Preview: The Mikado

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From the June 7, 2012 edition

Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1885 opera “The Mikado” has — in librettist William S. Gilbert’s words — “harmless merriment” with Japanese people and their institutions. Like many G&S operettas, however, its barbs were aimed squarely at the foibles of Victorian England, its petty bureaucrats and its fatuous politicians.

This weekend members of the Opera Columbus Chorus and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra join forces with the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players to put on the operetta.

NYGASP co-founder, artistic director and general manager Albert Bergeret attributes the enduring popularity of “The Mikado” to its “iconic characters” and to its status as “a satire on human excess, on carrying an idea too far. It makes people laugh at themselves in a generic form that transcends its time.”

Interpolations of current topical references into two “Mikado” arias — “As Some Day It May Happen” and “A More Humane Mikado” — always tickle audiences. Bergeret enjoys them, too. He derides the “purists who become slaves to the text,” noting that Gilbert (who was English) Americanized the libretto for early New York audiences.

“References that are archaic and don’t mean much to audiences now” get updated regularly, Bergeret said, “sometimes day-to-day, according to the headlines. Sometimes even I haven’t heard the new lyrics. That maintains the element of surprise.”

Credit: Courtesy of New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players