Top positive review
English Operetta By An English Conductor
on April 1, 2004
This Telarc recording made in 1991 is conducted by the Brittish-born Sir Charles Mackerras and stars the English talents of the Welsh National Opera- Donald Adams (who was also a star of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company) as the Mikado, Anthony Rolfe Johnson as Nanki Poo, Richard Stuart as Ko-Ko, Richard Van Allan as Poo-Bah, Marie McLaughlin as Yum Yum and Felicity Palmer as Katisha.
The Welsh National Opera, with its Chorus, are experienced in singing English vocal music. The Welsh have a fine tradition in singing beautifully in English and indeed they do deliver a superb performance. Nevertheless, they seem second best next to the talents of the original D'Oyly Carte Opera under the baton of conductor Sir Isidore Godfrey. The singers are not all giving their best- namely Richard Van Allan, Richard Stuart or Marie McLaughlin. The parts for Ko-Ko and Yum Yum should be star performances but Stuart and McLaughlin are mediocre. Stuart can never compare to John Reed, the ultimate Ko-Ko and legend in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. Valerie Masterson is the greatest soprano who ever sang Yum Yum. McLaughlin's voice is darker and deeper than the lighter, youthful, sweeter-voiced Valerie Masterson. The only good singers in this recording are Athony Rolfe Johnson as Nanki Poo and Felicity Palmer as Katisha.
The Mikado was launched successfully at the Savoy in 1885. Gilbert and Sullivan set the light opera in Japan, though they were masking English and Victorian society. The story revolves around Nanki Poo's plan to marry Yum Yum. Katisha, the commanding daughter-in-law elect of the Mikado Emperor, wants to have Nanki Poo for herself. Felicty Palmer delivers a sensational Katisha. Her mezzo-soprano voice is dramatic, full of fire and fury and power- as in the finale to Act 1 where she interrupts the impending wedding of Yum Yum and Nanki Poo. The Mikado is set to Japanese-style music, imitated by the orchestra in five meters. The best samples for this type of music are found in the opening chorus "We Are Gentlemen Of Japan" and in "Miyasama Miyasama" the entrance march of The Mikado. Once again only Anthony R. Johnson and Felicity Palmer are the real treats here. Felicity Palmer makes a fine Katisha, second only to the more impressive Christene Palmer (I wonder if they were related ?) of the D'Oyly Carte Opera. Marie McLaughlin sounds too mature for Yum Yum who is supposed to be a "little maid from school" after all. And when compared to Valerie Masterson, McLaughins' The Sun Whose Rays is too deep sounding. But this is still a great way to get you into Gilbert and Sullivan.