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Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 4, 2014 at 6:04 AM

‘The Mikado’: Gilbert and Sullivan gave me the courage to enter a mixed-race marriage

Actress Alexa Jarvis in the role of Yum-Yum in the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s “The Mikado” (Photo by Ray Welch / Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society)

I am utterly amazed that the tempest in a teapot controversy about “The Mikado” appearing in the pages of The Seattle Times over the past few weeks completely misses the major theme of “The Mikado” and, in fact, all of Gilbert and Sullivan’s work ["Making ‘The Mikado’ without Asian stereotypes," Opinion, July 27].

That theme is a strong call to question authority and honor egalitarianism, especially in matters of the heart. The protagonists in Gilbert and Sullivan operas are mixed couples, in terms of class, but that could just as easily be religion or race. They have impediments to their relationships imposed on them by authority figures and bizarre laws. In the end, the couples and the authority figures find ways around the repressive taboos so the couples can be together.

I grew up listening to Gilbert and Sullivan. I must give them some credit for giving me the clarity to enter into a mixed marriage without any thought to its propriety, despite the bigotry of the time. Mixed couples are a common theme in theater, from “Romeo and Juliet” to “Miss Saigon,” but always the mixed couples suffer a tragic fate for having the audacity to violate social norms.

The work of Gilbert and Sullivan is possibly unique, and way ahead of its time, by insisting, “Never mind the why and wherefore, love can level ranks, and therefore,” thus allowing the mixed couples to triumph. Go Gilbert and Sullivan!

John Ullman, Seattle

Comments | More in Arts, Race | Topics: Gilbert and Sullivan, John Ullman, race

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