The irrepressible Eric Idle (Monty Python?s Flying Circus) teams up with the English National Opera in this hilarious performance of Gilbert and Sullivan?s beloved comic opera, THE MIKADO. This rollicking version of Gilber... more »t and Sullivan?s most popular tale relocates the action from ancient Japan to a 1920s English seaside resort. Here the rule of the Mikado is absolute--and often prone to whimsy. Ko-Ko (Eric Idle) is sentenced to death for the crime of flirting, but in a strange turn of events is instead named "Lord High Executioner." A delightful farce ensues as Ko-Ko can?t behead anyone without first cutting off his own head. But by the second act, the Mikado demands an execution and Ko-Ko must delicately sing and dance his way around a messy situation involving the Mikado?s son and his secret love Yum Yum. One of the best loved gems in all of opera, this charming production of THE MIKADO adds a unique twist to the timeless music--especially with the madcap talent of Eric Idle in his opera debut! DVD Features: A Source of Innocent Merriment: The Making of The Mikado; Downloadable Libretto; Cast Biographies; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection« less
"I remember this from HBO when I was young. It made a big impression on me then, and makes a big one now that I have finally seen it again, with all the knowledge of Gilbert & Sullivan that I've acquired over the years. The set design and costumes are wonderful, and the English seaside setting is clever if not particularly meaningful in and of itself. The video effects are fairly ham-handed, but don't detract from the stage show which is, in a word, delightful. This is quite simply the most hilariously funny "Mikado" available on video. Richard Angas in the title role lends the Mikado a certain sinister seediness (and his costume is amazing). Eric Idle does a great Ko-Ko, putting his patent insincerity to good use, and putting to rest any quibbles about stunt casting. The rest of the cast and chorus are equally outstanding. Most notably, Felicity Palmer's Katisha and Richard van Allen's Pooh-Bah are as close to definitive as I can imagine (both later reprised the roles on the delightful Mackerras recording). Ms. Palmer deserves special mention, as she milks Katisha for all the humor and pathos she's worth, while delivering the demanding vocal passages in a ringing mezzo voice. It's a shame there's not a traditional Japanese-dress "Mikado" on par with this one, but I have no difficulty in saying that for casual viewers and Savoyards alike, this should be at the top of everyone's "little list.""
Disappointing results, considering the quality of ingredient
Esther Schindler | Scottsdale, AZ USA | 02/26/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"You would think that it was a match made in heaven. After all, Gilbert & Sullivan were the 19th century version of Monty Python, with delightfully silly things that let you laugh at things that really didn't matter.
Eric Idle is, in fact, among the best things about this version of the Mikado. There are moments when he falls out of the role of Lord High Executioner and into the Minister of Silly Walks, but I think we all *hope* for that. That isn't what's disappointing here.
The worst thing about this DVD is the sound quality. If you don't know all the words to the Mikado (based on many listening to a D'Orly Carte CD), you won't have the first idea what the people are singing here and you will have NO idea what is going on. It's that bad. (If you *do* know the words, you'll be exhausted at the end of the opera, because your ears will have worked overtime for the last two hours.)
In part, the sound quality is a reflection of the "movie making," such as it is. This show is the result of a few people with movie cameras photographing a stage play (unlike, say, the Pirates of Penzance movie with Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline, which is truly a movie... and darned good, too). Occasionally, the cameraman found it necessary to get "creative," which in this case was not a good idea.
The other issue is the creative decision to place the opera in England, in a 1920s-30s cross between Hollywood (the Mikado himself as Fatty Arbuckle) and the Ascot Races from My Fair Lady. It doesn't work very well for me, because the absurdity of Englishmen in Japanese kimonos is part of the appeal of the Mikado, for me. But maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy in this regard.
I'm almost done with this review and I've said very little about the performance. Mostly, it's because one can barely hear it. However, Eric Idle does a decent job of singing his part (I don't think we were expecting Caruso), and most of the cast does a good-to-excellent job. None of it is jarring -- if only I could hear it!
The major "extra" on the DVD is a "making of" feature in which the camera records the stage rehearsals. It's fun, and since the sound quality is so much better, I enjoyed several of those performances more!
Should you buy this? Maybe. If you're a die-hard fan of G&S or the Monty Python crew, it's worth watching, once. I'm not really sorry I got this, just that it didn't live up to expectations. On the other hand, if you want the full entertainment of the Mikado, there are probably better recordings. (In fact, the subset you get from the fiction-ish G&S bio, Topsy Turvy, has a much better presentation of the opera.)"
An absolute classic
Eleanor Marshall | Australia | 06/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The only time I have seen this musical was on a TV station with a terrible reception quality and during a thunder storm. Even so, I recorded it and played it over and over until my brother recorded over the top of it. Needless to say, I was not happy and I've been looking for a copy now for about the last ten years, so it's brilliant that it's about to be released for sale. I thought the production was incredibly original -Jonathon Miller is so inventive - although obviously if you're a lover of the traditional Mikado then it may not be what you're looking for. Eric Idle of Monty Python was great - he really brought the musical to life with his humour, and his voice was great as well. In fact, my drama school was so impressed with this version that they used some of the subtle humour for their production. I definitely recommend this video for anyone with a sense of fun. Go on, give it a try!"
Must have been great on stage
marcel redkin | USA | 07/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The best sung and most intelligently staged Mikado available on video is marred by obtrusively lame direction for television that makes some bits almost unwatchable. But let's dwell instead on the production's many virtues. Jonathan Miller's resetting is brilliant. Gilbert needed an an exotic location (Japan) to parody contemporary Victorian England, but in our era a 1920s British seaside resort affords all the distance in time and manners that parody requires. Not having to act in an "artless Japanese way" (apologies to Yum-Yum) seems to have freed the performers to take over the characters body and soul, to speak, move, and sing as if effortlessly yet very expressively. Van Allan (Pooh-Bah), Palmer (Katisha), and Garrett (Yum-Yum) put the lie to the notion that opera singers can't do G&S. Bonaventure Bottone is the only convincing Nanki-Poo I've seen. Eric Idle, the name draw of the production, blows hot and cold as Ko-Ko. In Act 1 he can't seem to get ahold of the character and goes for empty gags as if it were a 30-second Python sketch, but in Act 2 he buys into the role and brings off his big scenes with the Mikado and Katisha beautifully. The splendid choreography with the chorus--the Busby Berkeleyish tap dancing in the finales is a hoot--makes good use of the period sets which, even though mainly black and white, are pure eye candy. But I missed the kind of imaginative blocking-out of trios and quartets that you get in some other productions (like the Act 2 madrigal in the Stratford production); Miller has the performers huddled together as if against a stiff ocean breeze. It was a relief, though, to be spared the frantic cliched gesturing with which G&S performers typically accompany their songs (the gestures are meant to tell the story in lieu of the often unintelligible lyrics), as it allows them to do more natural and unexpected things with their hands. As to the TV direction, the less said the better. Just close your eyes when headless dancers appear in a thought bubble above Ko-Ko's still-attached head."
"Maiming G & S"
Stanley H. Nemeth | Garden Grove, CA United States | 05/26/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Director Jonathan Miller is normally an intelligent and resourceful stage director, as some of his witty comments even here on the making of this largely blighted production suggest. In the present case, sadly, he has fallen victim to a widespread delusion among contemporary opera and theater directors about the nature of how to please their audiences. He remarks that since we've by now ALL seen various productions of "The Mikado" set in the original Japan, the times cry out for a version that's radically different. Neglected in this view is the fact that in the audience of any production of even so familiar a work there will be a significant number of people who've never seen it before. For their sake, if it's still stageworthy, it deserves to be presented without being maimed by a "bright" idea. Miller, though, has presumably thought it wiser to cater instead to those sated members of the potential audience who'd be bored by straightforward Gilbert and Sullivan. If, however, such is his judgment, why do a new production of "The Mikado" at all? If this masterpiece of comic opera can no longer hold the stage as written, why not let it slip quietly into oblivion? Having chosen to set the work in the England of the 20's and 30's of the last century, Miller ignores so many consequent absurdities that he unwittingly invites viewers to question whether he's done more than just maim G&S. Signs saying "No Flirting," which might make sense in the repressive Victorian England which lies just beneath the surface of the original "Japan," seem pointless in a roaring 20's hotel. More seriously, "Japanese" concerns with beheadings and the presence of a Mikado have no pertinence at an English seaside resort. And just how the work has been made meaningful much less been improved by early 30's cinematic references and dance routines remains problematic at best. Miller, in sad allegiance to our current conformist tradition of arbitrary "innovation," emerges here as a director who could himself benefit from having a director with the foresight to nix such "bright" ideas in future.
The three stars here are for the singers from the English National Opera, all of whom manage through fine voices to transcend the dull and ugly irrationality which has replaced the fun and high spirits of the original work."