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The Japan of Pure InventionGilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado$
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Josephine Lee

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780816665792

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816665792.001.0001

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Asian American Mikados

Asian American Mikados

(p.169) Chapter 7 Asian American Mikados
The Japan of Pure Invention

Josephine Lee

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter describes The Mikado’s elusiveness: how, under the guise of nonsense, the opera seems to disavow any international hurt or misrepresentation. The opera’s versions of Japan escape largely unscathed from protests. It explores how The Mikado’s Japanese productions responded to political and popular perceptions of Japan as a nation. It reinforces the opera’s significance as a racial fantasy with a representational power that extends well beyond national and ethnic lines. The chapter also focuses on several instances of The Mikado as directed or performed by Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans. On Western stages dominated by white actors, the practice of yellowface—the playing of oriental characters by non-Asian actors—marks the privilege to represent.

Keywords:   The Mikado, opera, Japan, protests, Japanese production, Japanese Americans, Asian Americans, white actors, yellowface

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