Sullivan The Mikado

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Arthur Sullivan
LABELS: Opera Australia
ALBUM TITLE: Sullivan The Mikado
WORKS: The Mikado
PERFORMER: Mitchell Butel, Kanen Breen, Taryn Fiebign; Opera Australia Chorus, Orchestra Victoria/Brian Castles-Onion; dir. Stuart Maunder (Melbourne, 2011)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: OPOZ56014; Blu-ray: OPOZ56015BD

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If it’s colour you want, Opera Australia’s 1985 production of The Mikado, revamped in 2004, has it in spades. Fancy Japanese décor; Victorian advertisements; Nanki-Poo’s bicycle; Ko-Ko’s axe; three little girls garish in blue, yellow and white: Tim Goodchild’s designs make everything scream for attention, especially in the Blu-ray edition (very crisp and bouncy). But if you’re after reasonable taste and G&S traditions subtly tweaked, look away. They do things differently in Australia, and the cast in Stuart Maunder’s production, caught live in Melbourne in May last year, mock, preen and mug to a degree I often found ghastly.

With Kanen Breen’s Nanki-Poo, all toffee-nosed accent and sunshine grins, you can at least enjoy a disciplined performer with a ringing voice; Taryn Fiebig (Yum-Yum) is equally disciplined, and adroit at pointing her lines. But Mitchell Butel’s Ko-Ko offers little but weak comedy shtick, fussy gasps and
ad libs aimed at the lowest common denominator. Meanwhile, Pooh-Bah, Katisha and the Mikado all need weightier, more resonant voices to make their characters work.

Nor do the cast’s surroundings always impress. Goodchild’s designs are good fun, but you might need to activate the English subtitle option to catch some of the chorus’s words, while down in the pit Orchestra Victoria and conductor Brian Castles-Onion spin through the score with more speed than sparkle. One of the camera shots during the overture catches an auditorium exit sign beckoning in green: to be borne in mind when the going gets tough.

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Geoff Brown