On October 6 2019 at the Kongō Nō Theatre, Udaka Norishige is going to perform Takasago as part of the Udaka Seiran Noh series, produced by Udaka Michishige. This year Norishige is going to take on the challenge of performing in one of the most iconic noh plays from the first group, in which the main character is a deity. His elder brother Tatsushige will perform the shimai from the warrior play Tomonaga. As for myself, I will take on a different challenge: that of doing the honors and introduce the performance – my second time after Tatsushige’s Dōjōji back in July.
I will post more about Takasago as the day approaches. In the meantime, for those of you who speak Japanese, Tatsushige is also posting videos about the play on his YouTube channel.
On September 3 and 4 I had the pleasure and honor to introduce the Noh and Kyogen Performances organized as part of the social events program for the 25th ICOM General Conference in Kyoto. Hundreds of Japanese and international guests came to watch Bōshibari and Hagoromo on September 3 at the Kongō Nōgakudō, and Busu and Funa Benkei on September 4 at Kanze Kaikan. In my speech, I tried to explain how noh has the power of bringing together both intangible and tangible heritage, but also how it is in need of a new generation of patrons who appreciate and are willing to support its various arts. I was not planning to do so, but since many of the guests who attended the events asked me to put my little speech up online, here it is. I hope to see you all soon!
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)
This is a big one. On July 14th 2019 Udaka Tatsushige is going to perform the nō Dōjōjifor 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.
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.
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?
After a long series of videos on various aspects of Noh in Japanese, Udaka Tatsushige has decided to reach out to the English-speaking public with videos in English. Here is a useful video on how to fold a noh hakama, the so-called ‘split skirt’ used by noh performers. It is not as hard as you could think!
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.
Funa Benkei: Benkei, Yoshitsune and the retainers are confronted by the ghost of Taira no Tomomori – print by Tsukioka Kōgyo
Taira no Kiyotsune playing the flute before jumping from his boat – print by Tsukioka Kōgyo
The protagonist of Ominameshi looking at the river where he drowned himself – print by Tsukioka Kōgyo
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!