Long before Sofia Coppola\u2019s Lost in Translation, long before Barthes explicated his empire of signs, even before Puccini\u2019s Madame Butterfly, Gilbert and Sullivan\u2019s The Mikado presented its own distinctive version of Japan. Set in a fictional town called Titipu and populated by characters named Yum-Yum, Nanki-Poo, and Pooh-Bah, the opera has remained popular since its premiere in 1885. Tracing the history of The Mikado\u2019s performances from Victorian times to the present, Josephine Lee reveals the continuing viability of the play\u2019s surprisingly complex racial dynamics as they have been adapted to different times and settings. Lee connects yellowface performance to blackface minstrelsy, showing how productions of the 1938-39 Swing Mikado and Hot Mikado, among others, were used to promote African American racial uplift. She also looks at a host of contemporary productions and adaptations, including Mike Leigh\u2019s film Topsy-Turvy and performances of The Mikado in Japan, to reflect on anxieties about race as they are articulated through new visions of the town of Titipu. The Mikado creates racial fantasies, draws audience members into them, and deftly weaves them into cultural memory. For countless people who had never been to Japan, The Mikado served as the basis for imagining what \u201cJapanese\u201d was.
Josephine Lee is associate professor of English and Asian American studies at the University of Minnesota. She is author of Performing Asian America: Race and Ethnicity on the Contemporary Stage and coeditor (with Imogene Lim and Yuko Matsukawa) of Re/Collecting Early Asian America: Essays in Culture History.
Introduction: Meditations on The Mikado, Part I. 18851. My Objects All Sublime: Racial Performance and Commodity Culture, 2. "My Artless Japanese Way": Japanese Villages and Absent Coolies, 3. Magical Objects and Therapeutic Yellowface, Part II. 1938-394. "And Others of His Race": Blackface and Yellowface, 5. Titipu Comes to America: Hot and Cool Mikados, Part III. Contemporary Mikados, 6. "The Threatened Cloud": Production and Protest, 7. Asian American Mikados, 8. The Mikado in Japan, Acknowledgments, Notes, Index