|The Mikado of Japan||Ashley Thorburn|
|Lighting Designer||Guy Dickens|
The history books tell us that it was a huge Japanese sword suddenly dislodging itself from the wall of Gilbert’s study which gave him the idea for The Mikado. The popularity of the subject was assured, for London in 1885 was fascinated by all things Japanese - a Japanese exhibition was drawing huge crowds to Knightsbridge, Japanese artefacts, vases and jars were everywhere and most important, Liberty in Regent Street had imported fabulous Japanese fabrics which had made a huge impact on the fashion world. Liberty were subsequently given the contract to provide the costumes for the first production (although some were genuine antiques - Katisha’s costume was over two hundred years old). The wit and sparkle of The Mikado’s book and score rightly justify its position as the greatest of the Savoy operas, but the impact of the riot of colour which suddenly exploded on the stage of the Savoy Theatre was undoubtedly part of its immediate success. Many a review wrote of the “truly blinding splendour of the dresses”. So important were they to the show that an embargo was put on the fabric to prevent pirate productions and when one American company tried to mount a production and came all the way to London to buy the costumes, Liberty refused to do business with them and in desperation they went to Paris only to find that D’Oyly Carte had already sent an agent there to buy up every Japanese costume he could lay his hands on. He was right to be so protective as The Mikado went on to become for almost seventy years the world’s most valuable theatrical property.
It was at the request of many of the theatres which Opera della Luna visits annually, that we decided to follow The Parson’s Pirates and The Ghosts of Ruddigore with The Mikado - and the immediate question of course was how to adapt it to our resources and size. A traditional ‘kimono’ production was out of the question as it would merely appear a poor relation to a full-scale D’Oyly Carte production. The problem was what to do instead. A visit to the Versace exhibition in New York over Christmas proved an unexpected inspiration, for there before our eyes were dresses of truly blinding splendour giving us surely something of the same impact and surprise that the original Liberty fabrics had had for the 1885 audience. Remembering that Ko-Ko, before being appointed Lord High Executioner was a tailor, the germ of an idea began . . .
Our brief however was not to copy Versace, Lacroix or Gaultier - but to infuse the show with something of the spirit of their creativity: a homage to those who are not afraid to challenge tradition, or wear old clothes in a new way.
The current cast of The Mikado:
The Mikado of Japan