The Mikado

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Performed 2006, 2001, 1984, 1977, 1969, 1962, 1957, 1945, 1939, 1934.

                                                  The Story of the Opera

                                        The Mikado (or, The Town of Titipu)

A year before the action of this opera begins, Nanki-Poo, son of the Mikado of Japan, fled his father's imperial court to escape marriage with Katisha, an elderly lady. Disguised as a traveling musician, he met and fell in love with Yum-Yum, the young ward of Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor in the town of Titipu. Yum-Yum, however, was already betrothed to her guardian, and Nanki-Poo left Titipu in despair.

ACT 1 - The act opens in the courtyard of Ko-Ko’s palace in the town of Titipu, somewhere in Japan. Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado had a year previously fled his father's imperial court to escape marriage with Katisha, an elderly lady at the court. Whilst masquerading as a musician he met and fell in love with Yum-Yum but she was given in marriage to her guardian Ko-Ko. He returns to Titipu eagerly seeking Yum-Yum, as he has heard that Ko-Ko was condemned to death for flirting. He introduces himself and to his dismay, he learns from Pish-Tush that although Ko-Ko was indeed to have been beheaded, he was reprieved at the last moment and made Lord High Executioner instead. The nobles herald the appearance of Ko-Ko who appears and explains how he became the Lord High Executioner.

A procession of school girls arrives, followed by Yum-Yum and her sisters, Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo. Yum-Yum greets her betrothed Ko-Ko decidedly less enthusiastically than she does Nanki-Poo.
Ko-Ko has just received a letter from the Mikado, who is concerned that there have been no recent executions in Titipu and threatens severe repercussions if one does not take place within a month, including reducing the town to the rank of a village. Although, as Pooh-Bah points out, Ko-Ko is next in line for that honor, Ko-Ko understandably would prefer to find a substitute. Ko-Ko comes across Nanki-Poo, who is preparing to terminate his existence rather than face life without Yum-Yum and the two men strike a bargain: Ko-Ko agrees to let Nanki-Poo marry Yum-Yum now, and in return, Nanki-Poo agrees to let Ko-Ko behead him at the end of the month and marry his widow. All rejoice over this resolution, but the festivities are rudely interrupted by the appearance of Katisha who grieves her lost love.

Furious at Nanki-Poo's rejection, she attempts to reveal his true identity. She is silenced by the crowd, but vows revenge.

ACT 11 - As act II begins arrangements are being made for the wedding. The wedding plans are disrupted upon Ko- Ko's discovery that under the Mikado's law, when a married man is beheaded his wife must be buried alive. Yum-Yum's enthusiasm for the marriage is suddenly diminished.

To spare Yum-Yum this grim fate, Nanki-Poo decides to kill himself at once. This, however, would leave Ko-Ko with nobody to behead—just as word arrives that the Mikado is at this very minute approaching Titipu. Nanki-Poo offers himself for immediate decapitation, but Ko-Ko is not equal to the task. Ko-Ko realizes, though, that he can accomplish the same purpose by swearing a false affidavit that he has done the deed, provided that Nanki-Poo leaves at once and never comes back.

The Mikado arrives with Katisha who makes much of being his daughter-in-law elect. When Ko-Ko presents his certificate of execution the Mikado reads it and says, ‘My poor fellow, in your anxiety to carry out my wishes you have beheaded the heir to the throne of Japan!’ and for this the Mikado threatens the most dire punishment of being boiled alive and tortured by melted lead to those responsible.

Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah find Nanki-Poo and beg him to present himself, alive, to his father hence absolving them of his death. But Nanki-Poo, now married to Yum-Yum, is afraid of Katisha’s wrath. Unless Ko-Ko will agree to marry the old woman himself, he and Yum-Yum will leave on their honeymoon at once. Katisha, meanwhile, is mourning the death of Nanki-Poo, and when Ko-Ko tries to woo her, she is at first reluctant, but he wins the formidable lady with a pack of flattering lies and a sad, unhappy song.
Katisha adds her powerful supplications to the Mikado for everyone to be pardoned.

The Mikado, a bit bewildered by it all, however pronounces that ‘Nothing could possibly be more satisfactory!’ All ends with laughing song and merry dance.