Kelli O'Hara, Jason Danieley, et al. Set for Collegiate Chorale's MIKADO, 4/10

The Collegiate Chorale will present Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado at Carnegie Hall on April 10 at 6:30pm. The concert will feature soloists: Chuck Cooper, Jason Danieley, Christopher Fitzgerald, Victoria Clark and Kelli O'Hara. For tickets, visit:

One of the most frequently produced musical theatre pieces in history, The Mikado is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W.S. Gilbert. Debuted by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Savoy Theatre in London on March 14, 1885, The Mikado was Gilbert and Sullivan’s ninth collaborative work. Set in Japan, it explores the exotic, macabre, and humorous while satirizing British politics and institutions in a fictionalized town.

The Mikado tells the story of the town of Titipu in which the Mikado has decreed flirting a capital crime. When the decree was issued, the Titipu authorities appointed Ko-Ko, a prisoner condemned to death for flirting, to the post of High Executioner. They schemed that because he would “not cut off another’s head until he cut his own off,” there would be no executions. Meanwhile, a wandering minstrel named Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s son traveling in disguise, comes to town and proclaims his love for the maiden Yum-Yum, Ko-Ko’s fiancé. The town receives word from the Mikado that if they do not execute someone within the month, they will be demoted to a village, and therefore “irretrievable ruin.” The plot thickens…

Before Gilbert had conceived of The Mikado, Sullivan decreed that he would only dedicate himself to writing “serious” music, tired of the frivolity of their previous musical works. Gilbert could not agree to this, and so the pair declared the end to their seven-year collaboration, only to be renewed a month later. Gilbert eventually agreed: “…am I to understand that if I construct another plot in which no supernatural element occurs, you will undertake to set it? …a consistent plot, free from anachronisms, constructed in perfect good faith and to the best of my ability.” And thus The Mikado was born. In a fanciful creation myth, a Japanese sword fell from the wall of Gilbert’s study, and immediately turned his attention toward Japan.

The Mikado experienced enormous popularity in the 19th century and continues to today. The Savoy Opera revived it only seventeen months after its first run ended, and in 1891, it was performed for Queen Victoria and the Royal Family. The first authorized American production opened in August of 1885, though over 150 unauthorized versions (burlesque and parody productions) were also showing in America. Gilbert’s last literary work was a children’s book entitled The Story of The Mikado. In 1961, Gilbert and Sullivan works entered the public domain and are frequently performed and adapted in new ways today.

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos

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