3D Nō in Venice

An interesting format. One nō actor dancing and singing on stage. Behind him, projections that come to life when seen with special 3D glasses. Of course, music and chorus are not live, but a recorded track.

While kyōgen shows features a minimum of two actors, mounting a full nō performance requires some twenty people. The minimum for dance with music and chorus would be 6-7 people, up to 10 if the actor is in costume and mask. A format that works well in Japan, but is difficult to take abroad. Could 3D nō be a kind of ‘pocketable nō’, providing the audience with an authentic experience?

3D Nō Aoinoue, Funa Benkei in Venice. 7 May 2019 LINK (Italian)

Of bells and snakes: Udaka Tatsushige to perform “Dōjōji” on 14 July 2019

This is a big one. On July 14th 2019 Udaka Tatsushige is going to perform the nō Dōjōji for the first time, making this one of his most important hiraki performances. Dōjōji is probably one of the most well-known plays in the repertory, telling the story of how a young woman who had been tricked into believing that a monk will marry her pursues him until she finds him hiding under a temple bell. Transfigured into a monstrous snake, the woman coiled around the bell and, spitting fire from her mouth, burnt him to death.


Dōjōji (NNT)

One of the most spectacular features of the play is the section in which the actor enacting the spirit of the woman reappearing at Dōjōji jumps into the bell (a 100kg heavy property) as it falls on the floor. Once inside the bell, the actor changes costume, wig and mask by himself, reappearing in the form of a demon as the bell is lifted.

Dōjōji is the first nō performance I have ever seen live. It was 2007, and the actor was Udaka Michishige, Tatsushige’s father, who on that occasion was celebrating his 60th birthday. For Tatsushige’s Dōjōji I will have the honor to introduce the event. I look forward to the day with trepidation.

Information, play summaries, and tickets


The ‘ubiquity’ of noh. ‘Only the sound remains’

Only the sound remains, by Kaija Saariaho and Peter Sellars, is a modern opera based on two noh plays Hagoromo and Tsunemasa, which Ezra Pound rendered into English working with Ernest Fenollosa’s translations of the original Japanese texts. There are several reviews of its performances available online – for example, The Guardian or Opera News.

The article on the Asahi Shinbun mentions the ‘ubiquity’ of noh. It seems to me that what is ubiquitous is the noh ‘brand’, not the art. I have not seen the performance but from the trailer below I wonder: what is left of noh?

Funa Benkei and Kiyotsune this weekend in Matsuyama

November 3rd (‘culture day’) is coming up soon, and with it the usual Matsuyama Shimin Noh performance organized by Udaka Michishige in Matsuyama (Ehime prefecture). This year the performance will take place on the 4th instead of the 3rd, and will feature the usual recital by Kei’un-kai students.

This year’s noh is Funa Benkei in the namima-no-den variant – I will be singing in the chorus. Funa Benkei is not a particularly challenging play for the chorus, especially because it is frequently performed, hence it does not require particular memorization efforts. Having more confidence with memory will hopefully allow me to focus more on delivery.

Before Funa Benkei Udaka Norishige will perform the maibayashi excerpt from the noh Kiyotsune. If you follow this blog you will probably already know that I have a particular connection with this play as it was the very first piece of noh chant I have ever studied, and because I performed the noh in 2013 (five years ago already!). Kiyotsune does not feature an instrumental dance, but it has a rather long kuse section. Again being particularly familiar with the text will probably allow me to focus on delivery.

I will also perform a shimai, Ominameshi, for which I really need to get some more training… not so much time left for that though!

 

 

Noh theatre and videogames, again

Deigan certainly is one of noh theatre’s most perplexing mask, one of the most difficult to define because of its eerie expression and ‘human yet non-human’ features. It is in fact used for a number of different characters, from malevolent spirits to ghosts of elegant courtiers, to dragon goddesses. So much that Square Enix designers picked it up for a character (a villain of course) in one of their forthcoming videogames.

Here below is how a real deigan mask would look like.

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Deigan 泥岩, by Otsuki Kokun