Long before Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, even before Puccini's Madame Butterfly, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado presented its own distinctive version of Japan. Set in a fictional town called Titipu and populated by characters named Yum-Yum, Nanki-Poo, and Pooh-Bah, the opera has remained popular since its premiere in 1885. Tracing the history of The Mikado's performances from Victorian times to the present, Josephine Lee reveals the continuing viability of the play's surprisingly complex racial dynamics as they have been adapted to different times and settings.
Josephine Lee is associate professor of English and Asian American studies at the University of Minnesota. She is author of Performing Asian America: Race and Ethnicity on the Contemporary Stage and coeditor (with Imogene Lim and Yuko Matsukawa) of Re/Collecting Early Asian America: Essays in Culture History.