The Appropriation of Cultures, Part 2

Inspired by Emily.

The Mikado is a comic opera written in 1885 by the English composing team of W.S. Gilbert (lyrics/libretto) and Sir Arthur Sullivan (music). It is set in an imaginary version of medieval Japan, and is typically performed by white singers made up to appear Asian (a.k.a. “yellowface”). This is a typical production:

In the past few years, however, protests have inspired opera presenters to reconsider these casting, makeup, and staging choices.

And, as you know, there are many different ways to appropriate cultures.

Anime Mikado:

This is a production that keeps some aspects of Japanese costume and culture but ditches the yellowface:

In 1939, there was a Broadway production called The Hot Mikado with an all-Black cast, headlined by the great dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Very little footage of the show exists.

A trailer for the 2010 film The Mikado Project, about a struggling Asian-American theater company “reclaiming” The Mikado. What the actors do with Mikado may remind you of what Daniel in the story The Appropriation of Cultures did with the Confederate flag.







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