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Image Entertainment presents
The Mikado (1990)

"Don't spoil yourself by committing suicide. Be beheaded handsomely at the hands of the Public Executioner."
- Ko-Ko (Graeme Ewer)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 15, 2002

Stars: Robert Eddie, Heather Begg, Peter Cousens, Anne-Marie McDonald, Graeme Ewer
Other Stars: Caroline Clack, Jennifer Bermingham, John Germain, Gregory Yurisich, Opera Australia Chorus, Elizabethan Sydney Orchestra, Andrew Greene, conductor
Director: Virginia Lumsden, Christopher Renshaw

Manufacturer: Ritek
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (comic references to suicide and execution)
Run Time: 02h:30m:34s
Release Date: January 15, 2002
UPC: 014381930429
Genre: opera


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- AB-C- D-

DVD Review

Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado, a comic romance set in a never-never land Japan, is one of the most beloved operettas in the repertoire. This production by Opera Australia from the famous Sydney Opera House takes the satirical and comic elements of the operetta and runs with them, producing a rather enjoyable viewing experience.

In the city of Titi-Poo, the emperor's son, Nanki-Poo (Peter Cousens), disguised as a wandering minstrel, has fallen in love with the young maiden Yum-Yum (Anne-Marie McDonald), ward of Ko-Ko (Graeme Ewer). The guardian, however, means to marry Yum-Yum himself. Under sentence of death for flirting with Yum-Yum, Ko-Ko has found himself made the Lord High Executioner of Titi-Poo, postponing the execution indefinitely since he cannot very well behead himself. When the Mikado (Robert Eddie) gives Ko-Ko an ultimatum to perform an execution within the next 30 days, Ko-Ko makes Nanki-Poo the offer to marry Yum-Yum for 30 days, at the end of which Nanki-Poo will be executed. But in the background is the hideous harridan princess Katisha (Heather Begg), to whom Nanki-Poo is already betrothed, and she's not happy about this in the least.

The score is packed with well-known songs such as A Wandering Minstrel I, I've Got a Little List and Tit-Willow. The broad comedy of the libretto is given full rein here, emphasized by a wild visual design that is a bizarre mix of Japan and England meant to convey the muddled sense of the Orient that the average Victorian would have had. The Gentlemen of Japan wear kimonos, but also sport bowlers, brollies and briefcases like proper English gents. Enormous porcelain urns are everywhere (often with people inside), and everyone of course has fans covered with period advertising. Nanki-Poo even wears a flat straw hat and rides a bicycle. Purists will probably be offended because the production takes liberties with the text. I can't say that I'm intimately familiar with the material, but somehow I doubt that the original incorporates references to Crocodile Dundee and Kiri Te Kanawa. The audience also seems to appreciate numerous obscure references to 1990s Australian politics, nearly all of which went far past me.

Graeme Ewer is the highlight as a funny Ko-Ko, a part that lends itself well to an actor with excellent comic timing. Gregory Yurisich as Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else, is a shade overbroad, and might have served the production better by toning his routine down just a shade. Heather Begg makes a memorable and terrifying Katisha. The leads are fairly colorless and unexceptional, but they are in decent enough voice.

The main problem I have with this disc has to do with the miking and mixing, which is dealt with further in the audio review. But it's worth noting here that the miking of the cast is generally quite inadequate. Long stretches are completely unintelligible even on careful listening. This is a shame, especially in light of Gilbert's text, which often is a rapid-fire patter that is lost completely in the distance between the microphones and the cast. It's a shame, really, because this is such an enjoyable production otherwise.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The full frame picture is noticeably soft and blurry. Details are lacking throughout. Shimmer is observable at many times on the finely patterned kimonos. Color is quite good throughout, and black levels are surprisingly decent for a live stage performance. The costumes and settings make one long for a much sharper picture, but it's acceptable overall.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: As noted in the content review, the audio is problematic. In addition to the miking problems, the mix is, at times, unpleasant. The orchestra is much too forward, and the audience sound even more so, leading to the vocals often being drowned out. There is also a fairly prominent hiss throughout, which is worsened when the volume levels are increased to help hear the vocals. This effect is even more pronounced on the Dolby Surround track. The orchestra on occasion sounds rather shrill, making the poor mix even more annoying. The soundstage is quite broad, with vocals coming from all speakers.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 27 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Nothing, absolutely nothing. This is particularly infuriating in light of the poor audio. English subtitles at an absolute minimum should have been presented; given the rapid-fire wordplay on exhibit, even if there weren't sound problems subtitles would have helped the audience follow the plot more readily. Just because an opera or operetta is in English does not mean that subtitles can be dispensed with. But in light of the sound problems, much of the operetta (notably the first act finale) is an incomprehensible mess.

Each act is on a separate title, with its own layer. This seems odd, rather than using an RSDL presentation, but both acts play in sequence so this is a minor observation. Chaptering is adequate for the most part, although the Act I finale could have been broken down further.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

A fun and entertaining production of Gilbert & Sullivan's best-known operetta is undercut by a variety of audio problems. Regrettably, the sound difficulties require me to suggest a pass on this disc.

 


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