Talk:The Mikado

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The n-word[edit]

We already state in the article that the n-word is changed in modern performances. We do not need a lengthy description of both instances of the word in the libretto. It's incidental to the show. Indeed, one could argue that it is hardly worth a footnote in the article, and yet we mention it twice. -- Ssilvers (talk) 13:37, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

Worth one mention, probably, to cover both incidences of "nigger" but that suffices. Tim riley talk 23:22, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
OK, have cut it down to one reference and noted that the offensive words are generally changed in modern productions. Note that, in his Treasury, Martyn Green says that Rupert D'Oyly Carte hired A. P. Herbert to write the lyric changes after Americans expressed objections to the word during the 1947 tour. Bradley says so too. Bradley notes that in 1948, Rupert wrote to the press that he would make the changes also in UK productions. -- Ssilvers (talk) 23:38, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

The first paragraph of this section describes two different cases, which would be better separated.

  • There's the two occurrences of "nigger", replaced in 1948. The published libretto and vocal score were correspondingly updated. As the opera was still in copyright, those changes were effectively mandatory at that time, and have been retained universally ever since. I think that as a matter of history both uses should be mentioned.
  • Whereas some may have a problem with the lady novelist or the one who dresses like a guy, these remain unchanged in the published text, and are replaced only sporadically, if at all.

SamuelTheGhost (talk) 15:45, 16 May 2014 (UTC)

Hello, SamuelTheGhost. I agree with the first three sentences of your first bullet point and would not object to a brief footnote citing the exact page number in Bradley or another WP:RS (I don't have Bradley in front of me). As to your second bullet point, I agree with the cited source that it is often replaced. In any case, I'm not sure what change you're suggesting. -- Ssilvers (talk) 18:15, 16 May 2014 (UTC)
To clarify what I'm suggesting:
  • The second paragraph, about rewritings of the "little list", is fine and needs no change
  • The first paragraph could perhaps begin with the comments made after the 1947 tour, as described by Ssilvers above, with mention of both occurrences of "nigger" and what they were replaced with. The bit about "white entertainers in makeup, not to dark skinned people" is, however, unconvincing and poorly sourced for what it says, and would be better just omitted.
  • The rest of the first paragraph could be dropped. If retained it needs to be in a new paragraph and the "lampooned by George Eliot" bit needs expansion (I don't know what it's on about, and the ref seems to be a dead link). SamuelTheGhost (talk) 19:46, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
The most recent addition is, I am sure, well-intentioned, but not, I think, the best approach, because it includes too much reference to other issues, specifically the Scudamore case. Sane people recognise that a word can only be offensive if intended to be so (that's part of my criteria of sanity). Gilbert's words are full of general mocking misanthropy, but not intended to be vicious or really hurtful (except perhaps to people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs). We should be asssuming that our readers are sane and have a sense of proportion, even though there are too many examples in public life of those who aren't and haven't. If we want to go into explanations, relating what Rupert D'Oyly Carte wrote to the press in 1948 is the best route. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 14:57, 20 May 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing out the dead link, which I have now fixed, but the reference given regarding the use of the word "nigger" in earlier times in England seems right on point to me, or I would not have added it. I disagree with you that the word "can only be offensive if intended to be so". In the US, at least, it is per se offensive, and so I think the ref is necessary. If you have a better source to explain that the word was not offensive in England prior to WWII, let me know, and I'll be happy to substitute it. I have added information about the 1948 changes to satisfy your comment above. As for the reference to blackface minstrelsy, it is an important fact about the meaning of Gilbert's phrase. See Gilbert's 1897 illustration of a banjo serenader (from an edition of his Bab Ballads), which illustrates the fact that British Victorians' understanding of the word "nigger" related to blackface minstrelsy, which was highly popular in England). If you can offer reliable sources to update links in this article, that would be very helpful. -- Ssilvers (talk) 15:44, 20 May 2014 (UTC)

Just a few remarks as I'm running out of motivation on this one:
  • There are loads of examples of uses of "nigger" in the article of that name. Of course we now avoid using the word gratuitously in new utterances, because we know that it has offensive overtones; the issue is only our appraisal of historic uses. The article The Sun has got his Hat on is good here. My only reservation about your Pullum reference was that it dragged Scudamore in.
  • I've studied Gilbert's illustration of the minstrel, which also appears in my own copy of the Bab Ballads. I think it's ambiguous as to whether it shows a black person or a white in blackface. More to the point, I don't think it matters. Gilbert did not have today's sensibility on the subject, and the phrase in the article "who were white entertainers in makeup, not to dark skinned people" comes across as trying too hard. Qui s'excuse s'accuse.
  • I'd still prefer to see the lady who is "blacked like a nigger with permanent walnut juice" included, but I hope without any explanation that it somehow doesn't mean what it says.
  • The uses of "nigger" are indeed "references that have become offensive over time", but I know of no evidence that the lady novelist or the one who dresses like a guy are in the same category. They're a quite dofferent case and belong in a separate paragraph. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 13:59, 23 May 2014 (UTC)

Again, if you have a better ref, I'm happy to use it instead of the one you don't like. Second, the Gilbert drawing illustrates a Bab Ballad about a "doggerel bard" who is undoubtedly a white person and, btw, in Victorian England, the minstrel performers were generally white. Third, "blacked like a nigger" again means blackened like a blackface performer. Fourth, as the refs show, the language was seen as sexist, and I disagree that language that can be misinterpreted as racist and sexist are not in the same category and should not be described in the same paragraph. Also, the MOS (and good writing) discourages stubby little paragraphs. -- Ssilvers (talk) 15:46, 23 May 2014 (UTC)

Ladies in the list song[edit]

I've been familiar with The Mikado for several decades, as audience, as singer/actor and as director. In that time I've never encountered anyone who had a problem with the lady novelist or the one who dresses like a guy. They are dated, but not seen as offensive. The criticism I have often heard of Gilbert's sexism is his portrayal of desperate older women such as Katisha. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 14:46, 29 May 2014 (UTC)

Your WP:OR (or anyone's) is not admissible in the court of Wikipedia; Wikipedia runs on research in published sources. If you can't point to reliable sources that rebut the ones given in the article, then your assertion is, much like Nanki-Poo's execution or the Tom-Tit's suicide, an affecting tale, but merely corroborative fiddlestick. BTW, I have also been performing G&S since 1979, including Ko-Ko in both professional and amateur companies, and I have encountered it and have changed the lines in the list song when directors felt it ought to be changed. Moreover, I have created, or been a major contributor to, more than 500 G&S-related articles on Wikipedia, including helping to bring to Featured Article-class articles on H.M.S. Pinafore, Trial by Jury and Thespis, as well as helping to promote quite a few other G&S-related articles to GA-class, so, I have spent a lot (I mean A LOT) of time adding research about G&S to Wikipedia. Would you like to help us to research articles here, or do you just want to argue about one sentence in one article where your personal experience does not agree with the sources we cite with respect to that sentence? Because it would be pretty unproductive to keep doing that. -- Ssilvers (talk) 15:04, 29 May 2014 (UTC)
No, I can see no point in attempting to contribute to an article with such an aggressive owner. SamuelTheGhost (talk) 10:55, 31 May 2014 (UTC)
I think that is rather uncalled for. I have always found Ssilvers to be an exemplary editor, balanced and fair in his editing and incredibly and painstakingly accurate in his research and writing. It is rather unfair to say he feels that he "owns" any article - if something is wrong or inaccurate he will say so as, like the rest of us who work on here, he wants the best for the readers. Jack1956 (talk) 21:29, 1 June 2014 (UTC)

Ruhleben POW production revisited[edit]

Gala performance of The Mikado at the Theatre of the British Civilian POW Camp, Ruhleben, Germany

The June 2014 issue of BBC Music Magazine contains an article by the broadcaster and writer Andrew Green entitled "Captured moments", which begins,

"Just another performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado? Nico Jungman's evocative 1916 painting (right) shows appropriate oriental lanterns draped around the rafters, illuminating the scene as a conductor urges on his players, watched by rows of attentive listeners stretching into the distance. However, this was no more ordinary a musical performance than the hundreds of others which took place at the Ruhleben internment camp near Berlin during the First World War. For one thing, this Mikado was only possible because musicians at the camp were able to reconstruct the score from memory."

This consideration prompts me to resubmit an edit proposed a few years ago, which at the time was not accepted for publication.

Best wishes, 86.161.251.135 (talk) 19:58, 17 May 2014 (UTC)

I still don't think that the production is very notable in the context of the tens of thousands of productions of The Mikado through the last 130 years. But, at least temporarily, and if the mention is kept brief enough, I don't object to putting in a sentence with the image. I've done so. But, when we move this article to GA or FA, we'll have to re-evaluate whether it is helpful to readers for us to mention this one production so prominently while not mentioning the many, many very significant historical productions of this opera. Note, btw, that there is a longer write-up in the Ruhleben internment camp article, where it is, IMO, more appropriate. It also is appropriate to discuss in Ernest MacMillan's article. -- Ssilvers (talk) 05:43, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
Thank you. I suppose it's a question of perspective. Personally, I believe that this was indeed not "Just another performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado" (though without being able to cite a reliable source focused on the work itself, I'm probably not on strong ground here). Of course you're quite right about the relevance to the other pages you mention. 86.161.251.135 (talk) 06:36, 18 May 2014 (UTC)
Without the image, I find the information about this production to be of far less interest, so I moved most of it to the footnote, and instead put in far more important information about amateur productions in general. -- Ssilvers (talk) 15:10, 18 May 2014 (UTC)

Oops! a minor curiosity[edit]

I note that while Gilbert assumed that the sun was masculine and the moon feminine in "The sun whose rays", Yum-yum should have assumed the opposite since in Japan the Sun is female and the Moon is male. Not worth mentioning in the article of course but I couldn't let it pass completely unremarked. -- Derek Ross | Talk 22:00, 3 July 2014 (UTC)

Of course, Yum-Yum is not a character in a Japanese play; she is a character in a play satirizing British ideas and institutions that is nominally set in Japan to give the playwright extra latitude in pointing his satire, without running afoul of the Lord Chamberlain, while providing a colourful background. I doubt that Gilbert knew anything about Amaterasu or Tsukuyomi, and even if he did, I am sure he would have said that he needed to use metaphors and allusions that would resonate with his audience. -- Ssilvers (talk) 03:19, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
... or another instance of Gilbert's topsy-turvy view of the world, perhaps. Jmc (talk) 19:38, 4 July 2014 (UTC)
Absolutely. -- Derek Ross | Talk 18:14, 8 July 2014 (UTC)

Japanese setting and assertions of stereotyping[edit]

How is it possible that the word 'yellowface' doesn't appear in this article? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 76.14.105.110 (talk) 06:16, 29 July 2014 (UTC)

There is a section of the article called "Japanese setting" that discusses recent assertions that the opera (or productions of it) may stereotype Asians. The word also does not exist in the article about Madam Butterfly or other popular operas with Asian settings. Perhaps the concept of "Yellowface" needs its own Wikipedia article? -- Ssilvers (talk) 21:27, 29 July 2014 (UTC)