Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 


Max Rashbrooke Review: The Mikado, NZ Opera

The Mikado NZ Opera Saturday, February 25 Reviewer: Max Rashbrooke

Politics and art are a little bit like politics and rugby: as the Springbok tour showed, you can't entirely separate the two. And there are certainly plenty of politics around the Mikado, a show that is notionally set in a highly stereotyped, Orientalist version of Japan, and a production of which was cancelled in Seattle in 2015 following protests from the local Asian community.

So concerns about the work of the piece have to be addressed; but they are complex, and probably better handled in another post. So what about this production itself, which premiered on Saturday night and runs in Wellington until tomorrow night?

The topline message is that this is a bright, deliberately chaotic modernised version of the show, one in which the acting and comedic elements are extremely successful, but the singing slightly more uneven. The basic aesthetic is Japanese stationery shop: lots of lurid colours, childish costumes and stylised sets. The sets are highly mobile and fluid, and help inject a fair bit of life into the production.

Despite being set in Japan, the show is essentially a satire on British high society and conventions, and that comedy comes through well. There's an exceptional acting turn by Byron Coll (the overenthusiastic fan from the All Blacks MasterCard adverts) as Ko-Ko, whom he plays as a sort of bumbling Scottish servant. It's extremely funny acting, some of the best I've seen on the operatic stage.

Also exceptional is Australian tenor Kanen Breen as Nanki-Poo, who stepped in at the last moment following a boating accident (no, really) to Jonathan Abernethy. He utterly dominates the space, and has a fantastic range of comic expressions and gestures. His chemistry with Amelia Berry (excellent as an alternately baffled and assertive Yum-Yum) is perhaps not quite there, but that's hardly a fault, given the limited rehearsal time.

Almost stealing the show is Australian bass-baritone James Clayton as the Mikado, clearly relishing the opportunity to camp things up, all twirling moustaches and sinister grins. He also displays the stellar voice that Wellington audiences heard last year (albeit in completely different circumstances, in Handel's The Messiah); his aria 'A more humane Mikado' is a particularly joyful combination of entertainment and menace.

But that excellent singing just reinforces the point that the singers aren't equal across the spectrum – in particular Coll who, notwithstanding his excellent acting, just doesn't have a very strong voice, something particularly obvious in his scenes with Andrew Collis as (a very funny) Pooh-Bah. It's an unfortunate compromise in so central a role.

Fortunately, Orchestra Wellington, under the assured hand of conductor Isaac Hayward, played with great sensitivity, adjusting to the varied vocal strengths on stage, and producing a remarkably beautiful sound considering their reduced numbers (just one or two per part). In short: despite some shortcomings, it’s great fun as a production, and works as entertainment. What political problems it poses, however, is another question.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On War Crimes And The Afghan Insurgency

Mapp’s attempted defence of the SAS on RNZ this morning unintentionally indicated that collective punishment was baked into the planning exercise for the raid, and also into how the raid proceeded on the ground. More>>

ALSO:

New Community Reward: Scoop Offering 2 Million “Ads For Good” This Election Year

We are launching an exciting new community incentive as part of Scoop’s ‘Opening the Election’ crowdfunding campaign by offering 2 million free ads on Scoop to worthy causes. More>>

ALSO:

Howard Davis: Unpresidented?

Casanova on Cagliostro - "This is a man whose partisans think him wise because when he speaks he seems ignorant. This is a man who is persuasive because he masters no language. This is a man whom people understand because he never explains himself … " More>>

HiveMind Public Engagement Report: NZers Want Stronger Action On Sugar

Over December 2016 and January 2017, Scoop hosted a trial community engagement exercise on the issue of Sugar and Public Health on our new HiveMind platform... Most promising was the fact that there was much agreement from across a wide range of participants from different backgrounds and perspectives on potential solutions to some of the accepted public health challenges we face around sugar. More>>

ALSO:

Branko Marcetic: Land Of The Long White Egalitarian Myth

New Zealand has earned its reputation. Its quality of life is consistently ranked among the highest in the world... New Zealanders themselves report extreme satisfaction with their lives. All of these accolades cover up another truth, however: New Zealand hasn’t been a social-democratic paradise for a long time now. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news