Lyric Opera Cleveland's 'Mikado',
reviewed by KELLY FERJUTZ
Stage Directors like to 'tweak' well-known works to make their productions a bit different from the others. At times this idea works very well, whereas on other occasions -- well ...
The overture sounded familiar, if a bit thin occasionally in the orchestration. This was 'The Mikado', after all. But when the curtain went up, one knew immediately this was not an ordinary production. There was a huge ornamental Japanese gate stretched across the center of the stage, with three vertical panels on either side. Pride of place on these panels was shared by two disparate elements: a medieval English battle shield topped by an opened Oriental fan.
Then, several men came on stage, wearing Medieval costumes of sumptuous brocades and velvets. Striking a pose, they sang, 'If you want to know who we are, we are gentleman of Japan'. Oh, my.
Thus began the 'Tudor' Mikado presented by Lyric Opera Cleveland -- the brainchild of director Philip Kraus. If you had never seen The Mikado previously, it would perhaps have been less confusing. Or, if you had no good knowledge of English history, it might have been easier to accept this new version. My disbelief could not suspend enough to cope with Yum-Yum/Anne Boleyn consorting with Nanki-Poo/Robert Devereux under the very nose of Katisha/Queen Elizabeth I (who was actually Anne's daughter, and the maybe lover of Devereux).
Robert Zimmerman as Robert Devereux/Nanki-Poo and Marian Vogel as Anne Boleyn/Yum-Yum in Lyric Opera Cleveland's production of 'The Mikado'. Photo © 2004 Steve Zorc
Then there was Pooh-Bah/Cardinal Wolsey and Ko-Ko doubled as William Shakespeare, while The Mikado himself was Henry VIII. The other two maids were Pitti-Sing/Catherine Howard and Peep-Bo/Lady Jane Grey. The alter ego of Pish-Tush was Sir Walter Raleigh, complete with cape.
Copyright © 11 July 2004
Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA