Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



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.


1. General thoughts about the Opera
1.1 Mikado - Aaaargh!
1.1.1. Invisible eponymous character
1.1.2. The wettest Tenor in the canon
1.1.3. A nauseating soprano
1.1.4. Inadequately developed promising character
1.1.5. A stereotypical fatman
1.1.6. Endless encores
1.1.7 Subsidiary female ciphers.
1.1.8. An unbelievably unbelievable Ko-Ko
1.1.9. Katisha introduced too late
1.1.10. A ridiculous denouement.
1.1.11. A vomit inducing duet.
1.1.12. A ridiculous 'list' song.
1.1.13. A pile of sentimental tosh
1.2. Dubious Plot - Trite Music - BUT
1.3 Most Consistently Popular
1.4 It's Overrated!
1.5 Diminishing Credibility
1.6 Plus ca Change
1.7 Not Director Proof
1.8 Was she amused?
1.9 All but perfection
2. The Plot
2.1 Essentially a Farce
2.1.1 A Farce of Deceptions
2.1.2 An Opera of Two Capacities
2.2 Becomes a Novel
2.3 Updates
2.3.1 Red Mikado
2.3.2 The Corruption element
2.3.3 The Tuppenny Mikado
2.4 Nanki-Hal?
2.5 And for the attentively challenged.
2.6 Nanki-Poo Up - Ko-Ko Down
3. The Music
3.1 General Observations
3.2 Act II
3.3 Individual songs
3.3.1 Tit-Willow
3.3.2 Hearts Do Not Break
3.3.3 The Sun Whose Rays
3.3.4 Here's a Horrid
3.3.5 See How the fates
3.3.6 Braid the raven hair
3.4 Influenced Puccini?
3.5 Chorine Tribulations
4. The Libretto
4.1 One Catalogue too Many?
4.2 Yam - A vegetable or Not?
4.3 No Minstrel He
4.4 Ko-Ko's Promotion
4.5 The Kaishaku
4.6 A pessimistic little train?
5. The characters
5.1 Katisha
5.2 Nanki-Poo
5.3 Yum-Yum
5.4 Pitti-Sing
5.5 Ko-Ko
5.6 Pish-Tush
6. Stagecraft
6.1 THAT Handshake
6.2 Make-up & Costumes
6.2.1 Occidental eyes
6.2.2 Kabuki makeup
6.2.3 Wigs are the key
6.2.4 Free of stifling collars and corsets?
6.2.5 A Mikado Memory
6.3 What Address?
6.4 Rewriting the List
6.5 Stock Staging
6.6 Cheap Pickets
6.7 Differentiating Officers of State
6.8 Choral bleating
6.9 Katisha's scream?
6.10 The heir's airs
6.11 Encores
6.12 Katisha's entrance
6.13 Business old and new
6.14 Ko-Ko's toe
6.15 Traditional business
7. Recordings
7.1 Film
8. Also Happened in 1885
8.1 David Duffey's Patter
8.1.1 British politics
8.1.2 Irish Nationalists
8.1.3 Sexual and fiscal scandal
8.1.4 Praying Ladies of the Night
9. Mikadiana
9.1 Web Sites
9.2 Mikado Quotes
9.3 Parliamentary Trains?
9.4 Train(?) Spotting
9.5 A Minstrel's Anecdote
10. Appendix 1
10.1 Acronyms translated

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