Northwestern Opera Theatre Ensemble will perform an updated version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.”
This comic opera is set in the fictional Japanese town of Titipu where flirting is illegal. “The Mikado” tells the story of Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado, who flees the royal court as a disguised musician. Nanki-Poo is supposed to marry the elderly Katisha, but falls in love with Yum-Yum.
“It’s a basic love story with a happy ending, but there are many twists and turns along the way,” chorus member Kaylee Weakley said.
This opera was written during the nineteenth century, so yellowface was tolerated more than it is today. To avoid using yellowface in this performance, NOTE is performing as people who are influenced by Japanese culture.
“This production celebrates Japanese culture,” female lead Amanda Charles said. “We’re essentially playing anime characters of ourselves.”
Although some music scholars believe that the opera was originally written as an homage to Japanese culture, the opera is usually perceived as offensive and appropriative.
“Cultural appropriation is a big problem with this piece,” director of “The Mikado” and Director of Opera Theatre Dr. Stefan Gordon said. “I tried to keep an open dialogue with everyone throughout the process, and we only left in one line that references Japan.”
“We modified or removed lyrics and songs that are offensive to the culture and to women,” Weakley said.
This performance is double-cast, and the casts perform on alternating nights.
“Most major university opera programs are double cast, so this is a step up for the department,” Gordon said. “People should come to see both casts,” Charles said. “Each lead does things differently.”
“The Mikado” will run April 5-8 at 7 p.m. in Theatre West. Tickets are $10, and students get in free with their IDs.