The Mikado


Links to the different times
we have performed this show:

1976 1986 1995 2007 2016



The Mikado; or, The Town of Titipu is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations. It opened on 14 March 1885, in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, which was the second longest run for any work of musical theatre and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Before the end of 1885, it was estimated that, in Europe and America, at least 150 companies were producing the opera.

The Mikado remains the most frequently performed Savoy Opera, and it is especially popular with amateur and school productions. The work has been translated into numerous languages and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history.

Setting the opera in Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, allowed Gilbert to satirise British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese. Gilbert used foreign or fictional locales in several operas, including The Mikado, Princess Ida, The Gondoliers, Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke, to soften the impact of his pointed satire of British institutions.



Act 1. Nanki-Poo, the Mikado's son, in disguise as a wandering minstrel, is anxious to find Yum-Yum, one of Ko-Ko's wards whom he has met in his travels and with whom he has fallen in love. Having heard that her guardian has been condemned to death for flirting, he has hurried back to claim her as his bride. But he has been misinformed: Ko-Ko has been reprieved and promoted to the post of Lord High Executioner. The great officers of State have resigned in protest and Pooh-Bah has taken over their duties, and salaries.
Yum-Yum and her sisters arrive home from school. Her greeting of Ko-Ko is lukewarm but she thrills at the sight of Nanki-Poo. Left alone with her true love, she confesses that she does not love Ko-Ko but that, in any case, difficulties in protocol and rank would prevent her from marrying a poor minstrel.
The Mikado's son then reveals his true identity and explains that he fled the Court to escape marrying the elderly Katisha. He assures Yum-Yum of his love for her.
The Mikado, having noted that no execution has taken place for a whole year, issues an ultimatum that an execution shall take place within a month. Nanki-Poo, frustrated in love, is bent on self-destruction, but a way out of the deadlock is discovered: Nanki-Poo shall marry Yum-Yum forthwith and be executed at the end of the month, when his widow will marry Ko-Ko.
The celebrations which follow his brilliant compromise prevent Katisha from revealing Nanki-Poo's identity.

Act 2. The happiness of Yum-Yum in the preparations for her wedding is clouded by Ko-Ko's recollection of the alarming fact that, when a married man is executed his wife must be buried alive. Nanki-Poo is resigned to immediate execution, but Ko-Ko squeamishly shrinks from his duty, and suggests that an affidavit, witnessed by the mercenary Pooh-Bah, that the sentence has been carried out, will solve the problem. Ko-Ko hurriedly sends the young lovers off to be married.
The Mikado on his arrival is shown a certificate of execution and Ko-Ko, Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah all add their own accounts of what happened. Katisha is horrified when upon reading the certificate; she discovers that it is the heir to the throne who has been beheaded.
The Mikado enlarges on the penalties for such an offence, and Ko-Ko decides that Nanki-Poo must "come to life again" but the Mikado's son fears the revenge of the frustrated Katisha and recommends that Ko-Ko himself shall marry the elderly lady, which, after a seemingly ardent wooing, he does.
The Mikado returns to witness the punishment of the conspirators but Katisha, now herself a bride, successfully pleads for them. Ko-Ko's deception is revealed, but he evades the consequences by pointing out that if the Mikado orders an execution, the victims death may be assumed; the victim is as good as dead, and if he is dead, why not say so?
So "the threatened cloud has passed away", and all ends happily.