Back To CourseMusic 101: Help and Review
11 chapters | 355 lessons
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Bob has taught music at all levels and holds a Master's degree in Choral Conducting.
Meet Gilbert and Sullivan, two men who collaborated on 14 musical projects, but by many accounts, argued regularly due to their strong, sometimes conflicting artistic ideals. Their musical projects were called operettas. Operettas are short, comic operas that usually included spoken dialogue, songs and dancing. William Gilbert wrote the librettos, while Arthur Sullivan set Gilbert's words to music. The term libretto refers to the words of an opera or operetta.
Previously, Gilbert had used his and Sullivan's operettas as a way to poke fun at British life and period politics, which helped make their collaborations so successful. However, there are several accounts of how Gilbert came to write The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan's ninth project. One explanation involves a Japanese sword falling from the wall in his home. A local Japanese exhibition may have also influenced Gilbert's thinking; 19th century Brits were fascinated by Japanese culture. There were also Japanese immigrants living in his area, and their regular presence might have served as an inspiration. Whatever the reason, Gilbert's new story was set in Japan and featured a sword-wielding character known as the Lord High Executioner.
Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu, premiered in 1885. A Mikado was a Japanese emperor, while Titipu refers to a fictional Japanese town in which the story takes place. The Mikado focuses upon a humorous romantic triangle that revolves around its three main characters: Ko-Ko, who is the Lord High Executioner; Nanki-Poo, who is Ko-Ko's friend; and Yum-Yum, who is Ko-Ko's fiancé, who eventually marries Nanki-Poo.
In addition to the characters involved in the love triangle, Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta includes: the Mikado, the Imperial ruler; Katisha, an older woman who wants to marry Nanki-Poo; Pooh-Bah, a haughty town official; Pish-Tush, a town noble; and Yum-Yum's two sisters, Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo. Chorus members who portray schoolgirls, other town nobles, guards and local workers round out the cast.
In 19th century Japan, death was the punishment for the capital crime of flirting, and a man named Ko-Ko has been so condemned. When his friend, Nanki-Poo, learns of this, he returns to Titipu and finds that, not only has Ko-Ko been granted a reprieve, but has also been promoted to the post of Lord High Executioner. The reason? Well, since Ko-Ko was next in line for execution, he could not cut off the head of anyone else until first doing so to himself. As a result, the executions cease. The Mikado is not pleased about the halt to executions and threatens, by way of a letter, to take away Ko-Ko's new status unless an execution takes place within the next month.
Ko-Ko, who does not want to take his own life, looks for a substitute. He learns that his friend, Nanki-Poo, is determined to commit suicide because his love interest, Yum-Yum, is already engaged to Ko-Ko. So, Ko-Ko and Nanki-Poo work out a plan. Nanki-Poo will marry Yum-Yum instead. However, when the Mikado's 30-day deadline comes to an end, Ko-Ko will execute him and marry his widow.
Just as Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum are about to be married, they learn about an old law, which dictates that a condemned man's wife must be buried alive with her husband's corpse. The arrival of Katisha further complicates the situation. Ko-Ko decides he cannot execute his friend and sends the couple away to be wed. To protect all three, he fakes proof that the execution took place. Then the Mikado arrives in search of his son, who turns out to be Nanki-Poo. In learning the truth about the faked execution, the Mikado threatens to punish everyone involved. To resolve the situation, Ko-Ko proposes to and marries Katisha, which makes it safe for Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum to return. Nanki-Poo also learns that the Mikado is his father.
The Mikado consists of 24 musical numbers, including an overture. An overture is another word for an orchestral introduction. Shortly after the overture, Nanki-Poo is introduced to the tune of 'A wand'ring minstrel I', while the majestic 'Behold the Lord High Executioner', presents Ko-Ko in his new position. A chattering trio, called 'Three little maids from school are we', introduces Yum-Yum as Ko-Ko's bride-to-be, along with her two sisters, who will be her attendants.
In the second act, Ko-Ko arranges for Nanki-Poo to marry Yum-Yum, even though he'll have to eventually behead his friend. Upon the discovery of the old law and the understanding that Yum-Yum will have to be buried alive beside her husband, Nanki-Poo and Ko-Ko sing 'Here's a how-de-do'. Later, Nanki-Poo, Ko-Ko and Yum-Yum sing 'The flowers that bloom in the spring' when Ko-Ko decides to marry Katisha. When Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum return from their wedding, the townsfolk sing 'For he's gone and married Yum-Yum.'
The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu, is an operetta and a highly successful collaboration between William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Titipu refers to a fictional Japanese town in which the story takes place and a Mikado is the same thing as a Japanese emperor. As creators of several operettas, Gilbert wrote the words while Sullivan composed the music. Operettas are short, comic operas that usually included spoken dialogue, songs, and dancing. The show, which premiered in 1885, is set in Japan. Most likely, Gilbert found his inspiration for his libretto, or the words of an opera or operetta, by attending Japanese cultural events or from the immigrants living in his area.
As a love story, the plot focuses upon three main characters: Yum-Yum, who is initially engaged to Ko-Ko but marries Nanki-Poo instead, after which, he expects to be executed. Several memorable songs include 'Behold the Lord High Executioner,' 'Three little maids from school are we' and 'The flowers that bloom in the spring.' 'Behold the Lord High Executioner' is an especially powerful tune that Sullivan used to introduce Ko-Ko. The title of the operetta, The Mikado, refers to the emperor, who we learn at the end of the story, is also Nanki-Poo's father.
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Back To CourseMusic 101: Help and Review
11 chapters | 355 lessons