The New York City Opera has a brought a "Mikado" to Wolf Trap whose delights lie in its acting and production rather than in its singing. Fortunately, this can make for perfectly satisfactory Gilbert and Sullivan and last night it certainly did.
James Billings does not really have the range for Ko-Ko, and his broad New York accent in songs like "The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring" -- which we all hear in our heads with the most perfect British diction -- seemed a little odd, but his timing and his sense of broad comedy is wonderful, and his reluctant wooing of the terrible Katisha was very funny. David Rae Smith was a somewhat smaller than life Pooh-Bah, and Joyce Castle's Katisha and Richard McKee's Mikado were fittingly outrageous. Paul Austin Kelly was an unusually attractive Nanki-Poo and Ruth Golden was an adequate Yum-Yum.
An excellent set, designed by Thierry Pfeiffer and composed entirely of six large screens and a Japanese arch that were moved as scenes changed by a splendid core of dancers, was unusually flexible, and bold use of lighting added brilliant changes of color. The same dancers appeared from time to time to highlight a line of music or simply to lead a procession or to listen to a dialogue, but their presence was a marvelous touch and added a dimension of whimsy to the proceedings.
Conductor Chris Nance paced things quickly but gave the singers some room to maneuver.
The performance will be repeated tomorrow.