Scottish Opera renews its partnership with the venerable D’Oyly Carte Opera Company for this new production of the most popular work in the entire Gilbert & Sullivan canon, The Mikado.
Director Martin Lloyd-Evans’s approach is broadly traditional – Gilbert’s lines are not updated, apart from Richard Suart’s topical and distinctly naughty rewrites of Ko-Ko’s famous Little List Song, in which he takes a pop at all of the UK’s current political leaders on a day of elections throughout the land; nor do other public figures escape a tongue lashing.
Dick Bird comes up with designs that marry the fantasy, inverted-commas Japan of the opera’s stated location with images from the music-halls of Victorian England – Gilbert’s real target for social and political satire. Colourful and imaginative, the result is visually resplendent, with some particularly glamorous costumes.
Individual performances are strong, melding into a unified company whose routines will doubtless attain sharper definition as the run proceeds.
A literal one-man-band of a wandering minstrel, Nicholas Sharratt’s silly-ass Nanki-Poo achieves an endearingly Wodehousian quality. Rebecca Bottone makes an appealingly knowing Yum-Yum. A balefully Gothic woman in black, Rebecca de Pont Davies’s rejected Katisha is an unforgettable comic creation. Ben McAteer’s sexually ambivalent Pish-Tush is good fun too.
The lead comic roles, though, are in the experienced hands of the indispensable Suart and Andrew Shore as Pooh-Bah – the latter offering a classic account of the ultimate snob who claims he was born sneering.
Stephen Richardson revels in Gilbert’s ghoulish humour as the Mikado. Sioned Gwen Davies (Pitti-Sing) and Emma Kerr (Peep-Bo) provide Bottone with keen support as the other two of the three little maids.
Vocal and musical values are high, with Sullivan’s enchanting score well served by the large chorus and hand-picked orchestra under Derek Clark’s focused baton.