CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
UI Opera Theater will present Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Mikado' July 25
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Opera Theater will present
one of the classic works of musical theater, Gilbert and Sullivan's satirical
comic-opera masterpiece "The Mikado," at 8 p.m. Friday, July
25, and 2 p.m. Sunday, July 27, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.
"The Mikado" will be directed by Beaumont Glass, director
of the UI Opera Theater. William Hatcher, the director of choral activities
at the UI School of Music, will conduct the performances. Stage and costume
design will be by Margaret Wenk of the Opera Production Unit. Major roles
in the production will be taken by students in the UI School of Music.
Although "The Mikado" has a Japanese setting -- faithfully
created with authentic details for the opera's 1886 premiere -- the characters
and situations are like those in all Gilbert and Sullivan comedies: dead-on
satires of life in Victorian England. The exotic setting serves to make
British politics, manners and mores seem even more ridiculous, and in fact
"The Mikado," as a satire of English behavior, has been very
popular in Japan.
"This is the most popular and best loved of all the Gilbert and
Sullivan comic operas," Glass said. "It is a masterful parody,
a spoof of snobbish Englishmen and of intricately complicated opera plots.
The words are ingeniously witty, and the melodies are the kind you can't
help humming as you leave the theater."
"The Mikado" was written in 1884-85. Gilbert and Sullivan
formed the most popular show-writing team in England, but they had been
unable to agree on a new subject and their work together was at a standstill.
According to legend, Gilbert was inspired with the idea for "The Mikado"
when an ancient Japanese sword fell off the wall in his study.
At the time, England was in the midst of a fascination with Japan. A
Japanese exhibition featuring costumes, paintings and Geishas serving tea
had opened near Buckingham palace, and all of London was captivated. Thus
Gilbert's inspiration -- whatever its source -- played right into the public
mood. Japanese people from the exhibition provided expertise in setting,
dress, manner, and even ways of moving, to make the Japanese touches in
the original production as authentic as possible.
The cast of characters includes a ruler obsessed with making the punishment
fit the crime; an executioner who can't do his job, because he would have
to start by chopping off his own head; and a Lord High Everything Else
who takes his multiple responsibilities so seriously that he simultaneously
proposes expenses as Lord of the Treasury and opposes them as Leader of
Any summary of the plot is bound to sound like a typically preposterous
operetta: Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado, is engaged to the elderly Katisha
but is in love with the beautiful Yum-Yum. Disguised as a wandering minstrel,
Nanki-Poo has arrived in Titipu on the day of Yum-Yum's wedding to her
elderly guardian, the Lord High Executioner, Ko-Ko. The situation is complicated
by the expected visit to Titipu of -- who else? -- Nanki-Poo's father,
But the twists and turns of the plot are almost irrelevant, since everyone
knows that the story will end happily. Naturally the young lovers end up
together, and their elderly suitors are paired up, too. What matters is
the delightful music and the comic flair with which the whole concoction
is put together.
Appearing in the cast of "The Mikado" will be Sean Williams
in the title role; Barbara Buddin and Rachel Andrews as Katisha; Ezechial
Thurman as Nanki-Poo; J.S. Endres as Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner;
Darwynn Carter as Poo-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else; and Emily Truckenbrod
and Maria Gimenez as Yum-Yum.
Other artistic contributors to the production will include choreographer
Rani Welch and chorus master David Belles.
Beaumont Glass was for many years a leading opera coach of the Zurich
Opera and the Festival of Aix-en-Provence in France. Along with staging
operas in Europe and the United States, he has accompanied song recitals
in the Salzburg, Aix and Holland festivals, as well as on tour with well
known singers including Grace Bumbry, Martina Arroyo and Simon Estes. Since
1980 he has staged 32 major productions for UI Opera Theater, and he has
provided his own translations of many of the operas.
Glass' biography of the great soprano Lotte Lehmann was published in
1988. Volume I of his edition of "Schubert's Complete Song Texts"
was published in 1996, and Volume II was just released in March.
Hatcher has served as director of choral activities at the UI School
of Music since 1988. He directs the graduate choral conducting program,
conducts choral ensembles in the School of Music and frequently appears
as music director of productions by the UI Opera Theater. He was national
president of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) 1991-93 and
was chair of the 1991 ACDA national convention. Prior to coming to Iowa
he taught at UCLA, the University of Washington and Pasadena City College.
Under his direction, the UI choral ensemble Kantorei participated in
an International Choral Competition in Tolosa, Spain, this past year. Prior
to that honor, Kantorei was one of only five choirs chosen to participate
in the 1994 World Choral Festival in Seoul, South Korea, where they presented
concerts over an eight-day period. The group has also toured to Russia,
Estonia and Finland and regional and national conventions of the ACDA.
Tickets for "The Mikado" are available from the Hancher Auditorium
Box Office for $12. UI students, seniors and youth 17 and under may purchase
tickets for $7.
Hancher box office summer hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. From
the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance
within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319)
353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express.
UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI
faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.
People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services
should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with
hearing impairment who use that technology.