On This Day In History March 14

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

March 14 is the 73rd day of the year (74th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 292 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1885, The Mikado a light opera by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, had its first public performance in London.

The Mikado, or, The Town of Titipu is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations. It opened in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, which was the second longest run for any work of musical theatre and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Before the end of 1885, it was estimated that, in Europe and America, at least 150 companies were producing the opera. The Mikado remains the most frequently performed Savoy Opera, and it is especially popular with amateur and school productions. The work has been translated into numerous languages and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history.

Setting the opera in Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, allowed Gilbert to satirise British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese. Gilbert used foreign or fictional locales in several operas, including The Mikado, Princess Ida, The Gondoliers, Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke, to soften the impact of his pointed satire of British institutions.

The Mikado is a comedy that deals with themes of death and cruelty. This works only because Gilbert treats these themes as trivial, even lighthearted issues. For instance, in Pish-Tush’s song “Our great Mikado, virtuous man”, he sings: “The youth who winked a roving eye/ Or breathed a non-connubial sigh/ Was thereupon condemned to die / He usually objected.” The term for this rhetorical technique is meiosis, a drastic understatement of the situation. Other examples of this are when self-decapitation is described as “an extremely difficult, not to say dangerous, thing to attempt”, and also as merely “awkward”. When a discussion occurs of Nanki-Poo’s life being “cut short in a month”, the tone remains comic and only mock-melancholy. Burial alive is described as “a stuffy death”. Finally, execution by boiling oil or by melted lead is described by the Mikado as a “humorous but lingering” punishment.

Death is treated as a businesslike event in Gilbert’s Topsy-Turvy world. Pooh-Bah calls Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, an “industrious mechanic”. Ko-Ko also treats his bloody office as a profession, saying, “I can’t consent to embark on a professional operation unless I see my way to a successful result.” Of course, joking about death does not originate with The Mikado. The plot conceit that Nanki-Poo may marry Yum-Yum if he agrees to die at the end of the month was used in A Wife for a Month, a 17th century play by John Fletcher. Ko-Ko’s final speech affirms that death has been, throughout the opera, a fiction, a matter of words that can be dispelled with a phrase or two: being dead and being “as good as dead” are equated. In a review of the original production of The Mikado, after praising the show generally, the critic noted that the show’s humour nevertheless depends on

“unsparing exposure of human weaknesses and follies-things grave and even horrible invested with a ridiculous aspect-all the motives prompting our actions traced back to inexhaustible sources of selfishness and cowardice…. Decapitation, disembowelment, immersion in boiling oil or molten lead are the eventualities upon which (the characters’) attention (and that of the audience) is kept fixed with gruesome persistence…. (Gilbert) has unquestionably succeeded in imbuing society with his own quaint, scornful, inverted philosophy; and has thereby established a solid claim to rank amongst the foremost of those latter-day Englishmen who have exercised a distinct psychical influence upon their contemporaries.”

 313 – Emperor Jin Huidi is executed by Liu Cong, ruler of the Xiongnu state (Han Zhao).

1489 – The Queen of Cyprus, Catherine Cornaro, sells her kingdom to Venice.

1590 – Battle of Ivry: Henry of Navarre and the Huguenots defeat the forces of the Catholic League under the Duc de Mayenne during the French Wars of Religion.

1647 – Thirty Years’ War: Bavaria, Cologne, France and Sweden sign the Truce of Ulm.

1757 – Admiral Sir John Byng is executed by firing squad aboard HMS Monarch for breach of the Articles of War.

1780 – American Revolutionary War: Spanish forces capture Fort Charlotte in Mobile, Alabama, the last British frontier post capable of threatening New Orleans in Spanish Louisiana.

1782 – Battle of Wuchale: Emperor Tekle Giyorgis pacifies a group of Oromo near Wuchale.

1794 – Eli Whitney is granted a patent for the cotton gin.

1885 – The Mikado a light opera by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, had its first public performance in London.

1900 – The Gold Standard Act is ratified, placing United States currency on the gold standard.

1903 – The Hay-Herran Treaty, granting the United States the right to build the Panama Canal, is ratified by the United States Senate.

The Colombian Senate would later reject the treaty.

1910 – Lakeview Gusher, the largest U.S. oil well gusher near Bakersfield, California, vented to atmosphere.

1915 – World War I: Cornered off the coast of Chile by the Royal Navy after fleeing the Battle of the Falkland Islands, the German light cruiser SMS Dresden is abandoned and scuttled by her crew.

1939 – Slovakia declares independence under German pressure.

1942 – Orvan Hess and John Bumstead became the first in the world to successfully treat a patient, Anne Miller, using penicillin.

1943 – World War II – The Krakow Ghetto is ‘liquidated’.

1945 – World War II – The R.A.F. first operational use of the Grand Slam bomb, Bielefeld, Germany.

1951 – Korean War: For the second time, United Nations troops recapture Seoul.

1964 – A jury in Dallas, Texas, finds Jack Ruby guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, assumed assassin of John F. Kennedy.

1967 – The body of President John F. Kennedy is moved to a permanent burial place at Arlington National Cemetery.

1978 – The Israeli Defense Force invades and occupies southern Lebanon, in Operation Litani.

1979 – In China, a Hawker Siddeley Trident crashes into a factory near Beijing, killing at least 200.

1980 – In Poland, a plane crashes during final approach near Warsaw, killing 87 people, including a 14-man American boxing team.

1984 – Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in central Belfast.

1994 – Timeline of Linux development: Linux kernel version 1.0.0 is released.

1995 – Space Exploration: Astronaut Norman Thagard becomes the first American astronaut to ride to space on-board a Russian launch vehicle.

1998 – An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale hits southeastern Iran.

2005 – Cedar Revolution, where hundreds of thousands of Lebanese went into the streets of Beirut to demonstrate against the Syrian military presence in Lebanon and against the government.

2007 – The Left Front government of West Bengal sends at least 3,000 police to Nandigram in an attempt to break Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee resistance there; the resulting clash leaves 14 dead.

2008 – A series of riots, protests, and demonstrations erupts in Lhasa and elsewhere in Tibet.

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day:

         o Matilda of Ringelheim

   * Constitution Day (Andorra)

   * Earliest day on which Lazarus Saturday can fall, while April 17 is the latest; observed on the day before Palm Sunday. (Eastern Orthodox Church)

   * Heroes’ Day (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines)

   * Mother Tongue Day (Estonia)

   * Nanakshahi New Year, first day of the month of Chet (Sikhism)

   * Pi Day, also see July 22

   * Second Equirria (Roman Empire)

   * Spring Day (Albania)

   * White Day, complimentary day of Valentine’s Day when men give gifts to women. (Japan and Korea)

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