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Japanese-inspired opera “The Mikado” makes way to Columbus

Courtesy of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players

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New York and Columbus talent collide for a Japanese-inspired opera, “The Mikado,” premiering this Friday at the Southern Theatre.

“The Mikado” is scheduled to be performed at 8 p.m. and is a collaboration between Opera Columbus Chorus, Columbus Symphony Orchestra and The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. The opera is scheduled to run through Sunday and will end Opera Columbus’ season.

The story centers on a love triangle between a schoolgirl, Yum-Yum, who is engaged to an executioner, Ko-Ko, but loves a minstrel named Nanki-Poo.

“It’s a satire of 19th century (British) politics that is set in Japan to kind of soften the blow,” said assistant executive director Susan Ropp.”Nowadays, some of the satire is lost because we are not as engrossed in the 19th century British politics as they were at the time.”

But even with the loss of some of the satire, Ropp said the opera is no less popular among audiences.

“It has remained universally popular because it is funny,” Ropp said.

The music for the opera was written by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Ropp said Gilbert and Sullivan’s  “bouncy tunes with clever lyrics” set off the two-act play well.

Peggy Kriha Dye, director of artistic programming for Opera Columbus, said the director and conductor of the Gilbert & Sullivan Players held a New-York style audition for the cast.

“Our local singers sang to them and they had callbacks the next day,” Dye said. “They had to learn choreography and work with fans.”

For some local singers, such as Brett Irvine, “The Mikado” offers the first chance to work professionally.

“I am really excited because this is my first professional production,” Irvine said.

Dye said the catchy and clever moments in the show are expected to be the most unforgettable for the audience.

“We have a very diverse audience, particularly for the light-opera offering like ‘Mikado’ … every section of the community that you can imagine,” Ropp said.

Ropp also said Gilbert & Sullivan do a small amount of spoken dialogue and what is spoken is mostly sung, which keeps the performance engaging.

Tickets are available at the theater box office and are priced from $38 to $98.

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