OP3054. THE MIKADO (Gilbert & Sullivan), recorded 1936, w. Godfrey Cond. D'Oyly Carte Ensemble; Fancourt, Oldham, Green, Granville, etc. 2-Arabesque Z8051. Final copy! - 023635080513
“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.
Gilbert and Sullivan's opera immediately preceding THE MIKADO was PRINCESS IDA, which ran for nine months; a short duration by Savoy opera standards. When ticket sales for Gilbert and Sullivan's 1884 collaboration, PRINCESS IDA, showed early signs of flagging, the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte realised that, for the first time since 1877, no new Gilbert and Sullivan work would be ready when the old one closed. On 22 March 1884, Carte gave Gilbert and Sullivan contractual notice that a new opera would be required within six months. Sullivan's close friend, the conductor Frederic Clay, had suffered a serious stroke in December 1883 that effectively ended his career. Reflecting on this, on his own precarious health, and on his desire to devote himself to more serious music, Sullivan replied to Carte that ‘it is impossible for me to do another piece of the character of those already written by Gilbert and myself’. Gilbert, who had already started work on a new libretto in which people fall in love against their wills after taking a magic lozenge, was surprised to hear of Sullivan's hesitation. He wrote to Sullivan asking him to reconsider, but the composer replied on 2 April 1884 that he had ‘come to the end of my tether’ with the operas.”
- Hans Lick