The Mikado

Updated June 26, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Music:Arthur Sullivan
Libretto:William S. Gilbert
Premiere:London, March 14, 1885

Parodying contemporary British taste for all things Japanese, the original production of The Mikado played in London for two full years. In the town of Titipu, where flirting is a capital crime, the nervous nobles have appointed former prisoner Ko-Ko as Lord High Executioner. Condemned for flirting, Ko-Ko cannot execute anyone unless he beheads himself first. Offended by Ko-Ko's lowly origins, the town officials resign, and Pooh-Bah takes charge of all functions as Lord High Everything Else. Into this setting wanders an unknown minstrel, Nanki-Poo, disguised son of the mighty Mikado, who has displeased his father by refusing to marry elderly Katisha. Nanki-Poo seeks Yum-Yum, the beautiful, self-absorbed ward of Ko-Ko, who is to marry her protector shortly.

Learning of the upcoming marriage, Nanki-Poo is preparing to hang himself in despair when an edict arrives from the Mikado warning that Titipu is overdue for an execution. Ko-Ko devises a clever plan to marry Yum-Yum to Nanki-Poo for one month, after which the groom will be executed, fulfilling the Mikado's order and leaving the bride free to marry Ko-Ko. Hilarious complications ensue, and when the Mikado discovers that his son has apparently been beheaded, Ko-Ko must marry Katisha to escape execution. Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo, alive and secretly wedded, emerge from hiding and Ko-Ko uses his zany, illogical reasoning to appease the Mikado.

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