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Posted October 1, 2010
At last count, Gilbert & Sullivan's ''The Mikado'' has been given a complete recording 11 times: an acoustic version back in 1917, two electric recordings in 1926 and 1936, a mono LP in 1950, and the rest are all in stereo, all but one now available on CDs. Only one contains the dialogue, but alas it is too amateurishly produced to be of any further value. The 1936 electric set on eleven 12'' 78s might have qualified as being the best of the lot, were it not for a weak contralto as Katisha. Therefore I would have to call the 1950 set pretty close to top place. Now tenor Leonard Osborn never failed to please when he appeared on stage, but his nasal voice did not sit too well on recordings, especially to those of us used to the creamy tenor of Derek Oldham, who had appeared on most of the acoustic and electric sets. However, we now have as part of the Naxos ''Great Operetta Recordings'' series that very 1950 recording (8.110176-7) and what a wonder it is in all other respects. We have the greatest Mikado of them all in Darrell Fancourt, and the most famous Ko-Ko in Martyn Green. The Katisha is contralto Ella Hallman, whose vocal abilities are matched by her acting, while the Pooh-Bah, for once on any recording, is a fabulous basso-profundo named Richard Watson. It would be difficult to better the Three Little Maids: Margaret Mitchell (Yum-Yum), Joan Gillingham (Pitti-Sing), and Joyce Wright (Peep-Bo). Alan Styler's Pish-Tush is stylish and clear as a bell. And need we say that the D'Oyly Carte chorus is deep in the tradition set by the masters about 75 years earlier. I can find no fault in the tempos chosen by conductor Isidore Godfrey. Finally at the Naxos budget price, this is the buy of the season--until the next D'Oyly Carte set is issued. And, Naxos, please let us have them with as short a waiting time between releases as possible.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.