Opera Scotland

Mikado The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu


Arthur Sullivan (botn London, 13 May 1842; died London, 22 November 1900)


William S Gilbert





First Performance: London (Savoy Theatre), 14 March 1885.

First Performance in Scotland: Dundee (Her Majesty's Theatre), 4 January 1886.

Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 5 May 2016.



The Mikado enjoyed the longest initial run of all the Gilbert and Sullivan pieces, and in the decades since has usually been regarded as their masterpiece. Indeed, Sullivan, who had a flourishing career composing serious music, is reputed to have been rather hurt when another composer of the day, Ethel Smyth, suggested that The Mikado was his masterpiece, rather than The Golden Legend, Ivanhoe or any other of his serious works.


Main Characters

The Mikado of Japan (bass)

Nanki-Poo, his son (tenor)

Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner (baritone)

Pooh-Bah, Lord High Everything Else (bass)

Pish-Tush, a Noble Lord (baritone)

Yum-Yum, Ko-Ko's ward (soprano)

Pitti-Sing, her sister (mezzo-soprano)

Katisha, an elderly lady (contralto)


Plot Summary

In the Japanese town of Titipu, the citizens are tired of the constant round of executions taking place for even minor offences. They appoint as Lord High Executioner the next prisoner on Death Row, one Ko-Ko, a tailor, on the supposition that he cannot execute anyone as he is himself first in the queue.

Nanki-Poo, the emperor's son, flees from the Court to escape the attentions of Katisha, who wishes to marry him. Disguised as a minstrel, he arrives in Titipu, where he falls for Yum-Yum, one of a trio of sisters who are schoolgirls and wards of Ko-Ko. When Katisha traces him to the town she is prevented from exposing his identity, and claiming him. She retreats to fetch the Mikado, who is already on his way, concerned at the absence of regular executions in the town.

When the Mikado arrives, he is told that an execution has been carried out. Unfortunately he discovers the supposed victim to be Nanki-Poo, and the penalties for killing a royal heir are serious. The only solution is for Ko-Ko to marry Katisha, thus leaving the way free for Nanki-Poo to come out of hiding and marry Yum-Yum.

The Cast

 a gentleman of Titipu
 an elderly Lady, in love with Nanki-Poo
 Lord High Executioner of Titipu
Mikado of Japan
 the Mikado's son, disguised as a wandering Minstrel
 Yum-Yum's sister, also Ko-Ko's Ward
 a Noble Lord
 Yum-Yum's sister, also Ko-Ko's Ward
 Lord High Everything Else
 Ko-Ko's Ward

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