The Carl Rosa Opera Mikado (2001)

The MikadoDonald Maxwell
Nanki-PooIvan Sharpe
Ko-KoEric Roberts
Pooh-BahBruce Graham
Pish-TushRichard Morrison
Yum-YumMariane Hellgren
Pitti-SingSarah Sweeting
Peep-BoJanet Cowley
KatishaGillian Knight

The Chorus of Carl Rosa Opera
The Carl Rosa Youth Orchestra
Conductor: Wyn Davies

Carl Rosa CRV001
Carl Rosa CRV001

Peter Mulloy revived Carl Rosa Opera several years ago, after many decades of dormancy, and the company is now touring nearly year-round. Time alone can tell, but for all intents and purposes it is now Carl Rosa, and not D'Oyly Carte, that is keeping touring professional G&S alive in the British provinces.

This production marks the company's first recording. There is a video, a highlights CD, and a karaoke CD. I assume that the first two, at least, are taken from the same performance: applause and other stage sounds are heard on the CD. The production uses the same costumes that were seen in the movie Topsy-Turvy, as the video cover (shown above) clearly advertises.

CD Review

Carl Rosa CRCD001
Carl Rosa CRCD001

I don't have the video, but the CD is very disappointing. Most of the singing is quite ordinary, with several singers betraying alarming register breaks. In the Mikado's song, Donald Maxwell's laugh makes it sound like he is being tortured, rather than being the one who enjoys torturing others. Gillian Knight has lost focus in her voice, although she spits out "bellow of the blast" venomously. Perhaps the best singing comes from Eric Roberts, but too little of his role is included to justify buying the CD just for him (especially as he has recorded these numbers elsewhere).

The CD is distressingly short, including only about half the opera. As the Mackerras recording shows, you can fit nearly all of The Mikado on one CD. They obviously recorded the whole thing anyway, so why be so parsimonious on the CD?

And the CD itself is a cheapie, lacking sleeve notes, or even a track listing. The back cover irritatingly describes the opera as being by Sir Arthur Sullivan and Mr W S Gilbert. (Sullivan never wished to be known as "Sir" in connection with his composing career, and in any event both men were eventually knighted.) The cast list also punctuates the character names incorrectly: "KOKO" and "YUMYUM" but "POOH BAH and NANKI POO." (All should have hyphens.)

Review by Peter Parker

I have at last received my copies of the PAL VHS and CD of Mikado issued by Carl Rosa. I do have reservations about the technical quality of the video, which only has a mono sound track. However, what I like about this production, which I have not seen live on stage, is that it plays Mikado as Comic Opera and not a Musical Comedy. This is a distinction which I consider important and appears not to be understood by so many modern producers. There is still some extraneous fooling about by Eric Roberts as Ko-Ko, but that's just Eric Roberts. I've seen worse.

The issue of this video with only a mono audio track is I feel a great drawback. That it also has a distinct background noise as well is a distraction. The CD, on the other hand, appears to be taken from the same audio source as the video but does not have the unfortunate noise background. However, the CD only has 12 tracks (not including the "Little List" song) and runs for just 32 minutes. Both are a bit expensive at £15.50 for the CD and £19.50 for the video in that form, in my view.

This video starts off with a Pathe logo leading into a sort of trailer for Topsy-Turvy without any announcement on screen of why. Initially, I thought I had picked up or been sent the wrong tape. That trailer runs for over 2 minutes and has a header "A film by Mike Leigh." No mention of Topsy-Turvy even until it then has the closing credits of TT; all this before one gets to any mention of Mikado. Next comes Valerie Masterson's introduction, lasting all of 20 seconds and for the first time mention of the word Mikado. Its only after that that a Mikado title appears. A very odd way of introducing the video, I think. There is no overture. I find my name among the closing credits, with other SavoyNetters, and "I can't think why." (Actually I think I do know why, but that was two years ago).

One of the main attractions of the video is the use of the costumes from Topsy-Turvy. These, of course, pre date Ricketts designs and are claimed to be copies of the original designs. They are sumptious and lovely, and I can now understand the criticism of the Ricketts designs in 1926. I have a few reservations about the fans, but the whole effect is to me, wonderful. What an opportunity has been lost yet again in having an inferior video recording both pictures and sound. We really should have progressed from the days of Brent Walker in 1982. It might just be my copy, but I doubt it. If other SavoyNetters having seen this video can make comments on it, this would be helpful.

A statement issued with the video claims that all the artists gave their services free of charge. As far as I know, this may be the only time that Gillian Knight has been visually recorded playing Katisha in a publically available video. If, as was originally promised, Rosa eventually release a DVD, which surely will have good audio, that will worth waiting for. A DVD would require high quality masters, which one assumes must exist. There is mention of a Kareoke CD being made and a full lenght CD set in the literature, but no price is quoted as far as I can see.

Review by Tom Holt

Not great, but not bad; a pleasant enough middle-of-the-road production, played straight and with enthusiasm. Nanki-Poo can sing but can't act (for some reason he declaims the line "It [flirting] is capital!" as if he were playing King Lear.) The Mikado plays his part in the finest traditions of Japanese classical theatre, with bizarrely incomprehensible yet striking facial expressions and, at one point, a weird vocalisation somewhere between a sob and a yell for which there's no apparent reason whatesoever. Katisha and Pitti-Sing are, for me, the stand-out performances; Pooh-Bah, Yum-Yum and Ko-Ko are plenty good enough for government work; the orchestra is thin but adequate and the chorus is excellent. The costumes are rather splendid.

Not a default Mikado or a possession for all time, but better than any other production currently available video. At twenty quid it's not cheap, but (IMHO) the resuscitated Carl Rosa deserves our support.

Review by Paul Ensell

I hated the production, but loved the music so ordered the CD and not the video.

During the run of the production (1998?) this was advertised as going to be recorded with full dialogue, the Iolanthe/Yeomen programme this year advertised a "Full Cast Recording," which is what I ordered, and as the full cast sing on it I suppose you could say that I got what I ordered!


12 tracks, coming in at 32 min 45 seconds?

It's insulting for £15.

The selection is dull, and the quality of production of hard copy is dreadful. The CD is fine, but at no point does the cover say that it's a live performance, or Highlights. The sheet inside is a badly copied track list which isn't even cut square! There are no cast bios, no plot summary, no information about the company, only the track and cast lists.

Then we come to the music… I'm sorry, but The Carl Rosa Youth Orchestra are not up to live recording. There are bum notes (some extremely obvious!) the upper woodwind and strings screech dreadfully, there are ragged entries, and at the tempo change in the Act 2 finale they lose the beat very markedly.

The soloists do very well, but there are the usual drawbacks of live performance — feet moving, backs to the microphones at times, and extraneous noises. In fact I'm sure I heard the MD turn the page of his score at one point (Chappell pp149-150!) And then they have to compete with the orchestra, no wonder even Gillian Knight and Eric Roberts lose each other slightly in "There is beauty in the bellow of the blast."

Points out of 10 — I'll give them a grudging 1 (falling from a grudging 2 because it took them three months to get it to me!)

Don't buy this if you want a Mikado recording £ go out and get D'Oyly Carte (any vintage), or Welsh National Opera (one of my favourites) or even the dodgy German Martyn Green version on Gala — at least that one will make you laugh!

If WNO can fit all the music (with the exception of Hamilton Clarke's overture) onto one CD, why do Carl Rosa have to produce this mediocre piece of pap?

Issue History
2001 Carl Rosa VHS PAL CRV001 Video
CD CRCD001 Highlights CD
CD CRCD002 Karaoke CD