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art by Natsuo Ikegami :: pix by Glen Emil

Translation or Transformation: A Chat with Motoyuki Shibata

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A WorldCat view of Prof. Motoyuki Shibata's works

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What everyone, including the Prince, wanted a hundred years back was to experience the joys of The Mikado’s pointed, thinly disguised parodies of upper class society, delivered via W.S. Gilbert’s clever patter songs, in cheerful synchronicity to Sullivan’s catchy melodies. And do they shine exemplary. Take the introduction of Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner and heavy in Act One. Ko-ko’s solo patter song is wonderfully crafted [line numbers added]:


Taken from the county jail [1]
  By a set of curious chances; [2]
Liberated then on bail, [3]
  On my own recognizances; [4]
Wafted by a favouring gale [5]
  As one sometimes is in trances, [6]
To a height that few can scale, [7]
  Save by long and weary dances; [8]
Surely, never had a male [9]
  Under such like circumstances [10]
So adventurous a tale, [11]
  Which may rank with most romances. [12]

Sullivan’s memorable ditty is tightly woven around Gilbert’s libretto. There are seven syllable sounds in the first line and every odd line thereafter, and eight syllable sounds in the second line and every even line thereafter. Musical notes accent each syllable sound, though with varying duration held for the last syllable of each verse. And it’s pretty much like that with every patter song in this operetta. That’s what makes it fun to listen to: a bit of musical levity and it’s seemingly coincidental timing, with storyline and wordplay. The director can build in a tiny bit of margin for the performer to exercise dynamic inflection and color, but otherwise, through diligent rehearsal, singer and orchestra can perform in near perfect synchronization. And that’s just for musical timing.

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2008 Illustrations by Natsuo Ikegami, Edward Gorey Charitable Trust and Goreyography+WZP. 著作権を所有します。