A chorus sung in The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu, an operetta written by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The team wrote the Mikado during their work together at the Savoy Theatre, in London, England, and the first production was held on March 14, 1885.

Set in a comical Westernized vision of feudal Japan, The Mikado tells the tale of Nanki-Poo, who has fled the court of his father, the Mikado of Japan, to avoid marrying the unattractive Katisha, to whom he is betrothed. Disguised as a wandering minstrel he is reunited with Yum-Yum, his true love, in the town of Titipu. Unfortunately, their happy reunion is ended by Yum-Yum's betrothal to Ko-Ko, a condemned man who has been appointed Lord High Executioner on the principle that he cannot execute anyone before decapitating himself.

The song is sung as the introduction of the Lord High Executioner Ko-Ko to the audience. He arrives just after Nanki-Poo laments his situation to his friend Pooh-Bah, setting up the complicated love triangle that resolves itself during the play.

Excerpt from the original libretto:


NANK. And I have journeyed for a month, or nearly,
To learn that Yum-Yum, whom I love so dearly,
This day to Ko-Ko is to be united!

POOH. The fact appears to be as you've recited:
But here he comes, equipped as suits his station;
He'll give you any further information.

Exeunt Pooh-Bah and Nanki-Poo.

Enter Chorus of Nobles.

Behold the Lord High Executioner!
A personage of noble rank and title-
A dignified and potent officer,
Whose functions are particularly vital!
Defer, defer, to the Lord High Executioner!
Defer, defer,
To the noble Lord, to the noble Lord,
The Lord High Executioner!

Enter Ko-Ko attended.


Taken from the county jail
By a set of curious chances;
Liberated then on bail,
On my own recognizances;
Wafted by a favouring gale
As one sometimes is in trances,
To a height that few can scale,
Save by long and weary dances;
Surely, never had a male
Under such like circumstances
So adventurous a tale,
Which may rank with most romances.

CHORUS. Defer, defer,
To the Lord High Executioner, etc.

KO. Gentlemen, I'm much touched by this reception. I can only trust that by strict attention to duty I shall ensure a continuance of those favours which it will ever be my study to deserve. If I should ever be called upon to act professionally, I am happy to think that there will be no difficulty in finding plenty of people whose loss will be a distinct gain to society at large.

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