Recently I was very lucky to be invited to attend a performance of The Mikado by The English National Opera. As a lover of the theatre I've attended many a production throughout the years, from ballet, to play, to west end musical, but it's only very recently that I've started to enjoy going to, and experiencing a night at the opera.
It began back in January of this year when we took ourselves off to see La Boheme at the Sydney Opera House whilst visiting friends down under! To be honest our main drive for the visit was to experience a taste of the iconic opera house, but to our surprise we really fell in love with the production and the genre itself and vowed that it was something we should do more often. When the chance to see The Mikado came up I thought it would be a great option, both to experience and to share here on the blog for anyone else considering dipping their toes into the opera pool.
I guess Gilbert and Sullivan operas such as this can be considered a little lighter and more accessible than some other options. So for people just beginning to find their opera feet this is really a perfect choice. Plus I'd heard many great things about this famous ENO production so was looking forward to seeing what it was all about.
This production was a joy. Directed by Jonathan Miller who first staged this particular version in 1986, setting it in an English country house in the 1920's rather than in its original setting of Japan. The ENO take on this famous comical opera is pretty much just as well known and well loved in its own right.
As well as the wit and humour of the lyrics, attacked brilliantly by the cast, there is crisp and comical choreography from the brilliant Antony Van Laast who's work I love and who musical theatre fans will know from shows such as Mamma Mia and more recently Sister Act on Broadway.
Watching Richard Suart as Ko-Ko is also pure joy, especially as he works his way through the famous 'I've Got A Little List' and the audience await expectantly to hear of the ones who won't be missed. Suart regularly updates the list himself adding a topical selection of current characters who are making headlines in the worlds news. In fact this article from the Independent was a great read ahead of watching the show. Worth a look if you're planning to go along and see it for yourself: Updating The Mikado's Little List.
For anyone new to opera it's really a brilliant starting point. Sung in English, but with the surtitles still available above the stage, which actually come in very handy given the quick and witty lyrics and the operatic tone, this is a charming and thoroughly enjoyable performance. In fact so taken were we with the whole thing that we headed home and proceeded the next day to watch the 1999 Mike Leigh film Topsy-Turvy based on the work of Gilbert and Sullivan and the inspiration behind the writing of The Mikado. Long, but fun and well worth a watch.
I also really love the ethos of the English National Opera who firmly believe in making theatre accessible to everyone and not an expensive and elitist past time. With prices in the west end soaring beyond belief right now, it's encouraging to know that for every performance at the London Coliseum, the ENO's beautiful home, there are at least 500 tickets available at £20 or under. Meaning everyone can come along and get a taste of this beautiful production, as well as the many others in the ENO repertoire each season. It's definitely something worth putting on your to do list, especially if you've been thinking of embracing a bit of opera yourself. I highly recommend it.
On a last note, you also cannot beat the beauty of the stunningly restored London Coliseum. London has many very beautiful theatres to offer but this one is certainly up there as one of the best since it was beautifully brought back to life in 2004. It's a real joy to sit there eagerly awaiting the start of a performance gazing at its glory, so lovingly returned to its glamorous Edwardian best.
If you're looking for something a little different to do with your time this holiday season and have never given the opera a try then I urge you to give it a go. You can catch The Mikado up until the 6th of February 2016 or choose from a number of other productions coming up in the New Year. Go on try something different - I'm confident you'll be glad that you did.
Visit www.eno.org for more information and details of upcoming productions.
Are you an opera fan? Any recommendations for a newbie like me? Or is opera something that you've never experienced, perhaps you're tempted to go along and give it a go? Let me know what you think in the comments below, and have a great day everyone!
Our tickets were complimentary as part of being invited along to review. My opinions are however 100% honest and completely my own. If I hadn't enjoyed it I wouldn't be sharing it here with you today.