Top-notch cast for Opera Otago’s ‘Mikado’

Musical high jinks . . . Scott Bezett (baritone, left) and James Adams (tenor) are having a ball playing the comic roles of Poo-Bah and Nanki-Poo in Opera Otago's production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

Flirting is punishable by death in a fictional Japan, putting just about everyone in jeopardy in Gilbert & Sullivan’s high-spirited, satirical comic opera The Mikado

Opera Otago has brought together a top-notch cast, under the leadership of director Bryan Aitken and musical director John Buchanan, for its production of The Mikado.

Negotiating the complex story of the opera, while tackling its clever characterisation and often demanding music is proving great fun for Dunedin-based tenor James Adams and baritone Scott Bezett, who play two of the leading roles.

Returning to the stage for the first time since Opera Otago’s production of Christmas Carol in 2015, Adams takes on the romantic lead role of Nanki-Poo.

Juggling care of two small children, aged 5 years and 2 years, work as a planner at the Otago Regional Council, and a major operatic role can be tricky for Adams.

“I’m loving it, though – there is some lovely music and the comedy is great fun.

“In terms of the singing there’s lots to do and it’s set very high.”

In a fun departure from his most recent singing role – Jesus in Bach’s St Matthew Passion with City Choir Dunedin in March – Bezett takes on the role of Poo-Bah, known as “the lord high everything else”.

In his final year of a bachelor’s degree in arts and science, in classics, maths and music, Bezett is relishing every performance opportunity.

He is finding the characterisation of the impressively dignified and manipulative Poo-Bah a great experience.

Playing off Alex Derby (baritone), who plays stressed-out lord high executioner Ko-Ko, is working well.

“The two characters are almost polar opposites – I have the grand stillness of Pooh-Ba, which Alex is scuttling around as Ko-Ko,” Bezett said.

The female leads Yum Yum and Katisha, are in the hands of Erica Paterson (soprano) and Claire Barton (mezzo soprano) respectively, and John Milligan (bass-baritone) plays The Mikado of Japan.

The vast experience of director Bryan Aitken was proving valuable for the whole cast, Bezett said.

The performances will be accompanied by players from the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

The Mikado opens at the Mayfair Theatre on Saturday, August 3.