Lehman College, Bronx, N.Y; April 28, 2019—A visit last weekend to the Bronx Opera’s spring presentation at Lehman College of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado was a delight. Updated and free of any japanoisserie or yellow-face to “now”, with a back wall projection of the White House and signs reading “Titipu.gov”, we find ourselves in the briefing room: “If you want to know who we are/We are gentlemen of the press” sings the small but vital men’s chorus, and the metaphor is (more-or-less) carried out throughout the show. As with any updating, there are some anachronisms in Ben Spierman’s direction and script editing, but it mostly works and is very jolly indeed. Koko’s “As someday it may happen” (the List Song) referred to local and not so local dignitaries, and was both witty—and fit.
The finest singing of the afternoon came from Barbee Monk as Yum-Yum, with a superbly tuned, full-lyric soprano and flawless diction. Her suitor, Nanki-Poo, was the clear-voiced, ardent tenor Jonathan Price, whose voice gained in stature as it rose, and Sean Kroll, towering physically above the remainder of the cast, was properly snide as Ko-Ko. Michael Blake O’Hearn did a fine comic turn as Pooh-Bah, and Will Kellerman’s Mikado—here clearly Russian—was vastly entertaining. Erica Koehring as Katisha has almost too fine a voice for the battle-axe Katisha. The remainder of the cast was more than up to their assignments.
Great praise to the superbly trained chorus (Michael C. Haigler, chorus master) and even more to Artistic and Music Director Michael Spierman’s superb orchestra—his brass section alone should be the envy of any opera company. In all a wonderfully spirited show from this feisty company, now in its 52nd season. Further performances are the 4th and 5th of May.