The Mikado at ENO was delicate but tear-jerkingly funny, despite still the most ridiculous story line in all opera. Jonathan Miller’s renowned and now venerable production places the action in a fashionable nineteen-thirties hotel but the verbal and music satire thrive in the transposition. ENO's production has become a National Treasure just as much as a major National Trust property.
The fabulous thing about this production is that it is so light, fresh and delicate. My generation were (over) exposed to G&S in school and professional productions but, although well thought of at the time, these pandered to the toe-tapping aspects of the music and their stagings were lumbering in comparison. This production plays the humour absolutely deadpan straight and is murderously effective for that.
Coming back to G&S after some years and much “serious opera”, the verbal satire remains relevant, suggesting the English characteristics haven’t changed much, and also that satire does not change the world. Sullivan’s musical parodies are perhaps now more abstruse as our musical diet has become more diverse, meaning that parodies of Victorian melodramatic music or nineteenth century popular operatic conventions are less familiar.
It’s ironic that in breaking the mould of the D’Oyly Carte inspired productions, a further tradition has grown up, that of Richard Suart’s Ko-Ko, and it now seems equally impossible to imagine this production with an alternative interpretation.
The tap-dancers, dressed as domestic staff, are deadpan serious in their dance and mime but are a glorious comedy act in their own right.
And David Parry’s sympathetic conducting underpinned the whole show, allowing the performers leeway to insert character and humour in to their performances.
Ko-Ko Richard Suart
Nanki-Poo Robert Murray
Yum-Yum Mary Bevan
Pooh-Bah Donald Maxwell
Peep-Bo Fiona Canfield
Katisha Yvonne Howard
The Mikado of Japan Mark Richardson
Pish-Tush David Stout
Pitti Sing Rachael Lloyd
Conductor David Parry
Original Director Jonathan Miller
Revival Director Elaine Tyler-Hall
Set Designer Stefanos Lazaridis
Costume Designer Sue Blane
Lighting Designer Davy Cunningham
Choreographer Anthony van Laast
Revival Choreographer Stephen Speed