Your RDA of Irony

Gibe Me Libretto

The Lyric Opera of Chicago wishes to make the following announcement:  Its current production of “The Mikado” is in English. 

The advertisements stress that reassuring fact.  I know that the aesthetes among you would prefer “The Mikado” in Italian or Klingon, but we must maintain the standards of American culture.  Anything sung in this country should be in English.  And that is more than just a courtesy to the audience.  It is a matter of national security. 

How else can we be sure that “Three Little Maids from School” don’t go to a Madrasah?  And who is to say that “The List” doesn’t divulge escape routes from Guantanamo?  That would be remiss; that would be remiss.  If nothing else, a good American translation would explain that a titwillow is only a G-rated bird.

And while the Lyric Opera is being so diligently patriotic, it really should change that suspiciously foreign word “mezzanine”.  Just call it a porch.

p.s.  It is the same old story, so why not the same old satirical response:

  1. Cindy Starks says:

    Eugene — You put the sunshine in my day — sort of like orange juice, without the tart taste. Well, most times anyway. :>)

  2. SwanShadow says:

    I’m just surprised that the Lyric Opera didn’t take the additional precautionary step of retitling the play “The Emperor.”

    Speaking of American culture — such as it is — how sad is it that an American audience wouldn’t just know that Gilbert and Sullivan (well, Gilbert specifically, but you get my point) wrote in the mother tongue?

  3. Hal Gordon says:

    Well, as Gilbert himself remarked in another libretto: “It is one of the happiest characteristics of this glorious country that official utterances are invariably regarded as unanswerable.”

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      I am going to both recommend and warn you about “Topsy Turvy”, Mike Leigh’s film on the creation of “The Mikado.” At least from Leigh’s perspective, the story behind that delightful operetta is incredibly depressing. You will discover that William Gilbert, portrayed by the inestimable Jim Broadbent, is a miserable person. That irresistible humor only manifests itself on paper. Yet, as the film reveals, Gilbert deserves credit for not killing himself. As for the original cast of “The Mikado”, it seems to be an ensemble of drug addicts. You may be relieved to know Arthur Sullivan is a congenial fellow whose popularity extends to the finest brothels. (One hopes that “Onward Christian Soldiers” was not inspired during one of those visits.)

      As disillusioning as this all is, the film is fascinating. There is another aspect worth noting: the cast members do their own singing–and you are likely to be surprised by their talent. Kevin McKidd is best known as an action star; playing the male lead at “D’Oyly Carte”, McKidd demonstrates that he is a fine tenor. Shirley Henderson has a breathy, squeaky voice that lends itself to playing neurotic characters; you likely would recognize her as Moaning Myrtle, the washroom ghost in the Harry Potter series. It turns out that she has a lovely singing voice. As for Timothy Spall, well he sounds how you would expect–but suitable for comic roles.

      So, consider yourself warned and encouraged. “Topsy Turvy”

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