Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Mikado (Movie Glutton Opera Edition)

After a late night at the opera on Saturday, we dragged ourselves out of bed for church Sunday morning.  At the end of the service, we slipped away with no socializing, grabbed the kids, and headed home.  No nice Italian dinner before this opera; we only had to for a quick bite from Sonic on the run.  Zippy stayed at church, and we left Chloe with her cousin Brandon at our house, while Kelly, Elliot, and I headed back to Bass Hall for opera number 2 of the weekend.

We were all sleepy, and Kelly had a headache, so lighter fare certainly fit the bill today.  The Mikado, like most operas by Gilbert and Sullivan, seem to be more appropriately called musicals.  To my untrained ears, The Mikado has more in common with a 20th century Broadway musical than a Verdi opera.  The Mikado debuted in 1885, and, although it was set in 19th century Japan, G and S used the Japanese setting to thinly disguise their lampooning of British culture and politics.  Some of that remains, but the Fort Worth opera did some updating of its own, with costuming and props from modern Japan (or at least a caricature thereof) and with some creative license on some lyrical content.
I'm not sure what Gilbert and Sullivan would think of this get-up for Nanki-Poo!
The opera opens with gentlemen of Japan gathered, in business suits and busily poking at smart phones.  Nanki-Poo, the wandering minstrel, enters and plays some tunes on his DJ set-up, complete with lap top.  The little maids from school enter, not wearing traditional Japanese dress but school-girl outfits, Hello Kitty backpacks, and brightly dyed hair.  One character skates on those shoes with wheels that the kids like.  When the Mikado finally makes his entrance, he comes on stage on a Segway!
Is this the first opera in history to choreograph Segways?
Lyrically, there is a tradition of productions of The Mikado adding lyrics to bring the pointed humor up to date.  When Ko-ko, the Lord High Executioner, recites his "little list of society offenders . . . who never would be missed" in Act I, several names are included who never would have made Gilbert's libretto: telemarketers, Oprah, Donald Trump.  At the performance we attended on May 22, they even included a jab at people who called on the May 21 rapture that didn't happen!  Similarly, in Act II, the Mikado describes his "object all sublime, . . . to let the punishment fit the crime" and includes several modern, local references, like graffiti on TRE trains.

All in all, this was a delightful performance.  The Fort Worth Opera did a fabulous job.  Gilbert and Sullivan can never be accused of letting the story get in the way of the humor and songs.  Several songs into the show, Elliot said, "What's going on?" and I was hard pressed to explain.  The one negative was that during the speaking parts, even though the performers used microphones, the dialogue was difficult to hear.  Kelly and I both said it was like being at a school play where the speakers spoke too fast and did not articulate.  But that did not deter Elliot.  After 2 operas in 2 days, he wants to know when the next opera festival is and wants me to be sure and get him tickets!

No comments: