There was a brilliant audience at the Princess Theatre last night, when Messrs Williamson, Garner, and Musgrove's Royal Comic Opera Company produced for the first time in New Zealand " The Mikado," the latest product of the Gilbert-e«wi-Sullivan collaboration. Seeing the extraordinary success that has attended, and continues to attend, these works, it is a little surprising to see people anxiously watching and waiting for composer and librettist to take a new departure. Why should they do anything of the kind when in their case the ordinary law seems to be reversed and .the supply creates the demand? There was no demand for Mr Gilbert's "quaint topseyturveydoms" until he himself created it
by manufacturing the article, and as long as there is an enthusiastic market for bis wares, so long is it reasonable to suppose that he will continue to turn them out. No substantial reason has appeared—yet, at anyrate—that should indnce him to abandon what are really opcra-bouffe libretti and devote his attention to what may be called, for want of a better designatioo, legitimate. coß)ic opera. " Thfi Mikado "is a work built upon precisely the same pattern as its predecessors—full of the same smart, pungent sallies, brimming over with a wit that stings rather than tickles into mirth. The scene is laid in Japan, and the whole details of the I scenario are elaborately designed to support this ; illusion; but it is a faint illusion after all and easily penetrated. Nothing could be more purely farcicial and more purely English. The jokes and lyrics are English in their application, and it is the quaint cynicism of the English homonri-it that is constantly before the audience from the rise to the fall of the curtain. It is tofciaotly the old Gilbertian material overhauled,
remodelled, and done into Japanese; but In spite of this fact -there c«n be no doubt that had the names of composer and librettist been obscure, and thuir 'modus operandi unknown, " The Mikado" would have been r< c-ived with wonder and delight. It ranks worthily among the best two or three operas of the series. As regards Sir Arthur 8 illivsn's share in the work, his inexhaustible tvrt-ility of invention and his rare knowledge ot' itistrain£!)tal resources have never been better t;Xtmp'.iiied. The opera abounds :n compositions graceful and beautiful invariably, and some iparkling and alive with genial fun. Hac* audiences not bsen captivated by Sullivan's fresh and masterly compositions as well as by Gilbert's unique whimsicalities, a very different record would have waited on their partnership. The curtain rises in this opera upon the courtyard of a palace in Titipu, Japan—the palace of Ko Ko, Lord High Executioner to his Majesty the Mikado. It is quickly apparent that matters in the town of Titipu are not progressing quite so smoothly as should be the case. In the first place, KoKo has been appointed to his high but grim office under peculiar circumstauces. The Mikado—paternal ruler ashe is, although in manner dehonnair, as subsequently appears— has, in his anxiety for the wellbeing of his people, made flirting a capital offence. Ko Ko has some time since fallen under this penal law and been duly condemned to death, but has been released for the best of reasons and elevated to the office of Lord High Executioner. His compatriots shrewdly argued that the man who stands condemned to be next decapitated " cannot cutoff another's head until he's cut his own off." Their own safety is therefore temporarily ensured. But the unexpected happens. The Mikado is struck by the monotony of affairs in Titipu, and the fact that no one has been beheaded there for a year, and decrees accordingly that an execution shall take place within one mouth. Ko Ko is thus in a delicate perdicament. Unless he can find a substitute, he himself being already under sentence of death should be the victim. The chief functionary of the State, Pooh-Bah, an exclusive gentleman of pre-Adainite descent, who can trace his ancestry back to a protoplasmal primordial atomic globule, and unites iv his own rotund person nearly every public office, declines to render any assistance, and so also does another coble lord, Pish-Tush. Fortunately at this juncture there appears upon the scene Nanki-Poo, a wandering minstrel (in reality the disguised ■'on of the Mikado)', who is desperately in love with YumYum, the ward of the Lord High Executioner. That functionary is, however, going to marry her himself, and learning this, Nanki-Poo prepaies for suicide. By a happy inspiration Ko Ko arrests his purpose, and promises him Yum Yum .as his bride provided he submits to the death penalty within one month. The bargain is struck, and a substitute is thus provided. But at the last moment it transpires that Japanese law demands that the wife of a man who is beheaded must herself be buried alive, and little Yum Yum shows a desire to recede from her engagement. "You see my difficulty," she observes ; " it's a stuffy kind of death." The difficulty is surmounted by Ko Ko and Pooh-Bah comspiring to present the Murado with a false certificate of Nanki Poo's execution, which is accordingly done upon the appearance of the monarch. But as luck will have it, the Mikado has come to look for his disguised son _ Nauki Poo, in company with one Katisha, a massive maiden, to avoid whose matrimonial advances the young prince has fled his father's court. The alleged execution of Nanki-Poo condemns Ko Ko, Pooh-Bah, and all concerned to a lingering death—" something with boiling oil or melted lead in it." There is only one way of escape, and this way the wily Ko Ko sees and adopts. He himself woos the formidable Katisha, and wins her by relating in 6ong the fate of a love-sick tomtit. He then produces Nanki Poo alive and well, and the danger that threatened the whole of the dramatis persona is averted.
This plot is sufficiently extravagant, and the dialogue contains enough inverted philosophy to fully sustain Mr Gilbert's reputation. The company deserve every praise for a most complete and well ordered performance, considered both vocally and dramatically. The charming music was excellently sung by principals and chorus, and encores, numerous as they were, would have been still more frequent had it not been for a manifest desire on the part of the audieuce to push along to the next development of the piece, in which they were thoroughly interested. The ladies are severely handicapped by costumes singularly ill-a<lapttd to the display of feminine charms, but fbey managed to attract notwithstanding. MissElsa May not only Baug particularly well but acted with all the riracity and winsomeness that made her a favourite here years ago. Miss Alice Barnett_, a stranger in the colonies, made a signal success in the not very grateful role of Katisha, a lady whoso charms lie chiefly iv her heel and her right elbow and who for external attraction depends upon ugliness and stormy lerocity. Miss Burnett made up well for the part.andher acting showed uncommon dramatic ability. She made an artistic usfrof a pleasant although not a powerful voice. Miss Ida Osborne, as Pitti Sing, was arch anddid well witt her part, and Hiss Aggie Kelton was good in the subordinate' role of Peep 80. These young ladies participated with: Miss Elsa May in the encore for the trio "Three little.maids from school," certainly one of the-quaintest and prettiest numbers iv; the opera. Mr Howard Vernon, the Lord High Executioner (Ko Ko), received of course a perfect ovation iv memory of other days, and was not long in Parniug warm recognition for his present impersonation. It is as full of humour as the part will admit, and Mr Vernon, needless to say, specially shines in his treatment of those lyrics which depend much upon enunciation and bye-play for their effect. The verbal pleasantries they contain would be missed otherwise, and- probably for this very reason the composer introduces melodies of the " patter " kind, and refrains largely from cantabile phrases of "linked sweetness long drawn out." Mr Vernon's peculiar cast of humour was best shown in the duet with Nanki Poo, "The flowers that bloom in spring"—the funniest number in the opera, twice recalled—and the graphic touches he imparted to the love song of the little tomtit. Mr Woodfield's voice seems to have rather improved than otherwise since his last appearance here. He sung the tenor mu.sie of Nanki Poo remarkably well, and acted also very appropriately. Mr Beuham, as Pooh-Bah, was a marvel of pompous stolidity, and he too sang his music acceptably; while MrGrundy, as Pi*hTush. did useful service in several bits of concerted music. Particular numbers iv this opera which will become popular might be instanced at some length—in fact the whole work is so musically captivating that its entire score will probably become as familiar as that of "Patience" ere long. But space will net allow the enumeration of all these gems in the present notice. There is, however, a singularly beautiful madrigal written in Sullivan's best style, a charming contralto song,"Hearts do not Break," and a wonderfully pretty duet between Yum Yum and Nanki Poo, " Were I not to Ko Ko plighted." The two scenes—a palace courtyard and a garden—were admirable examples of stagecraft, and a word of cordial praise is due to the very full orchestra under Mr Harrison. " The Mikado " will keep the boards, and will doubtless draw crowded houses, until further notice.
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"THE MIKADO.", Otago Daily Times, Issue 7816, 10 March 1887
"THE MIKADO." Otago Daily Times, Issue 7816, 10 March 1887
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