Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Performances

The Barber of Seville, ENO London

This may be the twelfth revival of Jonathan Miller’s 1987 production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for English National Opera, but the ready laughter from the auditorium and the fresh musical and dramatic responses from the stage suggest that it will continue to amuse audiences and serve the house well for some time to come.

Monteverdi: Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Bostridge, Barbican London

The third and final instalment of the Academy of Ancient Music’s survey of Monteverdi’s operas at the Barbican began and ended in darkness; the red glow of the single candle was an apt visual frame for a performance which was dedicated to the memory of the late Andrew Porter, the music critic and writer whose learned, pertinent and eloquent words did so much to restore Monteverdi, Cavalli and other neglected music-dramatists to the operatic stage.

English Touring Opera - Debussy, Massenet and Offenbach

English Touring Opera’s recent programming has been ambitious and inventive, and the results have been rewarding. We had two little-known Donizetti operas, The Siege of Calais and The Wild Man of the West Indies, in spring 2015, while autumn 2014 saw the company stage comedy by Haydn (Il mondo della luna) and romantic history by Handel (Ottone).

Verismo Double Header in Los Angeles

LA Opera got its season off to an auspicious beginning with starry revivals of Gianni Schicchi and Pagliacci.

Viva Verdi at Opera Las Vegas

On September 9, 2015, Opera Las Vegas presented James Sohre’s production of Viva Verdi at the Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz. It was a delightful evening of arias, duets and ensembles by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). The program included many of the composer’s blockbuster arias and scenes from famous operas such as Aida, La traviata, and Macbeth.

Barbera Sings a Fascinating Recital in San Diego

On Saturday, September 19, San Diego Opera opened its 2015-2016 season with a recital by tenor René Barbera. This was the first Polly Puterbaugh Emerging Artist Award Recital and no artist could have been more deserving than the immensely talented Barbera.

Sweeney Todd at the San Francisco Opera

Did the iconic “off-beat” and “serious” American musical hold the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? The excited audience (standees three deep) thought so and roared their appreciation.

Wigmore Hall Complete Schubert Song Series begins with Boesch and Johnson

The Wigmore Hall, London, has launched Schubert : The Complete Songs, a 40-concert series to run through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There have been Schubert marathons before, like BBC Radio 3's all-Schubert week and The Oxford Lieder Festival's Schubert series last year, but the Wigmore Hall series will be a major landmark because the Wigmore Hall is the Wigmore Hall, the epitome of excellence.

Luisa Miller in San Francisco

Luisa Miller sits on the fringes of the repertory, and since its introduction into the modern repertory in the 1970’s it comes around every 15 or so years. Unfortunately this 2015 San Francisco occasion has not bothered to rethink this remarkable opera.

Salieri: La grotta di Trofonio (Trofonio’s Cave)

Demonised by Pushkin and Peter Shaffer, Antonio Salieri lives in the public imagination as the embittered rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — whose genius he lamented and revered in equal measure, and against whom he schemed and plotted at the Emperor Joseph II’s Viennese court.

Chicago Lyric’s Stars Shine at Millennium Park

The annual concert given by Lyric Opera of Chicago as an outdoor event previewing the forthcoming season took place on 11 September 2015 at Millennium Park.

Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

Orpheus — that Greek hero whose songs could enchant both deities and beasts, whose lyre has become a metaphor for the power of music itself, and whose journey to the Underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice, kick-started the art of opera in Mantua in 1607 — has been travelling far and wide around the UK in 2015.

Vaughan Williams and Holst Double Bill

One is a quasi-verbatim rendering of J.M. Synge’s bleak tale of a Donegal family’s fateful dependency on and submission to the deathly power of the sea.

Iestyn Davies at Wigmore Hall

Is there anything that countertenor Iestyn Davies cannot do with his voice?

Prom 75: The Dream of Gerontius

BBC Proms Youth Choir shines in a performance notable for its magical transparency

Prom 67: Bernstein — Stage and Screen

The John Wilson Orchestra have been annual summer visitors to the Royal Albert Hall since their Proms debut in 2009 and, with their seductive blend of technical precision, buoyant glitziness and relaxed insouciance, their concerts have become a hugely anticipated fixture and a sure highlight of the Promenade season.

Prom 65: Alice Coote sings Handel

Disappointing staging mars Alice Coote’s vibrant if wayward musical performance

Santa Fe: Secondary Mozart in First Rate Staging

Impresario Boris Goldovsky famously referred to La finta giardiniera as The Phony Farmerette.

Regimented Daughter in Santa Fe

At Santa Fe Opera, Donizetti’s effervescent The Daughter of the Regiment can’t quite decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

Santa Fe’s Celebratory Jester

Santa Fe Opera noted a landmark two-thousandth performance in their distinguished history with a stylish new production of Rigoletto.



Sarah Tynan (Yum-Yum) and Robert Murray (Nanki-Poo) [Photo © Alastair Muir and ENO]
17 Feb 2008

ENO's The Mikado

Director Jonathan Miller was there at the curtain call to greet the first night of this latest revival of a production which has now been in ENO's repertoire for twenty years.

Gilbert and Sullivan: The Mikado
English National Opera

Above: Sarah Tynan (Yum-Yum) and Robert Murray (Nanki-Poo)
Photo © Alastair Muir and ENO


It is a sure-fire winner – a good-looking, funny, energetic show with appeal for all the family.

Its central premise is that the Japanese setting for Gilbert and Sullivan's best-known work is purely incidental, and the operetta is very much a satire on English society and values. Although we remain ostensibly in Japan, the set is clearly a smart English hotel circa 1930, and the male chorus represent various caricatures of the English upper classes of the time. The accents are cut-glass; the costumes and sets are immaculate in cream, and every character from monarch to maid is flawlessly turned out. Even the patches on Nanki-Poo's artistically ragged trousers are perfectly finished.

Ko-ko's “little list” is rewritten for 2008 with moderate success; a few very funny lines about politicians and footballers were balanced out by many more obscure topical references. And after all these years, Richard Suart is inseparable from the role, with a talent for finding a funny side in lines which are normally played straight ('I dare not hope for your love – but I will not live without it' as Ko-ko tries to persuade Katisha to marry him in order to release him from his imminent execution). He frequently overacts to the point of being unfunny, but I suspect that the desperation to please is – at least to some extent – part of the act.

Other experienced members of the cast include Graeme Danby as a softly-spoken Pooh-Bah, Richard Angas's genial Mikado in a costume which seems almost as wide as he is tall (and he IS tall) and Frances McCafferty's Katisha, dominating every scene with a well-balanced tragicomic portrayal and an expert sense of musical phrasing which alleviates the disadvantages of an ageing voice.

Leading the younger contingent, Sarah Tynan's Yum-Yum is a fresh-voiced and fresh-faced delight. And she's well balanced by Robert Murray, a newcomer to the production as Nanki-Poo. It's good to see that such talented singers as these are successfully managing to forge careers on both sides of the inexplicable divide which historically seems to have separated 'Gilbert and Sullivan' from 'opera'. Both singers are becoming familiar faces in ENO's G&S productions, yet they are among the most versatile young opera soloists on the scene at the moment.

The conductor is Wyn Davies, who tends to take things rather slowly – perhaps this is why the tap-dancing maids and other choreographic highlights weren't quite as polished as I remember them being. However, the hilarious male corps-de-ballet of headless bodies has to be seen to be believed!

Ruth Elleson © 2008

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):