A Typical Production: Synopsis of the Mikado
The following production description is adapted from Gilbert and Sullivan’s original The Mikado.
Act One: The Mikado is set in the 1880s in the fictional Japanese town of Titipu where the act of pre-marital flirting has been outlawed and is punishable by death. Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado (or the emperor of Japan), flees to the town disguised as a musician and asks some local gentlemen where he can find his beloved Yum-Yum. He is told that Yum-Yum is engaged to her ward, Ko-Ko who has recently been elected High Lord Executioner. The election was a direct response to Ko-Ko’s death sentence for the crime of flirting. The idea was that Ko-Ko could not possibly execute himself and all other executions would be postponed until this impossible act took place.
Later, Nanki-Poo meets in secret with Yum-Yum and reveals his true identity and the two lament the fact that they are unable to flirt. Ko-Ko also uses this private time to explain why he disguises himself: mainly, that an older woman named Katisha is intent on marrying him despite his objections.
Characters reel as the Mikado issues a decree forcing the town to execute someone by the end of the week unless the town is re-labeled as a village. In order to avoid his own beheading, Ko-Ko strikes a deal with Nanki-Poo. Nanki-Poo is allowed to marry Yum-Yum under the assertion that he will kill himself at the end of the month. The first act ends with Katisha unsuccessfully attempting to oust Nanki-Poo as the son of the Mikado on a celebration day for his and Yum-Yum’s engagement.
Act Two: The second act begins with Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum eagerly dressing for their wedding. The excitement is interrupted by Ko-Ko's discovery of a law that states that whenever a man is executed, his wife is to be buried alongside him. With this new information, Ko-Ko allows the couple to flee Titipu while he fakes a death certificate forNanki-Poo.
The false death certificate leads to great confusion and despair on behalf of the Mikado (who has just received news of his son’s “death”). However, any confusion is swiftly cleared up after a second deal is struck between Ko-Ko and Nanki-Poo, for Ko-Ko has agreed to marry Katisha when Nanki-Poo reveals to his father that he is alive. The opera ends with a celebration after Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum return alive and well.