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Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.

robomatic 26 Dec 16 - 07:19 PM
GUEST,.gargoyle 26 Dec 16 - 08:00 PM
Joe Offer 26 Dec 16 - 08:08 PM
Greg F. 26 Dec 16 - 08:08 PM
keberoxu 26 Dec 16 - 08:16 PM
leeneia 26 Dec 16 - 11:42 PM
GUEST,DK 27 Dec 16 - 03:07 AM
Will Fly 27 Dec 16 - 03:34 AM
BobL 27 Dec 16 - 04:01 AM
Sandra in Sydney 27 Dec 16 - 04:03 AM
Will Fly 27 Dec 16 - 04:16 AM
GUEST,Senoufou 27 Dec 16 - 04:18 AM
leeneia 27 Dec 16 - 09:33 AM
GUEST,keberoxu 27 Dec 16 - 10:50 AM
Thomas Stern 27 Dec 16 - 12:38 PM
Bonzo3legs 27 Dec 16 - 02:04 PM
Greg F. 28 Dec 16 - 11:54 AM
robomatic 28 Dec 16 - 01:14 PM
GUEST,Senoufou 28 Dec 16 - 01:29 PM
Peter the Squeezer 28 Dec 16 - 01:53 PM
GUEST,Dave 28 Dec 16 - 02:14 PM
robomatic 28 Dec 16 - 05:53 PM
Senoufou 28 Dec 16 - 06:04 PM
Tattie Bogle 29 Dec 16 - 06:07 AM
Greg F. 29 Dec 16 - 10:40 AM
Greg F. 29 Dec 16 - 12:46 PM
robomatic 29 Dec 16 - 12:53 PM
Thomas Stern 29 Dec 16 - 01:06 PM
robomatic 29 Dec 16 - 01:31 PM
GUEST,Ebor Fiddler 29 Dec 16 - 01:34 PM
Greg F. 29 Dec 16 - 05:36 PM
leeneia 30 Dec 16 - 12:30 AM
punkfolkrocker 30 Dec 16 - 08:52 PM
leeneia 31 Dec 16 - 12:19 AM
robomatic 31 Dec 16 - 05:48 PM
punkfolkrocker 31 Dec 16 - 11:23 PM
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Subject: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: robomatic
Date: 26 Dec 16 - 07:19 PM

From my usual source of news and platitudes comes THIS about newly staging Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado.

When a youngster, I saw it staged during the D'Oyly Carte incursion on Boston, and thoroughly enjoyed it as I did all their work.

Somewhat later, but still over a decade ago, I remember the subject coming up of whether it was demeaning to the Japanese people and my reaction was with the majority: "It's not even about the Japanese people!"

Gilbert & Sullivan roundly lampooned their own kind in Trial By Jury, H.M.S. Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance and didn't hesitate to involve fellow Europeans such as in The Gondoliers; their characters were witty and gave as good as they got, with period sentiments on display Patience, Princess Ida, Iolanthe, Utopia Limited.

I heard an apocryphal tale of a post-War production of the Mikado operetta in Japan to great amusement of the locals, who 'got' it. I considered the subject closed for years, but along comes this article in The New York Times and of course there's this thing called the Twenty-First Century soon to be The Twenty-First Century brought to you by Trump Corp.

I'll only add that if one accepts "yellow-face" as an acceptable acting ploy (with the likely exception of Mickey Rooney's buck-toothed fabrication in Breakfast at Tiffany's), then turnabout is fair play and I've witnessed turnabout aplenty. One of my fond memories is a staging of Li'l Abner by an all oriental cast with Watergate allusions thrown in for good measure.

I'm placing this above the line because it's musical and theatrical but I leave it to the gods of Mudcat to determine whether it deserves to so reside.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: GUEST,.gargoyle
Date: 26 Dec 16 - 08:00 PM

Dearest Dude,

You are clearly 20 years behind current times.

"Political Correctness" has given way to "oppression" and "rights" of non-gendered communities.

Sincerely,
Gargoyle

Trust me...I read their papers.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Dec 16 - 08:08 PM

I took a date to a local production of Mikado in about 1996. I liked it. She didn't. That was our last date.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Greg F.
Date: 26 Dec 16 - 08:08 PM

Yup. And we gotta eviscerate The Gondoliers because it deals with an imaginary Italy and imaginary Italians. And Iolanthe, of course, because it deals with "fairies"- and we all know what THAT'S code for.
Then Patience is out because of its take the aesthitic movement. And Yeoman isn't an accurate portrayal of the 16th Century. And etc.

Jesus wept.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: keberoxu
Date: 26 Dec 16 - 08:16 PM

Oddly there is an opera on my mind which has a similar problem, and no, I am not thinking of Butterfly although that case could be made.

I am thinking of Bizet's Carmen.

Carmen was a complete flop when it premiered, Bizet practically died of grief afterwards. Paris just did not know what had hit it. To this day, the whole thing about Gypsies and smuggling and all is problematic. But Carmen is one of the operas that sells tickets, 'gets bums in seats' to crib from the English, and keeps the opera companies in business and the opera houses open.

The Mikado is a big deal musically. Some G & S pieces are as much drama as music; but The Mikado has an ambitious score and it is long. The conductor and orchestra, spoken passages notwithstanding, have to work every bit as hard as they would in a conventional opera in which every word has music underneath it.

In the end I think it's the combination of attractive music that works in the theatre and on the stage, for both The Mikado and Carmen, which means that the public will clamor for both pieces, and we will be wrestling with the issues around each piece for generations to come.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: leeneia
Date: 26 Dec 16 - 11:42 PM

The Mikado has nothing to do with Japan. As clearly stated in the operetta itself, it's set in Titipu.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: GUEST,DK
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 03:07 AM

I seem to remember hearing Groucho Marx in a production of 'Mikado.'


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 03:34 AM

It's a satire on British institutions, using Japan as a foil. That was quite clear at the time. (The name of the town of Titipu, where the opera is set, is based on Chichibu - which has created a Japanese language version of the piece). The initial Japanese reactions to The Mikado were slightly ambivalent, apparently. A Japanese prince made a state visit to the UK in the early 1900s and complained that wasn't able to see the Mikado performed. What HAS been cut from the original text is the work "nigger", which was used in the "I've got a little list" song.

I saw the English National Opera version (produced by Jonathan Miller) in the original production and in its revival. Eric Idle played KoKo and it was set in the 1920s. Great fun and a great production. I think G&S polarises opinion - you either like their stuff or you don't. I had it rammed down my throat at school by a G&S mad music master and ignored it for years. It was only in later life that I began to understand the satire in the text and appreciate Sullivan's pastiches of classical musical styles.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: BobL
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 04:01 AM

Setting the opera in a totally fictitious Japan hasn't stopped it being performed in the real one.

A few years ago I saw a version set in the 1960's, with many of the period gags lifted from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. A suggestion of another side to Katisha came in the final scenes, when the power-dressed secretary - much to Ko-Ko's delight - changed into black leather gear.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 04:03 AM

DK - my parents had an old LP of the Groucho Marx mikado & here it is as a DVD


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 04:16 AM

A suggestion of another side to Katisha came in the final scenes, when the power-dressed secretary - much to Ko-Ko's delight - changed into black leather gear.

Excellent - very appropriate for her character!


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: GUEST,Senoufou
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 04:18 AM

My Irish auntie (a college drama tutor and obsessed with G&S) took me to see a D'Oyly Carte production of the Mikado in London when I was about six and I was in raptures. Her husband, my Uncle George, could rattle off the words of the whole thing, and I learned from him to do this too. I was too young to appreciate the satire, but always assumed it was set in Japan. Auntie gave me a paper fan and taught me to sing 'Three Little Maids From School Are We'. My parents were not impressed as they thought Auntie Lil was too much of a theatrical luvvie!

It's tricky isn't it, presenting works from a pre-PC age nowadays without offending people. There are several old TV shows where the content is terribly non-PC (eg John Inman in 'Are You Being Served?', 'The Black And White Minstrel Show' 'It Ain't 'Alf 'Ot Mum' etc) I think it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid offending people unkindly.
I also remember seeing John Reed in Ruddigore, and my fav is Yeomen , but Jack Point's song 'I have a song to sing-o' always makes me weep.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: leeneia
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 09:33 AM

I like to sing "A Wandering Minstrel I" from the Mikado while cleaning up the kitchen. I also like to sing "Tit Willow".

I think "Tit Willow" is tiresome to listen to, but it's fun to sing.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 10:50 AM

The N word is in more than one spot I think, in The Mikado. Don't know about KoKo's little list. But what I do recall is the Mikado's entry song, about "to make the punishment fit the crime." There is a line "is blacked like a N* with permanent walnut juice." This turned into "is painted with vigour and permanent walnut juice," which prompted Martyn Green, in his Annotated G&S, to venture, "what colour is vigour?"


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 12:38 PM

http://www.gilbertandsullivanarchive.org/mikado/discussion/2.html

The G&S Mikado gave rise to a number of modernized versions, including
THE RED MIKADO, The SWING Mikado, etc.

Thomas.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 27 Dec 16 - 02:04 PM

I couldn't possibly comment, for fear of offending some old gypo poove!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Greg F.
Date: 28 Dec 16 - 11:54 AM

Atta boy, Bozo - keep on being an idiot.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: robomatic
Date: 28 Dec 16 - 01:14 PM

The N-Word only occurred once in the original Mikado - in the Mikado's song. In defense of W.S. Gilbert, I don't think the word in the England of the time was a pejorative, it was more of a color (colour). However, I approve of the change, doubtful though its meaning may be. I wonder if there is a record of when it changed and who changed it. I doubt me it was WSG.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: GUEST,Senoufou
Date: 28 Dec 16 - 01:29 PM

You're right robomatic. Even when I was a girl, the word was used unhesitatingly and I don't think it was meant to be insulting. For instance, my father always asked for 'n***** brown' for his pullovers. But like you, I approve of the change in the Mikado.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Peter the Squeezer
Date: 28 Dec 16 - 01:53 PM

As Will correctly mentions, Jonathan Miller's 1987 production was set in the 1920's - the same set could have easily been used for The Boy Friend, or Salad Days. Eric Idle appeared as Ko-Ko, Lesley Garrett as Yum-Yum, Bonaventura Bottone as Nanki-Poo. Mr Idle was never going to be one who sat quietly in a corner on stage. One line from Ko-Ko's little list - "Bishops who don't believe in God, Chief Constables who do ....".


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: GUEST,Dave
Date: 28 Dec 16 - 02:14 PM

Reminds me too much of Peter Lilley. But Gilbert could not possibly have guessed how a nasty piece of political work would later abuse his words.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: robomatic
Date: 28 Dec 16 - 05:53 PM

Words are powerful. This website is built on words. Happy Gilbert & Sullivan memory: I was in the chorus of Pirates of Penzance in college. Act I - pirate, Act II - policeman. In Act I I seized one of Major Stanley's daughters, a comely lass who had a T-Shirt depicting a sword bisecting a pen! She was on the fencing team.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Senoufou
Date: 28 Dec 16 - 06:04 PM

Oh at grammar school I fancied madly the lad who played the pirate king. His name was Russell and he was gorgeous. (swoon)


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Tattie Bogle
Date: 29 Dec 16 - 06:07 AM

I was in our local (Edinburgh) Gilbert & Sullivan society for a number of years, including about 10 of their annual productions. The director would always add or subsitute in a couple of very topical lines, while otherwise sticking to the original script. Don't think anyone took offence at this liberty: on the contrary, usually raised one of the biggest laughs of the night!
In one production of The Mikado, we had characters bouncing in on space-hoppers, or sailing in on skateboards. And on one occasion, the skateboard continued its trajectory into the orchestra pit, narrowly missing the oboeist!


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Greg F.
Date: 29 Dec 16 - 10:40 AM

Oboeists never get any respect.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Greg F.
Date: 29 Dec 16 - 12:46 PM

Also reminds me about the criticisms of Kern & Hammerstein's "Showboat".

Hell, if it was good enough for Paul Robeson, its plenty good enough for me.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: robomatic
Date: 29 Dec 16 - 12:53 PM

It turns out that sensitivity to the perception of The Mikado's racism is nothing new.

A well-written opinion piece on the PC provenance of banning The Mikado


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 29 Dec 16 - 01:06 PM

Greg F.
Actually it was not good enough for Paul Robeson - see WIKI article
about changes to the lyrics.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ol%27_Man_River

In later recitals Robeson sang the following -
"But I keeps laughing instead of cry­­ing; I must keep fighting until I'm dying; And Ol' Man River, He just keeps rolling along!"

Thomas.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: robomatic
Date: 29 Dec 16 - 01:31 PM

Are you referring to Elderly Man River ?


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: GUEST,Ebor Fiddler
Date: 29 Dec 16 - 01:34 PM

It is very common, even in top G&S performances, for most of the "list" songs in the Savoy Operas to be "made relevant to today" in each generation, and highly enjoyable too!

Chris B.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: Greg F.
Date: 29 Dec 16 - 05:36 PM

I'm not talking about Robeson's substitution for the "N-word" in that one song, Mr. Thompson, but the totality of the musucal.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: leeneia
Date: 30 Dec 16 - 12:30 AM

I was wrong. The first line the chorus sings is "If you want to know who we are, we are gentlemen of Japan." Titipu is the town they're in.

I just watched the entire production of the Mikado given in Stratford, Ontario, I think in the 1980's. It was great. Fascinating costumes, funny action, music that ranged from jolly to touching. I recommend it.

Saying that someone should not produce the Mikado because it's anti-Japanese is like saying that someone should not produce Hamlet because it encourages superstition.

Side story: one day a friend who is a professional pianist heard me playing "The Sun Whose Rays" from the Mikado. She admired the piece and asked for a copy. She intended to play it as a prelude for weddings.


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Dec 16 - 08:52 PM

I actually quite enjoyed the Disney space opera fantasy movie "John Carter [of Mars]" ... Edgar Rice Burroughs..

Despite it being written a century ago, and the cast mostly white middle class Brits redding up as martians...

As far as I, and presume Disney Corporation are aware, so far no protests of racial/alien species stereotyping has been lodged by any outraged martian complainants... 👽


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: leeneia
Date: 31 Dec 16 - 12:19 AM

I just followed the link in the OP to read about protests in various places about the Mikado. My friends:

every year, about 1500 little kids are beaten to death in America

20% of children are going hungry

the typical new prostitute is 13

The number of workers who are killed in collapsed trenches is shooting up - completely unnecessary deaths.

And yet people have the energy, and media have the column-inches to fret about The Mikado. "They're all alike, and they're all nuts."


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: robomatic
Date: 31 Dec 16 - 05:48 PM

Giving away the fact that maybe we've all got better things to do with our time, I believe people have the right to raise the issue (freedom of speech), but I believe there are often two or more sides to the issue, even to liberal progressive types. I'm gonna bring up four different items of cultural clash:

"Redskin" for Native American. I don't think this was meant to be demeaning or pejorative and I don't believe I've heard it used that way except for people who seek to change the word. It wouldn't bother me if the sports team kept that name and I think they're getting a raw deal about it in the name of PC. This is one of those cases where a biased minority can change public perception by creating a new perception, not necessarily a better perception.

"Indian Giver". This is for sure demeaning, and SO ironic. Also when I was growing up, very commonly used. I haven't heard it used for years, yet it shows up in a song lyric that I quite love otherwise. And I can't find anything to substitute in the lyric that will scan.

"Eskimo". I'm beginning to hear some notions that this is demeaning, yet among older people I've worked with who ARE such, it is not considered demeaning or pejorative. It actually has a use, in that there are different cultures with different proper names which are closely related and can be referred to by this word. I'm afraid that someone with a name to make will make it into a cause.

The Musical "Flower Drum Song." I really loved this musical and the movie when I was a kid. Yet I've heard from Oriental Americans that they find it patronizing, and I accept that, though I don't believe it was meant to be demeaning, quite the reverse. In 2002 there was an effort to restage the musical with the original songs and a new book.

So the art is out there, and it gets interpreted and used by the public. Some stuff makes the cut, and some gets cut. So far I think Gilbert & Sullivan are in it for the long haul.

I'm holding steady with "Fiddler On The Roof."


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Subject: RE: Reviving 'The Mikado' in the age of P.C.
From: punkfolkrocker
Date: 31 Dec 16 - 11:23 PM

As some kind of militant lefty liberal, one thing i can't stand about my 'own side'
is patronising academic middle class self righteous sanctimonious moral high ground monopolising abstract issue obsessed agenda setting.....

errrrmmmm.. maybe that counts as more than one thing...???

I'm from a small town council estate.. my parents endured a lifetime of shit wage slave factory and care home arse wiping jobs..

somehow obsessing and devoting all activist energies to protesting about representations in media and fiction don't excite me so much... ???


.. and a happy new year... 😜


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