally, you may doubt that Katisha's Act 1 scene is sufficient to tip off Pish-Tush (or
any other astute listener). Even if that is so, the combination of that scene with her next entrance
makes things crystal clear ("He'll marry his son, he's only got one, to his daughter-in-law elect").
Read together, these two scenes are positively Euclidean in the clarity of the conclusion they
suggest: Katisha is engaged to Nanki-Poo. Katisha is engaged to the Mikado's son. Therefore . . .

                quipped: It sounds as if you have a great motivation if you should ever play the
role on stage! And J                applauded: Perhaps he has a good ear for rhyme! Seriously -
excellent points, Ken.

                   threw out this challenge: Here's something to hash over in the last seconds of
OOTW-Mikado: It's been said by some that the only reason for Pish-Tush's existence is to
provide parts for musical ensembles. Indeed, if I remember correctly, he is missing entirely from
Gilbert's "The Story of The Mikado". Perhaps Gilbert originally intended for there to be no Pish-
Tush. We remember that the one he cast wasn't able to sing the bottom line of the madrigal, and
so Go-To was invented (or the chorister who sings "Why, who are you who ask this question?"
was named, then pressed into service for the madrigal in Act II). Can you imagine The Mikado
with out Pish-Tush?                  replied: Yes. Oberlin has difficulty finding men, so we

                                                 46
didn't have one. Pitti-Sing did "I am so proud" up an octave, Pooh-Bah did everything else. It
worked, and provided an explanation for why Pitti-Sing gets involved in the first place.

                     mused: Can we imagine The Mikado without Pish-Tush? Certainly not - but
on the other hand, is there another instance in the canon of a part of that size and prominence
about whom we really know so little? We've had some superbly entertaining posts on the
question of "Who is Pish-Tush, what is he?"; but at the end of the day his function and identity
remain indeterminate - or rather, they're whatever the actor, producer, or Savoynet critic of the
moment wants to make them. Musically, there has to be a light baritone to contrast with the bass-
baritone and comic baritone parts: did G simply bring in a totally unnecessary character
(dramatically speaking) for this reason, identify him with then vague label "A Noble Lord", and
then simply fit him in where he could? I still find him a remarkable but enigmatic figure, unlike
any other character in the series. Arthur Robinson replied: I'd agree; but. The TV production of
The Mikado (directed by Martyn Green, starring Groucho Marx, ca. 1960) actually eliminated the
character of Pish-Tush, since the opera had to fit into an hour-long broadcast minus commercials
(as I recall from Martyn Green's notes in his TREASURY). Pooh-Bah was given some of his
plot-necessary lines (including a short snatch of "Our great Mikado").

And                  volunteered this: Actually, I can not only a "Mikado sans Pish", I have done
it. I played Pooh in such a production, where our baritone was suddenly indisposed. Ko and I
split most of Pish's music and dialogue -- where we could do it appropriately, and in character --
Pitti-Sing took the rest. Ko and I did "I Am So Proud" as a duet. Very little was actually cut. And
                 added: I, too, have done it, and, as previously mentioned, if Pitti-Sing sings Pish-
Tush's line in "I Am So Proud", it makes her later appearances as a co-meddler with KK & PB a
lot more logical as she was with it from the beginning.                        cautioned:
Remember that Pish-Tush and Pooh-Bah were originally a single gentleman, namely "haughty
Pish-Tush-Pooh-Bah" in the Bab Ballad "Borria Bungalee Boo". I suspect that when Gilbert
came to re-use the name the idea of splitting it between two characters came fairly naturally.
Fortunately, the original's dietary habits did not make it into the operetta.




                                                 47
6. Stagecraft

6.1 THAT Handshake

                        wrote: I'm uncomfortably aware that I'm often guilty of being an "idiot who
praises, in enthusiastic tone/All centuries but this...." I may also be one of those people who
"when shaking hands shake hands with you like ", but it's difficult to tell, just from the
description. Is there a Gilbert-approved gesture to show exactly what kind of handshake he so
hated?                  mused: This leads me to a rather interesting observation. Many Ko-Ko's that
I have seen think that the "THAT" is a very hard handshake, and they recoil in pain. However, is
there not a Bab drawing following the "little list" which depicts two gentlemen giving each other
the "dead fish (i.e., limp)" handshake? Hmmmmm.....                         quipped: Yes, Andrew -
the limp one. You can keep us all guessing as to whether this applies to you or not.

                volunteered: Gilbert's drawing of this handshake appears on line at:
http://members.aol.com/scynthius/mik/mik_hand.htm I used this drawing to create the web's first
animated Bab, and it can be viewed at the top of the page at:
http://members.aol.com/gsvloc/index.htm

And                put in her oar: Come now Andrew - I think we all know EXACTLY how he
meant "shaking hands with you like that" meant!!!


6.2 Make-up & Costumes

6.2.1 Occidental eyes

                      wrote: In general, regardless of the extent to which the Japan of The Mikado
resembles the England of Gilbert, productions tend to stick to some version of Japanese attire
(with some flamboyant exceptions). One point that arises is the extent to which the non-Asian
members of the cast (usually the majority, I should think, outside the Far East) should be made
up to look as Japanese as their attire. Most productions that I have seen go in for just a token
amount of make-up rather than undertaking it more seriously. Is this a case where the costume is
sufficient to create all the atmosphere that one needs?                pointed out : I have been
involved in seven productions of The Mikado in the past 12 years. None tried to turn Occidental
eyes into Asian eyes (nor did we apply liberal gobs of base to the exposed areas of our black cast
members). Some productions used bald wigs for the men, others did not. I guess that's as far as
we went, makeup wise.

6.2.2 Kabuki makeup

                    observed: A kimono alone won't do, unless you also have the right movement
techniques. Wigs, especially on the men, help a lot, as do folding hand fans used correctly.
Make-up effectiveness depends a lot on how close you are to your audience. If you're practically
in their laps, it is very important, perhaps to the extent of using eye "prosthetics". If you're on the
other side of an orchestra pit, "fool their eyes" make-up works as well as prosthetics, and if you
tend to end up in the far back regions of the stage because you're a tall chorister, you might as
well just give it "a lick and a promise". I've been in 2 productions. Both used proper kimonos and
wigs, but, in one, we had Kabuki style make-up designed for us by Jack Stein, using a white face
as a base (but stopping at the chin!). The other was more usual, using Mikado yellow as the

                                                  48
men's base, and an extremely light base for the women, and shaping the eyes and eyebrows
somewhat exotically. Of the two, I think the "Kabuki" make-up (and Kabuki movements) made
for a much more exotic-looking show, but it really wasn't very Gilbertian in feel.
            replied to this: I wish to associate myself, etc. I feel strongly that the strongly stylized
"Kabuki" makeup, using white base and grotesque features, detracts incredibly from Gilbert's
libretto and humor. These are, after all, as has been noted by critics from 1885, English people
dressed up as Japanese. What I've usually seen as "Kabuki" makeup when applied (no pun, etc.)
to The Mikado is harsh and grotesque. And while I'm at it, I also strongly believe that Katisha
should NOT be strongly made up as an ugly and grotesque harridan. I know that she is a
descendant from the English "pantomime dame tradition," but she is one of the few Gilbertian
characters (IMHO) who through her lyrics (especially) rounds out her character. And it is ! No,
Kabuki and grotesquerie in makeup has no place in The Mikado.

At which                   asked: May I differ? In 1978 I was at the University of Illinois. The
artist in residence was Shozo Sato, a grand master of Kabuki and master set designer and painter.
He had already directed a highly successful Kabuki staging of Macbeth and was asked by the
head of the opera department to try his hand at The Mikado. It was spectacular. He designed and
painted the sets himself, we were required to take classes in Kabuki movement for two months,
and we were dressed in authentic Kabuki costumes from Japan (which took about a half hour to
get into). Of course Mr. Sato had never seen The Mikado, so I was summoned to Japan House to
go through the score and tell him every traditional bit (I was playing Pooh-Bah). He was a
brilliant director and comedian who used some things I told him and created hundreds of his
own. Gilbert's words and intentions were not violated in the least. The entrance of the Mikado in
full Kabuki gear surrounded by 40 flag-waving attendants lead to a standing ovation. The make-
up worked fine- you limit the ability to use the eyebrows for expression, but we used physical
Kabuki movement to bring new layers of meaning to the characters. All in all it was an amazing
experience- brilliantly staged and sung, visually stunning, and as funny and engaging as any
traditional setting. No one who participated either on stage or in the audience will ever forget it.

6.2.3 Wigs are the key

               observed: The response of my wife (Denise Gutierrez, the senior makeup designer
for Lamplighters in San Francisco) was virtually the same as that of Janice Dallas', to wit: WIGS
are the key. They will be seen. You can (as mentioned above) extend the eyeliner outward and
upward from the outer edge of the eye, if you wish to give the impression. But wigs are the key.
For men, hats in a characteristic Japanese manner are de riguer. She does not recommend using
bald pates on a lot of people for 3 reasons: It's expensive, it's difficult, and it's boring/unreal.

               wrote: Blue Hill Troupe did an admirable Mikado several years back done in the
Kabuki style, which I thought to be rather aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I have to say that the
Admirable Cathlin Davis had a very good explanation as to why Europeans shouldn't try to look
"Japanese" - the satire is not based on Japanese government/society, but rather European. There
is little evidence to show that the actors BELIEVE that they are Japanese, but rather European
actors playing dress up. Therefore, when we did the Mikado we wore Kimonos - most of the
women's kimonos were made with Laura Ashley-type floral fabrics -, didn't wear any kind of
Japanese make-up and the vaguest hint of Japanese hairstyles - I wore my 1/2 hair up in a bun
with two token chopsticks and I curled the rest of my hair into little ringlets.
observed: Oberlin was a difficult venue in which to produce Mikado. We had barely any budget
(says the Treasurer), and a very politically sensitive student body (my soprano quit because of a
single word). so I went into directing the Mikado with the idea that these are English people
putting on a show which is set in a country whose culture they don't really understand. This saved

                                                   49
us a lot of money on makeup and hair, as well as keeping us safe from the boycotters. If anyone
complained, I could point to the style of the production and say, see, we're making fun of the
English! Isn't it clear?

6.2.4 Free of stifling collars and corsets ?

                    wrote as part of another thread [Section 2.1.1]: In this opera we're freed from
many of the incidentals of the Victorian age - exchanging stiff collars and tight corsets for free-
flowing kimonos. (I've a theory that these freeing costumes and the general atmosphere of
pantomime encouraged the original performers to ad-lib more than they did in the other operas).
To which                   replied: It might be that the men felt freed by their costumes, but the
women? Aren't the Japanese costumes even MORE confining than the Victorian ones, especially
about the legs? And then the obi . . ! I recall that Jessie Bond arranged to have an extra-large bow
on her obi, which she "waggled" at the audience whenever she could, so I don't disagree with
your notion that the costumes promoted a sense of fun and pantomime. But I doubt that the
performers would have found them more comfortable than their regular garments.
replied to that: I've been in the chorus of The Mikado twice, and yes, the kimonos can be
restrictive, and basically hard to handle. Physically, though, the toughest thing about The Mikado
is the kneeling, which the chorus often has to do for long periods of time. In one production I was
in, the director was adamant that we kneel (both knees at the same time) and GET UP in one
fluid motion - no hands, of course. Not so easy, especially for a died-in-the-wool klutz! I ended
up with bruised knees and aching thighs.

6.2.5 A Mikado Memory

                threw this delight into the discussion: As opening night drew near, spirits soared.
The chorus of school-girls loved their kimonos. They practiced their mincing little steps and fine-
tuned their fan work. Everything seemed perfect...until dress rehearsal when, for the first time,
heavy Japanese wigs were lowered onto the ladies' heads. These wigs were not at all like human
hair. They were jet-black, tall, and made of something like dacron. The effect was sudden and
shattering. Most of the women-and especially the pert little blondes- felt completely wiped out!
Some could not even recognize themselves in the make-up mirrors and, worse, they knew their
friends from the office would not recognize them either on opening night. It was a sad spectacle
for everyone except Katisha who watched this procession of misery with barely disguised glee.
The moment passed. Spirits slowly rebounded. The wigs looked well from out front. Opening
night went well. Nobody recognized anybody else and it didn't seem to matter.


6.3 What Address?

             asked: A humble request: I'm required to die (on stage) in a week's time, i.e. I'm
playing Ko-Ko. What on earth can I say in response to the Mikado's question, "Gone abroad? His
address?" What I definitely DON'T want to do is to say some local place reference, as I think it's
the most unfunny "joke" in the show. It always makes me cringe when I hear a Ko-Ko say some
obscure place-name that is only known to locals - in this case, the environs of north-east
Manchester. It sticks out like a sore thumb that this is something we (i.e. the society) have
inserted, and to my way of thinking destroys the suspension of disbelief - all too quickly the
audience are reminded that what they are seeing are not Japanese characters dealing with a
difficult situation but a bunch of local amateurs "doing their stuff". There is no way that anyone
is going to believe that Gilbert actually wrote "Ashton-under-Lyne" at that point. I don't believe
the same applies to updated Little Lists, BTW, since as far as the audience are concerned, the

                                                 50
new lyrics could have been written by a professional in the New D'Oyly Carte. If I were playing
to a Gilbert & Sullivan audience (e.g. at the Festival), I would use a G&S joke, such as
"Basingstoke" or "Pfennig-Halbpfennig". But that won't cut much ice with most of the good folk
of Oldham. The week of the show ties in with our General Election here in the UK, so maybe a
political reference? Only one other condition - it has to be at least three syllables, to give time for
Katisha to read the death certificate and then scream.

[This drew a large number of suggestions as follows:]

            was political: Go for "Tatton" -it's both local AND nationally topical. And appropriate
to Pooh-Bah H******n. [Archivist's note: The sitting MP for Tatton at the time of this
Discussion was Neil Hamilton, one of a number of MPs accused of accepting payment for asking
specific questions in the House of Commons. He lost his seat to an "Anti-Sleaze" candidate who
was, tacitly at least, supported by both major opposition parties.]

                was global: How about: http://math.idbsu.edu/gas/GaS.html? I know it doesn't fit
your criteria, but it would work with the Savoynet crowd.

                more local; If we're going for the Savoynet crowd, I think "Pocatello" would work
and be easier to say.

And                  positively parochial: Just to pick up on Steve's suggestion: if you want to keep
to three syllables, you will do well with SAVOYNET.

But                threatened pedantry: Howzabout "Savoynet at Bridgwater dot E.D.U.?"

And                   went for the red tape: It sounds like the old 'a geographical reference of local
humor' is right out, so I would recommend: nankipoo@Mikado.gov.

But                 took the Whole List approach: Well, there is always:-

      "double-you double-you double-you dot Nanki dot Poo slash tilde yumyum slash" (if you
      are standing, use the snicker snee to add the slashes??)
     or a well-known landmark that existed both then and now: Piccadilly Circus, Stratford-on-
      Avon, New York City, San Francisco, 221 B Baker Street
     or a very obvious G&S joke: Parliament, Penzance.
     And as Larry Byler mentions, Colma (local cemetery town) is a favorite.

As did                : Here's a few serious ones - for some reason I have been thinking about this
all day! I think my top choice would be "Barataria!" Nice in joke for aficionados - Gilbertian in
the extreme, and several syllables to boot. I can hear John Reed in my minds ear saying it rather
gleefully. Other possibilities:

     Reddering
     Castle Adamant
     Portsmouth
     Penzance
     The Crystal Palace

Then               whisked us out of this world: How about some place that's in the news, like
Hale-Bopp?

                                                  51
With                clocking up the light years in his wake: How about Babylon 5?

         was more down to earth: Mike wants a good place name for Nanki to abide...how about
Llanfairp.g.?

And                had these few words: How about "Coventry"?

Whilst              offered many: "Hong Kong -- til July 1st, that is!" (Or if you want a G&S
reference, you forget "Basingstoke!") Or how about Washington D.C.? Surely some of Nanki-
Poo's Asian business contacts could get him a room in the Lincoln Bedroom ;)

           decided on an appropriate monarchic approach: Or being a bit naughty - where else
would the Heir Apparent go but "CAMILLA'S".

But                preferred a Prime Ministerial one: How about 10 Downing Street? It may be
getting a new tenant soon!

And                went Presidential before becoming sublimed: Well, if you need some time to
fill as you suggest, he can say: The White House - [confidential tone] Lincoln bedroom, you
know. He's got close friends there." or, if you've got a sharp audience: "Heaven's Gate - but I hear
it's only stopover."

                          were convinced that: It just has to be Weatherfield, especially in view
of poor Derek's demise to the refrain of Tit Willow. (They added: For the benefit of the non-UK
Netters, [AND, I might add, some UK netting-non-soapers!] Weatherfield is a fictional
Manchester suburb in our top soap - Coronation Street. You will note that they recently 'killed
off' a boring, gnome loving character called Derek Wilton who had a heart attack to the strains of
Tit Willow on his car cassette.)

Then                 rounded it all off by bringing us back to reality with a bump: Yet WSG DID
instruct his touring companies to use a local reference at this point. So, use a non-local reference
if you want, but realize that by doing so you are moving away, at that point, from Gilbert's stated
intentions. It seems to me that the only alternative to a local reference is non-local one. So if
politics is of interest, consider the name of someplace that is associated with a current hot
political controversy. In the 70's in the US, Watergate might have been used, for example.


6.4 Rewriting the List

                  wrote: I've noticed that the only comment so far on the rewriting of the list has
been "don't" - yet, obviously, original racist bits in the list have to be excised. I've the task of
doing the rewrite for our summer production, and would like to invite, on list or privately, all
comments and suggestions on this. How much of a rewrite? How topical? Just remove the
offensive bits and come up with an alternative, or get a bit more local and topical? (the
temptation to take at least a bit of a shot at a college admin that's been visibly UNsupportive
looms large.) Also, adding to the topic of the response to the location question, suggestions
pertinent to a US/Chicago area production are cheerfully solicited.                         replied:
This topic came up last year on Savoynet, and I remember there were one or two voices who said
the word "nigger" should be retained, because it's the original word and referred only to blackface
minstrels. But the word is really so offensive now that it seems perverse to defend its use in

                                                 52
songs which are supposed to be lightly entertaining, to shock. As for your re-write - personally,
as a G&S purist, I'd say "Keep revisions to the minimum". I suppose you know the "standard"
revisions, done I believe by A.P. Herbert:

            "The banjo serenader and the others of his race"
            and (in the Mikado's song)
            "...Or pinches her figger/Is painted with vigour/And permanent walnut juice."

I don't think either is perfect, but they're unobtrusive and do their job. By changing to "banjo
serenader", the word "race" is left looking rather odd at the end of that line. May I suggest as an
alternative something like: "The hyperactive jogger and the others of his race"? Just a thought.
Whereupon                    quipped: Perhaps "And the Blackfaced serenader.

              opined: I think that if you want to update the 'List', then do so. WSG was poking
fun (as ever) at contemporary prejudice, cant and humbuggery; why shouldn't WE? There is after
all, an unimpeachable precedent for a rewrite - Gilbert himself did it more than once.

[That was all the encouragement some SavoyNetters were eagerly awaiting.]

          was first into the Meistersinger Ring.: AS SOME DAY IT MAY HAPPEN As
performed in Woodhouse's Amateur Operatic Society's production of The Mikado, 26th April -
3rd May 1997. Written by Mike Nash and Tony Kerr.

            As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
            I've got a little list - I've got a little list
            Of society offenders who might well be underground
            And who never would be missed - who never would be missed;
            There's the pestilential nuisances who sell from door to door
            Demonstrating vacuum cleaners and leave dog-hairs on the floor;
            All children who watch "Neighbours" every night of every week
            And while it's on they hush you every time you try to speak
            Then think that you're a moron when you haven't got the gist;
            They'd none of 'em be missed - they'd none of 'em be missed!

            There's the amateur impressionist who only does John Wayne,
            I've got him on the list - I've got him on the list;
            Or who dons a pair of specs and says, "My name is Michael Caine",
            He never would be missed - he never would be missed;
            There are those in every shop or train who use a mobile phone
            And all they ever seem to do is gripe and grouse and moan;
            There's the man who rides a motorbike and likes to make a row,
            He's all dressed up in chains and studs and smells just like a cow;
            And the dozy shop assistant who won't smile and can't assist -
            I don't think she'd be missed - I'm sure she'd not be missed!

            There's the driver up your bumper who can't wait to go flat out
            And he drives you round the twist, so I've got him on the list;
            And the karaoke singer who does little else but shout,
            She never will be missed - she never will be missed;
            There's the telephoning salesman with his timeshare flat for two,
            He always seems to ring you up just when you're on the loo;
            And the meter man who only calls whenever you've gone out;
            The inventor of that dashed infernal mini-roundabout;
            And the members of the audience who just slept through all of this -
            They'd none of 'em be missed - no, they'd none of 'em be missed!



                                                       53
Then it was the turn of                : Here is one for the OOTW Archive. THE NATIONAL
TRUST LITTLE LIST: With great reluctance, I have decided to give it to the Nation. Perhaps
nobody will look at again. Nevertheless I think this is the most honourable way to go about it.
After all, what would my family do with the millions it inherits from the Lottery when it is sold
to the Victoria and Albert after my demise!!! If anyone wishes to use it "in whole rather than in
pieces" or in pieces rather than the whole, please feel free to do so. I would be grateful if you
could drop me an E.Mail for my own personal delight though! I wrote it last December for a
concert my Group did for the National Trust in Lancashire. It went down well with the audience
who were mostly members of the Trust and many were Stewards or helpers at NT Properties.
The lines seem long but believe me, they fit!! " It's the way you tell 'em!"

           As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
           I've got a little list - I've got a little list
           Of National Trust Offenders who might well be underground,
           And who never would be missed - who never would be missed !
           There's the pestilential nuisances who touch the tapestries -
           And set the bells a-ringing in their search for antiquities -
           All children who are up in dates, and think that they know best -
           And just to prove that they are right, pull down the Baron's Crest -
           And the Manager who interferes and slaps the occasional wrist -
           They'd none of them be missed - they'd none of 'em be missed.

           CHORUS. He's got 'em on the list - he's got 'em on the list;
           And they'll none of 'em be missed - they'll none of 'em be missed.

           There's the walker who ignores the signs, that say you 'Must not go',
           The Path erosionist - I've got him on the list !
           And the careless tobacco smoker who discards his fags ends too,
           The Forest Arsonist - I've got him on the list !
           Then the i-di-ot who lets his dog roam free at lambing time,
           To the farmer it's his livelihood - but to him it's not a crime,
           And the hiker who jumps over and dislodges dry stone walls,
           And drops his litter in the tarns, in lakes and waterfalls,
           And that singular anomaly, the hunting lobbyist -
           I don't think he'd be missed -I'm sure he'd not be missed !

           CHORUS. He's got him on the list -he's got him on the list;
           And I don't think he'll be missed - I'm sure he'll not be missed !

           There's the youth who writes 'Kilroy was ere' upon the bedroom door,
           The wicked humorist -I've got him on the list !
           The people who with back packs, push chairs and great big hob nailed boots -
           They never would be missed - they never would be missed !
           There's the folk who bring their own food in the tea room at the rear,
           And walk right through the gift shop without buying a souvenir
           And the honeymooning couple behind the 'Private' doors they kissed,
           And the Alcoholics on the bottle, must be 'Brahms and Liszt';
           And the badge holder who parks for 'nowt' because of his poor wrist -
           I don't think he'd be missed - I'm sure he'd not be missed !
           CHORUS. He's got him on the list -he's got him on the list;
           And I don't think he'll be missed - I'm sure he'll not be missed !

           And the family who on Open Day turn up in their Rolls Royce *
           The rich Numismatist - I've got him on the list
           And members who forget their cards and say with weeping voice -
           "Don't put us on the list. Don't put us on the list".
           And the lady from the States who with her ancestry is versed -
           And bores you with her family names from James to George the First.
           There's 'St - 'st - 'st and What's his name, and also Virginia who? **


                                                        54
            The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you,
            But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,
            For they'd none of 'em be missed - they'd none of them be missed !

            CHORUS. You may put 'em on the list - you may put 'em on the list;
            And they'll none of 'em be missed -they'll none of 'em be missed !

[More specific suggestions came from:]

          suggested: Any time you want to "hide" the N word, at least try to be as crafty with
words as Gilbert. How about,

            "The Melanistic minstrel, and the others of his race.
           "
-or elsewhere-

            "whose frame she cinches by choice...till the strings have a voice, and whose eyeballs
            bulge from the strain..."

And                    : I strongly believe this word should be replaced, even if the replacement is
just so-so. Banjo serenader, or minstrel serenader, may not be perfect, but at least they don't
offend. Anyway, for what it's worth, here are my suggestions.

If you want to call attention to the change:

            There's the minstrel serenader, and the others we replace.

Locally, this one would go over big, especially during The Sweeps:

            There's the local news-reporters, and the others with bad taste. (or, TV news-
            reporters)

In self-mockery, it could be:

            There's the hyper-patter songster, and the others of his pace.

Or, and you can fill in the blanks:

           There's the something something-something, and all other wasted space.
Ok, guys, you can stop groaning now.


          agreed and suggested: I like this change to avoid the n-word:

            "The sidewalk seranader with his open music case."

And I disagree that topical updating of the list song works. I wrote a version in 1990 that went
over extremely well. I have fond memories of waiting for my entrance (as a chorus member) and
hearing a sold-out audience laugh, and then quickly shut up so that they could catch the next line.
And                 added: NOT speaking officially (that would be John Alecca) - but I can state
that Lamplighters always updates the list song, almost completely, with local/topical references.


                                                      55
As Mary stated, you get short, sharp shocks of laughter from the audience so they can catch the
next line. And sustained applause at the end of the song.

                 was quickly back with this: After just receiving an e-mail note (NOT from
Savoynet) in which a person repeated pages of another post, only to add, "I agree," I feel
compelled to suggest the following:

            There's the thoughtless e-mail-sender, who never edits lines for space.

And                 had the last word: I'm not sure who suggested that updating the list song
doesn't work, but I think it's absurd not to change it...each time I've either directed it or sung the
role, I've written it with topical references, and the audience loves it.....why not do it? That's why
it was written in the first place I saw it at City Opera a few years ago, and they didn't and it was a
total bust.


6.5 Stock Staging

            wrote: Putting in more oars than the Cambridge boat race team. Mikado seems to be
one of the shows more than most that suffers from stock staging. I think this may relate to my
idea in my earlier post, that there is a dichotomy (subtle book plug) between the farcical nature of
the opera (the pseudo-Japanese setting, the silly names, the frenetic pace of events getting more
and more out of hand) and the too-real characters (especially Ko-Ko and Katisha). Few directors
have the skill to tie them together, and what tends to happen is that either the farce takes over
completely and the subtler characterization is lost, or more often, the director simply copies a
production he/she has seen before, because that "seemed to work" and it's the path of least
resistance. A couple of examples:-

The opening chorus. Every production of Mikado I have seen or been in (I've been in three, and
seen a few more) has the gentlemen's chorus doing one of two things: either they stand stock still,
in rows or in a semicircle, and open and close their fans in time with the music; or they attempt
some energetic (and often noisy) martial arts routine. The former seems to fit the words of the
song better ("If you think we are worked by strings like a commonplace/Japanese marionette"),
but it's boring. The latter is more interesting to watch, but how many amateur societies have a
men's chorus that can do all the kicks, AND sing, AND not collapse in a heap by the time Nanki-
Poo comes on? As these are meant to be the gentlemen of Titipu, why can't they do the sort of
things that ordinary people do in a town square - talk to one another, do a bit of shopping, queue
up for the only cash machine still working etc. etc.?

Ever done G&S in a straitjacket? No? Then you've never played Ko-Ko. I jest not, I have been
instructed on how to say most of my dialogue, gestures, "ad-libs" (totally spontaneous of course),
even how high to lift my knees when I walk. Couldn't we just program a robot to do it and have
done with it?

All in all, it means that I groan whenever Mikado is announced as the show for next year. I
haven't yet enjoyed being in it ever. I don't think any other G&S has had that effect with me
(apart from one dreadfully dull production of Gondoliers in which I was Giorgio and my legs
went to sleep while Gianetta and Tessa sang "Now Marco dear" during Finale Act 1).




                                                  56
6.6 Cheap Pickets

                reported: Opera A La Carte's Mikado was boycotted once in Claremont,
California by an ethnic student group who felt it was racist and sexist. There were picket signs
out front. It would have been funny except that it was so pathetic. We think they missed the
point. As the overture began we were warned there would be a "walkout." As promised, on the
initial downbeat approximately 6 people got up and left the otherwise filled-to-capacity
auditorium. I think they would have done well to involve some students of management. WE
could not resist a hasty response. In the list song when I sang "Likewise, you know who" our
Pooh-Bah obstinately crossed behind me with a large picket sign saying "DOWN WITH
OPERA." Cheap, I know. Hey, it got a laugh.


6.7 Differentiating Officers of State

                asked: BTW, how much differentiation do you Pooh-Bahs put into the various
officers of state?? Lamps' Pooh-Bah has always done different voices for each, with varying
degrees of smarminess and curmudgeon-ness for the various people. And                    asked: In
every production of Mikado that I've seen, Pooh-Bah's costume has been just a generally
flamboyant noble-ish quasi-Japanese robe/kimono. But, in view of all his high offices of state,
has anyone ever costumed him with bits of other costumes? What I mean is, for example, an
archbishop's crook, a first lord of the Admiralty's hat, a mayor's chain, a commissionaire's jacket,
a chief commissioner of police's trousers, and so on. [Can you tell that I know nothing about
costumes?]

               was first up with a reply: I've been in two productions, neither of which had him
costumed in an assortment of bits and pieces. However, in order to show his multiple "hats", one
had him wear several broad bands of ribbon, each with a different symbol of office, layered on
top of each other and (I think) attached to the edge of his sleeve. He'd flip to which ever office he
was representing at the moment. For the other one, we took the Japanese noble's cap with it's
stiffened "feather", and added several more, each in a different color. This "rooster-tail" stood for
all the "hats" (offices) he was now "wearing". I don't think either Director would have gone for
anything too motley or obvious.

Followed by                   : I've seen Pooh-Bahs coming in wearing different headgear -mitres,
tricornes, policemen's helmets, etc. - for successive entrances in Act II. In Aberdeen OC's 1996
Mikado, Pooh-Bah played the virtuoso trick of adopting a different accent - Liverpool,
Lancashire, Welsh, Irish, Cockney, pukkah Cheltenham, etc., for the lines spoken as each of his
various roles - ending with a rugged Glasgow demotic (very different from Aberdeen!) for
"Furrst kummissionurr uh puleece!" Entertaining though this was, the objection could be raised
that there was in most cases no very obvious reason why a given accent should be associated
with a given character - except for the last, which was (I think) a reference to a popular television
cops-and-robbers series set in Glasgow. It got a lot of laughs, though!

Then               offered the following: I have to say, that the thought of having other costume
elements strikes me as impractical. Pooh-Bah, in each scene where his delicate positions are
mentioned, takes on more than just one official capacity, correct? That would mean that he
would have to have a prop or costume element for each station (otherwise it could look rather
lopsided). Where would these pieces be kept? Pooh-Bah couldn't carry them. Go To? Perhaps.
But would the gag be worth it? I question that. Personally, I think that vocal interpretation is a
much more effective and practical manner of depicting the positions. I don't think that I have

                                                 57
come upon any discussion on the use of various voices for each office. I have seen this done in
two rather effective ways:

1.    Each station has a very different voice/accent/manner - the Exchequer can sound like a
      stuffy old Brit, the Private Sect'y has a mock-Oriental accent with little regard to Pooh-
      Bah's "natural" accent/voice/manner.
2.    Within Pooh-Bah's natural vocal abilities, he (the character) attempts different accents.

(Funny thing is, though, that each time I saw this, by two very different actors who, I know,
hadn't consulted one another, both actors chanted "Archbishop of Titipu", though one crossed the
person/s to which he was speaking.)

                replied to this: Well.... yes... if done with appropriate accents. I recall seeing an
abysmal production of Mikado in which the interpretations were done in sundry "modern day"
accents including rewriting of the words to make them more appropriate... (James Stewart... for
example with all sorts of wells..).. John Wayne.... and the worst... a pale imitation of Dana
Carvey's Church Lady from Saturday Night Live as Archbishop of Titipu. And Pooh-Bah was
one of the less objectionably drawn characters. The production was a tragic waste... it had one of
the two great patter guys working in Chicago as Ko-Ko and it completely threw away his
performance by inartful directing... It took the usual soprano lead and made her Pitti-Sing with
the result that the usually admirable voice did not carry on the lower end of the register...and so
on.... That chanting seems to be something that most Pooh-Bah's try... in fact, I am adopting it for
my upcoming performance in La Boheme. When Schaunard says something about their religion
being eating and drinking... (a very poor translation of the what I am singing in Italian... I cross
myself and modify the sound a bit so it sounds more like a chant... a change which is consonant
with Puccini's writing at that point...)


6.8 Choral bleating

           made this plea: A subject that has long puzzled me. Suggestions sought. Two of the
local amateur productions of Mikado that I have seen have had the following bit of
action/dialogue; it's related to the men's chorus's perceived lack of respect for Ko-Ko in his new
station;

= (end of "Lord High Executioner")

      KO-KO: Gentlemen, I am much touched by this reception
      MEN: MHEEHEH! (short, sharp "bleating" noise delivered in K-K's direction)
      KO-KO: I can only trust (etc. etc.) my study to deserve.
      MEN: MHEEEHEEH!
      KO-KO: If I should ever be called upon (etc. etc.) gain to society at large. MHEHE!MHEHE! MHEHE!
      (delivered towards the chorus).

Now this has always much amused me, simple soul that I am. What I am of course wondering is:

1.    Does this strike a chord with anyone else?
2.    Is it English?
3.    Is it middle-English?
4.    Does it have any roots in original productions?
5.    Am I only dreaming? Is this burning an eternal flame?


                                                    58
Explanations, anyone?

                  offered this: I have seen it in a number of amateur productions, but I never found
it amusing, just rather silly. It is "supposed" to be traditional - I've a feeling it may be mentioned
in Martyn Green's Treasury, but its so long since I looked at that book, I can't be sure (Would
someone like to confirm or deny this?). Certainly it was never done in D'Oyly Carte in my
memory(1960 onwards). Perhaps David Duffey can remember it?                             confirmed: Yes,
Michael, it is in the "Treasury". Although my copy got lost somewhere along a chain of house
moves I remember reading about it there. I don't find the business amusing at all and can't for the
life of me understand what it is supposed to contribute to the scene.                    replied: Used
by Green and Pratt, reduced somewhat by Reed. I never found it all that funny.
acknowledged: Thanks, Michael and particularly David. But does anyone have any idea ?

              offered the following: As with many questions regarding G.& S. production points
you have to consider the accompanying business. In this case the business at each "bleat" (both
from the chorus and from Ko-Ko) was the "kow-tow" or "abject grovel in a characteristic
Japanese attitude" (knees bend, fan held in both hands slides down thighs to knees, straighten up
- all in one fluid movement). I had always assumed that the accompanying "bleat" was intended
to convey some kind of formal muttered obeisance. It was certainly, as David Duffey says,
performed by Green, Pratt and Reed - as well as, during the war years, Graham Clifford). Green
used to screw as much humour as he could out of the situation by pretending that these
unexpected interruptions were taking him by surprise and interfering with the flow of his
observations (slight double takes, etc.) And                came up with: I have a D'Oyly Carte
prompt book. Nothing original about this, just one of many copies which were sent from Savoy
Hill to amateur societies on request for a small charge. At the end of "Reception" and "at large",
there is a # sign referring to a note on the opposite page as follows:

             All "Eh" hands on knees. Ko-Ko replies each time with "Eh"

I was going to introduce this into my own production of The Mikado but when the men tried it,
they thought I was stupid for suggesting it. So we waved that point. I have a feeling John Reed
used it in the 1966 Film, but could be mistaken.                  observed on this: In the
promptbook in Gilbert's papers at the British Library, these interpolations are written "Eh?" My
theory is that this "bleating" biz is a decades-old attempt to make "Eh?" intelligible to everyone
seated in a theatre. The bit was originally supposed to underscore Ko-Ko's status as a parvenu,
with the haughty gentlemen of Japan reacting to this upstart.


6.9 Katisha's scream?

                    asked: Has anyone really paid attention to the exact way this dialogue appears
in print?:

      MIKADO: Gone abroad! His address.
      KO-KO: Knightsbridge!
      KATISHA [who is reading certificate of death]: Ha!
      MIKADO: What's the matter?

Of course, we've long accepted substitutes for "Knightsbridge." But what in the world is "Ha!"
supposed to mean? Obviously (?), it's a scream, or at least that's how it's always (?) delivered.
When I first saw it, though, I was 13 years old and knew little else about G&S. I honestly thought


                                                      59
Katisha was supposed to speak a single short syllable, perhaps as a contemptuous laugh. Was it
standard practice for Gilbert and his contemporaries to write out screams that way?


6.10 The heir's airs

               asked: Does anyone have any information as to whether or not Nanki-Poo is
expected to assume any of the airs or wardrobe of the heir apparent upon having to say the line:
"The heir apparent is not slain".

a)    The Schirmer score leaves this matter "blank" and many productions simply have Nanki-
      Poo finish the opera in the same wardrobe and airs he was directed to use as a second
      trombone. Does this suggest that this matter is either the wish of the librettist and composer
      or simply a long-standing tradition.
b)     The thread that Nanki may represent a satire on the man who shirks his duty could be
      extended to the point that Nanki-Poo does not REALLY care to assume the wardrobe and
      the airs of the heir apparent, even when they may be appropriate.
c)    Are therE older scores and/or older traditions suggesting that Gilbert and/or Sullivan
      actually had directions on this matter?

                replied: I know of no textual evidence that Nanki-Poo is supposed to enter in
regal costume for the final scene, and I do not recall ever seeing a production in which this was
done. As a matter of pure practicality, it is expensive to give a character a brand new costume
that is only worn for a few moments. There are a number of places in the canon where this
happens, but usually some plot necessity compels it. As there is no plot necessity here for Nanki-
Poo to enter in a new costume, why do it?

And                 had this to offer: In all the Mikado's that I have seen or been part of, Nanki and
Yum change into Wedding clothes for Act II. These are often in white, being the European
version of white for weddings. In reality, the Japanese would use red for weddings, and white for
funerals. I suppose Nanki's impending death could justify the use of white, come to think of it.
Sometimes directors will have the happy couple reappear with sunglasses, cameras, etc. -- our
modern version of the Japanese tourist. When I costumed it, I put Nanki into the Japanese male
wedding attire of black and white striped hakama pants over a black kimono(well, we used a
hippari shirt instead), with a crested Haori jacket over all. This works well for his appearance
later, as it would make it immediately obvious to his father that he had married (and a pretty
young thing she was, too). Yum-Yum was also in ceremonial dress. She wore a red kimono with
a white outer robe that had a wadded edge "train", and had a traditional flower head-dress. Later
in the act she changes into red over red (as do many Japanese brides).


6.11 Encores

              wrote: I get the feeling that there are mixed opinions on Savoynet about encores. I
recall a Saturday during the DCOC 1959 London season when, with Sir Winston Churchill in the
audience - or was it Princess Margaret? - Wandering minstrel, Little list, Three little maids, The
sun whose rays, madrigal, Here's a how (8), Mikado's song, Flowers that bloom (5) and Tit
willow were all encored, and the clamour after 'There is beauty' was such that PP and AD-G
danced hand-in-hand across the stage during the applause. Intellectually one feels that is not
good. But being part of an audience under such circumstances generates adrenaline, and a kind of
'mob-rule' asserts itself. Performers and audience get carried along together and then the encores

                                                  60
seem natural and part of the proper order of things. Perhaps as well one's critical faculties are a
little impaired. One can say that encores destroy the natural flow of the piece, but when one is
part of an enthusiastic audience, things are different.


6.12 Katisha's entrance

                    made this request: As I am about to direct a school production of The Mikado,
I am interested in off-beat ways to present various aspects of the show. I have seen one of the
video productions in which Katisha arrives in a hot-air balloon! Have others experienced
interesting entrances for her? I intend to start the show with a village fair theme during the
Overture, with jugglers, samurai swordsman and acrobats. These performers are the ones who
can't sing in tune but are keen to take part somehow. Any other ideas to make the show attractive
to young performers and audience would be appreciated.                offered this: The last two
Mikados I've seen had the following entrances for Katisha:

1.    In a 1996 production at Yale, not in Japanese dress, K. entered with an enormous hat and
      veil, rather like a giant beekeeper's hat. The brim was three or four feet around, with the
      veil hanging down all around to the length of K's knees.

2.    In a 1996 children's production in Branford, CT, K. entered in a "dragoncopter" meant to
      suggest the helicopter scene in Miss Saigon. Whirring helicopter noises were played over
      the loudspeakers while K. entered from stage left, keeping the dragon prop in front of her
      and walking it along as she went to center stage. The body of the prop was a cut-out of a
      dragon attached to a skeleton made of PVC plumbing pipe. Attached via a vertical post
      (more PVC plumbing pipe) was a set of enormous rotor blades made of wire and crepe
      paper. The blades actually rotated at a noticeable speed, driven by a small electric motor
      powered by a 9-volt dry cell.

And               offered this: When I directed Mikado in 95, I added a touch that I got a lot of
good feedback on. for the Madrigal, I had Peep-Bo, instead of leaving, come back on with music
folders, which she passed out to the quartet. she then conducted in a very overwrought fashion.
the audience got quite a kick out of it. I have also done the tea ceremony version, but I wanted to
try something a bit different.


6.13 Business old and new

                   wrote; On Monday I saw a production of The Mikado by the Bingley G&S
Society, which I enjoyed tremendously - the most, I think, of any production of it I've seen,
including some professional. The production contained a lot of the "traditional" business that I've
read about: "Not you, silly", the splitting fans in "Here's a how-de-do", the rolling over when Ko-
Ko, Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah kneel before the Mikado, even a reminiscence of "Ko-Ko's Toe".
From an academic point of view I disapprove of some of these, e.g. the rolling over (and the 2nd
verse of Miya Sama, with Japanese brand names substituted, which they also did) - but in the
midst of performance it seemed churlish not to enjoy it. The highlight of the production was
undoubtedly Mitchell Wolfe, an agile young Ko-Ko, who brought a wonderful panache to the
part. A couple of things they did which I haven't seen or heard about before:

 "Here's a how-de-do": they did two encores, with traditional business - then the band struck up
for a third encore, and an exhausted Ko-Ko staggered forward and shushed Pitti-Sing and the

                                                  61
conductor. Two is enough, thank you, was the implication, and it was very funny in
performance, though it isn't in my retelling of it.

Ko-Ko's line in the scene with Katisha: "I dare not hope for your love - but I will not live without
it!" - he gave a deep unexpected significance to the second half of this, revealing his real purpose.
Indeed, he wouldn't live without it! Very funny, and of course absolutely in line with the
character. I'm constantly astonished at the wealth of talent exhibited in these amateur
productions. Kevin Hardaker, as Nanki-Poo, was very good, and even gave a little colour to that
pasteboard character. Mitchell Wolfe's sense of timing as Ko-Ko was absolutely spot-on - a
really witty performance.


6.14 Ko-Ko's toe

In a review of the Bingley production of The Mikado [Section 6.13 above]
mentioned Ko-Ko's toe which prompted                       to ask: What is Ko-Ko's toe? And
explained it thus: Basically, it's a bit of business for "The flowers that bloom", in which Ko-Ko
finds to his surprise that his big toe is standing upright from his foot. He pushes it down with his
fan. It springs up again. And so on. Henry Lytton claimed to have originated this, but it's now
known that George Thorne (the original Ko-Ko in America) was the inventor. an article by Brian
Jones in the W.S. Gilbert Society Journal Vol 1 No 6 (1990), "Ko-Ko's Toe", goes into all this.
Mitchell Wolfe, the Ko-Ko in the Bingley production, couldn't do this strange bit of contortion,
but did pretend to hurt his foot, pulling up all his toes and limping, at about this spot.
         provided this additional information: Peter Pratt had the affliction in the great toe of each
foot. I think Martyn Green included it in The Mikado film, and there are certainly photographs of
Lytton and Green both with the great toe of their right foot at right angles.

             asked: Was it Lytton who said he dislocated the toe by accident during a performance,
and thus the gag was born? I had always taken this to be the truth (simple, trusting soul that I
am). Who's lying? Lytton? Was it Jones to whom this happened? Did the gag arise from different
circumstances altogether?                    replied: It was almost certainly Lytton who was lying.
He also lied through his teeth about being the first to introduce the "tragic" ending to Yeomen
(i.e.. Point dying as opposed to fainting). This ending was also first introduced by Thorne.


6.15 Traditional business

                   wrote: The Bingley production contained a lot of the "traditional" business that
I've read about. [Section 6.13 above] And                   asked: Could anyone give me a
reference to such details? To which                  replied: Ian Bradley's "The Complete
Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan" (Oxford, 1996) contains most of the details I know about.




                                                  62
7. Recordings

7.1 Film

              wrote: I remember my father telling me that he first saw the Martyn Green Mikado
film at a mid-afternoon performance with only about three people in the audience. He recalled
that a frame went up at the start of the film stating that, in the event of sufficient applause,
encores would be performed. Of course there was no applause at all, but "Here's a " and "Flowers
that bloom" were afforded encores. Certainly the movie does repeat those numbers, but does the
frame about encores remain?                   replied: No! I thought they were supposed to be there,
having read about it somewhere. I checked the "Here's a Howdy Do" autobiog, and it wasn't in
there, so it must have been in MG's Treasury. Has anyone noticed that the pre-Green version is
available in abundant supply in used book stores, but MG's edition with the libretti and
annotations never seems to turn up! I have been looking for this for years.




                                                 63
8. Also Happened in 1885

8.1 David Duffey's Patter

              wrote: There are a number of parallels between 1885 and 1997. Both were general
election years.

8.1.1 British politics

In 1885 a moderately successful but deeply unpopular administration was ousted. This looks
likely for 1997. Then, as now, there were two main parties and several minor ones. Lord
Randolph Churchill - father of Winston (who was probably taken to a Mikado matinee by his
nanny) - had broken away from a main party and was attempting to form one of his own.

8.1.2 Irish Nationalists

There were a series of bomb explosions in 1885, detonated by Irish Nationalists.

8.1.3 Sexual and fiscal scandal

There was grave concern expressed by Bishops in the House of Lords about the declining
standards in public life. There were both sexual and fiscal scandals involving members of
government and the Royal Household.

8.1.4 Praying Ladies of the Night

The outgoing Prime Minister used to rove the streets of Soho, returning with ladies of the night
with whom he held prayer meetings at 10 Downing Street - I think that is a parallel.




                                                64
9. Mikadiana

9.1 Web Sites

                wrote: The Web Sites that I know of for The Mikado are:

http://math.idbsu.edu/gas/Mikado/html/Mikado.html
http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/gasdisc/mik.htm
http://members.aol.com/gsvloc/mik_glo2.htm
http://www.nycopera.com/education/Mikado.html
http://members.aol.com/scynthius/mik/index.htm


9.2 Mikado Quotes

             wrote: This week's issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education has an article called
"Sexual Harassment: Let the Punishment fit the Crime." Within the text of the article is a heading
that "Title IX does not ban flirtation." I wonder how many people who use "punishment fit the
crime" and other quotes know what they are quoting from.                              replied:
Probably about as many as know when they're quoting Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth. Good lines
go into the language, and we're all the richer for them.

And                      observed: .. Or indeed whether they realise they're quoting the view of a
man with a notoriously sadistic sense of humour! (The Mikado, I mean, Gilbert!)
         added: Every time I hear one of these present-day maniacs ranting about how we need to
make everything that's not mandatory a felony and execute all felons, (we get a lot of them in
California) I also hear, in the background, a faint "My Object All Sublime...". The people that
could most profit from an understanding of the song, however, are those most likely to
completely miss the point.


9.3 Parliamentary Trains?

              wrote: At An Evening With Donald Adams put on by the Chicago Gilbert and
Sullivan Society some time in the 1980s, Donald Adams related that he was stuck on a stopped
train into London alongside a family increasingly agitated about being late.

     "Where are you going?" he asked.
     "We're going to see the Mikado".
     "I AM the Mikado!"

Jeremy Spillett quipped: What Donald Adams knew - and presumably the family going to see
him didn't -was that he had nearly an hour and a half longer to get there than they had!


9.4 Train(?) Spotting

              spotted: Behold the Lord High Executioner as background music to a dinner on
House of Eliot, the current Brit soaper on PBS.                wrote: Despite being one who for all
his professional life advocated the need for students to be as adept in decoding televisual

                                                65
messages as printed text, I have not much interest in popular television. My son, however, forced
me to sit in front of the screen yesterday telling me that there was a G&S connection. It was "The
Simpsons", and yes, there was The Mikado and "H M S Pinafore". But more than that, the
programme was exceptionally well written and very funny. Is there any other programme I
should know about?


9.4 A Minstrel's Anecdote

           offered the following: At last Thursday's rehearsal, at a break in proceedings
following my rendering of "A Wand'ring Minstrel", Larraine, our accompanist, called me over to
the piano, where she was in the process of devouring a bag of chocolate treats known as
"Minstrels". She rolled one across the keys, and exclaimed "Look! a wandering Minstrel". I
Naturally grabbed the said sweet, screwed it firmly into my ocular and exclaimed "Look! a
wandering minstrel, eye!"




                                                66
10. Appendix 1

10.1 Acronyms translated

BTW = By The Way

CD = Compact Disc

CP = Cloy Potential

DC = District of Colombia

D'OC = D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

FTBONUKN = For The Benefit Of Non UK Netters

FWIW = For What It's worth

G and S = Gilbert and Sullivan

G & S = Gilbert and Sullivan

IMHO = In My Humble Opinion

IMO = In My Opinion

ILGWU = International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union

JMOHO = Just My Own Humble Opinion

KK = Ko-Ko

KP&P = Ko-Ko, Poo-Bah & Pitti-Sing

LHE = Lord high Executioner

MD = Musical Director

M&K = Mikado & Katisha

N-P = Nanki-Poo

NP = Nanki-Poo

OOTW = Opera Of The Week

PB = Pooh-Bah

POV = Point Of View


                                           67
PP = Peter Pratt

PS = Pitti-Sing

3PO = The Threepenny Opera

THBM = The Honorable Bruce Miller

TLM = Three Little Maids

WSG = William Schwenk Gilbert

QED = Quod Erat Demonstrandum (What was to be proved)




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