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Once the identities were sorted out, however, the musical and visual values were excellent. For the most part, the singers matched their parts in looks and vocal requirements, and were generally understandable. (There were no surtitles for this production.) Conductor Dennis Northway generally kept things moving briskly forward with the reduced orchestra required for his reduced orchestration.

Lyric Opera Cleveland specializes in finding young singers with great potential, and this production is no exception. Marian Vogel as Yum-Yum and Robert Zimmerman as Nanki-Poo were ideal in their roles, with lovely voices and the physical appearance necessary for young lovers.

Marian Vogel as Anne Boleyn/Yum-Yum and Robert Zimmerman as Robert Devereux/Nanki-Poo. Photo © 2004 Steve Zorc
Marian Vogel as Anne Boleyn/Yum-Yum and Robert Zimmerman as Robert Devereux/Nanki-Poo. Photo © 2004 Steve Zorc

Scott Uddenberg used his bass-baritone to good advantage while portraying The Mikado in a lively manner that did in fact, greatly resemble the character of Henry VIII. The Ko-Ko of Michael Bragg was more than adequate in every way, but confusing for all that, with an almost limp-wristed treatment. His dancing, especially, was terrific. Actually, the choreography of Marie Zvosec added considerably to the production, being clever and appropriate.

From top to bottom: John Payonk (Cardinal Thomas Wolsey/Pooh-Bah), Frederick Jackson (Sir Walter Raleigh/Pish-Tush) and Michael Bragg (William Shakespeare/Ko-Ko). Photo © 2004 Steve Zorc
From top to bottom: John Payonk (Cardinal Thomas Wolsey/Pooh-Bah), Frederick Jackson (Sir Walter Raleigh/Pish-Tush) and Michael Bragg (William Shakespeare/Ko-Ko). Photo © 2004 Steve Zorc

John Payonk -- of the lush baritone -- was regal and stately (or comic) in bearing as Pooh-Bah, and displayed a positively wicked fan technique. Whenever he snapped his large fan open, it sounded like a rifle shot! Katisha is frequently portrayed in an over-the-top manner, but even so, Sophie Taillefer seemed more like the Wicked Witch of the West (or Queen of the Night) on steroids. She certainly seemed to be having a good time with her part, but very few of her words could be distinguished.

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Copyright © 11 July 2004 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA

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