The Mikado (Fort Worth Opera, 2011)

  • *Named one of the Top Classical Music Events of 2011 by D Magazine


“On a more lighthearted note, FWO’s new Mikado, directed by John de los Santos, recast the Gilbert & Sullivan classic as a poke at modern American foibles. The staging was consistently lively and kinetic, abetted by the well-drilled chorus, which seemed to be having a wonderful time. The Fort Worth audience ate it all up.”


“As a long-time opera goer who had just about given up on anybody anywhere having anything meaningful and new to say about Gilbert and Sullivan, I’ll admit I was won over the instant the curtain rose on a swirling world of corporate and political greed, desperately trendy consumerism, and zany game world colors and visual effects. In this Mikado, a business-suited chorus armed with cell phones constantly dances, marches, and sings its way across a landscape in which the wandering minstrel Nanki-Poo has become a heavily tattooed rock star, the maiden Yum-Yum is a tough, pink-haired bad girl, and the Mikado himself arrives on the scene, eventually, as a knife-wielding sushi chef. Watching and hearing this version of Mikado was not unlike the quasi-hypnotic experience of falling into a video game.

The bulk of the credit for the success of this show goes to the stage director, San Antonio native and TCU graduate John de los Santos, whose brilliant combination of literary insight and choreographic creativity has become a major force on the Texas operatic scene and is beginning to be felt on an even larger scale. De los Santos keeps his singers zipping through the high-tech dream world in a way that kept the audience delightedly grabbing for straws in this PG-rated comedy.


“This past week across the pond the Cambridge Union Society hosted a celebrity debate about whether or not classical music is still relevant, the Fort Worth Opera took up the ‘Yes’ side of the argument and answered it on the stage of Bass Hall Saturday night. From the opening, director, John de los Santos used the modern clothing and sets to get the audience chuckling, and the fun never stopped. For opening night there are always interesting theories for what sorts of operas companies should start with. Darren Woods and the Fort Worth Opera company put forward quite the argument that you start by giving people the most fun you could have at an opera. After last year’s incredibly fun presentation of Elixir of Love (which I saw multiple times), I didn’t think there would be anything to top it, but The Mikado blows it out of the water. In typical fashion, de los Santos adapted the lyrics of ‘Mi-ya Sa-ma,’ ‘A More Humane Mikado,’ and The List Song, and every single one of the adaptions hit home with the audience. The List Song particularly hit home, and the company even took some mild political risks by poking fun at oil tycoons (this is Texas you know) and high gas prices, ‘birthers,’ and even ‘The Donald.’ It could be one of the longer performances of The List Song as the audience kept interrupting with guffaws and applause; a great problem to have. The modernizations worked extreamly well to drive home the humor and the contemporary political touched sent it over the top. The packed Bass Hall erupted with both laughter and applause throughout the evening.”


“Director John de los Santos wittily modernizes the Gilbert and Sullivan parody of Victorian Japan — and, actually, England. His reworking of Ko-Ko’s list of things that never would be missed got plenty of guffaws Saturday at Bass Performance Hall, opening the four-production Fort Worth Opera Festival. A flashy light wall and a couple of shoji screens supply all the setting that’s needed. Both the Mikado and Katisha wheel around on Segways, chorus men are businessmen in identical suits, cellphones stuck to their ears, and the chorus girls accessorize sailor dresses with Hello Kitty backpacks. In its zany way, this all makes sense.”


“All happy expectations were fulfilled big-time by a youthful and athletic cast in this bold, witty and joyously performed production. Director John de los Santos has great fun throughout, and before the evening’s done we’ve seen some wonderfully imaginative costumes and inventive staging. The best single piece of business is the grand entrance of the Mikado and Katisha on matching Segways, buzzing stage right and left in widening circles. Marvelous! You have to see it.”


“Fort Worth Opera’s The Mikado, under the direction of John de los Santos, completely overhauls the antediluvian material and polished it into a side-splitting, splendid production. The cast spoke the dialogue in more modern speech patterns than the typical G & S formula, and emerged fresh and full of laughs. The choreography, also by de los Santos, was another visual delight that pushed this piece into our times. There were so many surprises all night that popped up and had the audience roaring in laughter. You should NOT miss this production.”


“Though based on the original stage piece, FWO’s The Mikado is a high-tech Broadway-style romp. Opening the company’s fifth annual festival, the show was about as far out as it could be without blowing up the theater. The traditional Japanese setting has been replaced by a youthful, contemporary fantasia. The back wall was illuminated by Versa TUBE, a lighting system that comprises 175 one-meter-long horizontal tubes. It was originally created for arena rock concerts, and a mix of visual images were specially developed for the production. The cast, full of mostly young, emerging talent, was sharp, and the principals responded with energy and style to director John de los Santos’ snappy staging. FWO’s production of The Mikado may not be to everyone’s taste, but the audience here was certainly turned on.”