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!
A beautiful video digest of the 2018 Heian Jingū Takigi Noh, the open-air, torch-lit noh performance taking place at Heian Shrine every year on June 1-2. Udaka Michishige is featured performing Hashi Benkei from min. 1:15. Check it out!
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.
Noh workshops and performances to be held in Portland September 29 – October 2, 2018
From the University of Oregon Center for Asian and Pacific Studies website:
The Center for Asian and Pacific Studies is pleased to present four days of events on Traditional Japanese Noh Theatre, to be held at the University of Oregon, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, and the Portland Art Museum. The events, which will include performances and workshops, are to be led by TAKEDA Tomoyuki, an active performer from one of the most prestigious schools of Noh, the Kanze School. Established in the fourteenth century, Noh is characterized by austere simplicity of performance and profoundly poetic plots. In a series of four workshops (two of which will be accompanied by costumed performance), Takeda-sensei and his troupe will cover a range of topics from history, dance and chanting to costumes and masks. Audiences will have the opportunity to take part in a dance and chanting sequence, and to learn about costumes through dressing demonstrations.
Here is a clip from the 4th Tatsushige no Kai showing actors Udaka Norishige and Yamada Isumi performing the shimai dance excerpt from the noh Tsuchigumo. In the play, a monstrous spider disguised as a monk throws spider webs at the warrior Raikō. The spider webs are made of thin strips of Japanese paper with small lead weights attached to their extremities.