The Concert Hall Mikado (1972)

The Mikado[does not appear]
Nanki-PooRichard Van Vrooman
Ko-KoHoward Nelson
Pooh-BahAndrew Foldi
Pish-TushHoward Nelson
Yum-YumContanza Cuccaro
Pitti-SingMira Spektor
Peep-BoMarilyn Zschau
KatishaSusan Wold

Soloists, chorus and orchestra of
The Opera Society
Boris Mersson, conductor

Concert Hall SVS-2768
Concert Hall SVS-2768

Geoff Dixon told me about this disc, which comprises highlights from The Mikado recorded by, one must assume, a "pick-up" group that existed only to come into the studio and sing with very little preparation. Geoff says that the album cover has a photograph of "Nanki-Poo, Yum-Yum, and (presumably) The Mikado." Yum-Yum is a Valerie Masterson look-alike.

Contents are as follows:

Side 1Side 2
  • If you want to know who we are
  • A wand'ring minstrel I
  • Our great Mikado
  • As some day it may happen
  • Three little maids from school
  • The sun whose rays
  • Madrigal
  • Here's a how-de-do
  • The flowers that bloom in the spring
  • On a tree by a river
  • There is beauty in the bellow
  • Finale

Here is Geoff's review:

The recording is quite well sung on the whole, but much of it is performed with academic precision rather than with a feel for the music and the character. Tempi are on the whole too slow and stodgy. There a few chorus harmonies which are suspect, and a couple of stumbles over the words (e.g. Pish-Tush at "cannot cut off another's head").

The overture is slightly shortened; "The sun whose rays" is too slow and deliberate, losing charm the while; "Tit-Willow" is also very slow (not so much lachrymose as comatose).

Two curious points: 1) The Mikado himself does not appear; 2) the only full chorus number featured is Act II Finale.

I thought I suspected disguised American accents on a couple of occasions but I cannot be sure. Probably not.

John Carroll provided biographies of the major singers:

Contanza Cuccaro (Yum-Yum):
A leading operatic coloratura soprano in the 1970's and 1980's. I believe she was born in Canada but studied in Iowa (of all places). She has sung leading roles at many of the world's best opera houses and was a Met winner...she sang Barber of Seville there. Her Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos is remarkable.
Richard Van Vrooman (Nanki-Poo):
Born in Kansas City, sang all over the world as well — at the Paris Opera and festivals like Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, and Glyndebourne. Sang everything from Mozart to Berg (Wozzeck, which he recorded).
Andrew Foldi (Pooh-Bah):
Born in Chicago. He also sang supporting roles at the Met in Lulu, Barber of Seville and Billy Budd among others.
Marilyn Zschau (Peep-Bo):
She has become a major opera star singing dramatic soprano roles like Electra, Salome and Tosca around the world at all the great houses.

John added:

At the bottom of the back of the record it says:

It is quite common nowadays to see some of the finest young American singers making their career in Europe. This applies to those featured in this record: Having mad their debuts in the USA, they came to Europe either to fulfill engagements or with study grants and elected to stay there. All of them are at present members of the permanent staff of the Zurich Opera.

I agree with Geoff's assessment of the performance as being well sung (hence the operatic voices), but not always in the light G&S spirit.

Issue History
1972 Concert Hall Synchro Stereo LP SVS-2768