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.
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!
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.
The exhibition “The wabi of Raku and the yūgen of Noh: the aesthetics of form” has opened today at the Raku Museum in Kyoto. The exhibition displays tea bowls made according to the raku tradition of pottery and noh masks from various collections. Among the items on display are some ancient masks belonging to the Kongō Iemoto collection. See a list (in English) of the works on display here.
The wabi of Raku and the yūgen of Noh: the aesthetics of form Saturday 17 March – Sunday 24 June 2018
Kolkata, Feb 27 (IBNS) Drinking tea is so common to us in India that only a personal choice, Darjeeling orthodox or Assam’s CTC, can become a debatable point. But in Japan, the process of tea making and drinking evolved into an elaborate ceremony that can stretch from 40 to 45 minutes.
“Kayoi Komachi/Komachi Visited is not just a revolutionary new mix of western chamber opera with Japan’s ancient Noh theatre. It’s a rare chance to see the rarest of Noh performers: women.”
“The first thing you come up against is just being non-Japanese is a challenge. None from outside the country have become professional Noh actors,” says [director and playwright Colleen][…] Lanki. “And I’m a foreign woman—I never even cared to or attempted to be a professional. Plus I started too late; you’d have to devote your life to it. I just love studying it.”
Being a woman and starting late may be the real challenges, and both apply to Japanese nationals, too. Should a foreign exchange student age 18 or 19 decide to relocate to Japan and start studying in earnest (read: dedicate all the time to practice) we may be able to see a non-Japanese become a professional. The real issue may be: all foreigners (including myself) start late, and do not want to (or cannot) dedicate their entire lives to the practice of noh. It makes sense: with a very grim outlook for getting a job in the noh world, even for the Japanese, it takes a fool or a billionaire to decide to give up everything for noh.
Tessenkai is producing a special event in Tokyo on March 25th (details below) featuring the noh Kiyotsune. On the day of the performance, the audience will be able to follow the action on the scene while reading subtitles appearing directly on personal tablets or smartphones via an app. The service is provided by Hinoki Shoten, publisher of noh books. I took care of the English edition of the subtitles.
A kyogen-inspired rendition of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro) will be performed at the Kyoto Furitsu Keihanna Hall (Main Hall) on March 22. While the headline is rather vague, the cast list is revealing: a small orchestra of oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and contrabass accompanies kyogen actors Shigeyama Akira and his son Dōji, along with famous noh and bunraku performers. Apparently, there will be no opera singers involved.