History of the original “The Mikado’

The comic opera musical ‘The Mikado’ created by composer Arthur Gilbert and W.S Sullivan, debut in 1885 in London.  The first performance that day was a sell out and continued to be popular with 672 performances initially in the first production alone (Cantoni & Schwarm 2018, n.p) .  To date, ‘The Mikado’ has continued to be regularly produced all around the world and translated into numerous languages.

A witty comical entertaining musical with it’s “displays of lingerie, obscene jokes” and clever articulated lyrics, provides drama, romance and well crafted operetta music moments (Gutmann, 2018).

The original Mikado production is set with the scenes, culture and influence of Japan.  Which was relevant to people in the late 1800’s when Japanese fashion, food and cultural influences were trending through England and then in the US when the musical debuted Gutmann, (2018).  According to Cantoni & Schwarm (2018), with Gilbert never physically traveling to Japan before, he hired a Japanese woman to ensure accuracy, correct articulation of dialect and creative inspiration for ‘The Mikado’.

Credit:  The Protected Art Archive/Alamy

According to the History Channel, 2018, a main goal of the written scripture was to subtlety indirectly articulate the ridicule of the politics, policies, diplomacy and institutional culture of Victorian England in a comical way by setting the scene in Japan.

Poster produced in 1885 is The Mikado’s character Nanki-Poo.  Source: Library of Congress, Digital file (2018)  



Cantoni, L & Schwarm, B 2018, The Mikado opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, viewed 20 February 2018, https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Mikado

History Channel, 2018, Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” opens, viewed 20 February 2018, https://www.historychannel.com.au/articles/gilbert-and-sullivans-the-mikado-opens/

Gutmann, P 2006, The Mikado, viewed 20 February 2018  http://www.classicalnotes.net/classics/mikado.html

Library of Congress, 2018, [Digital File] The Mikado, Theatrical Poster Collection, no. var 1766, viewed 20 February 2018, https://www.loc.gov/resource/var.1766/




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