Among the various recent news from the Nohgaku Performers’ Association (Nōgaku kyōkai) is the announcement of their beautiful new logo, representing the silhouette of a nō stage – four pillars topped with a roof. In the announcement statement it is explained that the four “pillars” in the logo symbolize the four types of nōgaku performer (shite, waki, hayashi, kyōgen), while the roof is the ideogram for “person”. The logo represents the transmission of knowledge from person to person, constituting the history of nōgaku’s ancient tradition.
While the four types of performer represent those who stand on stage, it is worth remembering that there are many other people working “backstage”, including mask carvers, costume weavers, and fan makers, without whom nō and kyōgen performances would just not be possible.
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!
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.
On June 30 2018 Udaka Tatsushige will perform the noh Tanikō 谷行, a rarely performed play set in the world of shugendō, a syncretic religion fusing Buddhist beliefs with the worship of natural elements. The followers of shugendō, known as yamabushi (mountain-priests) perform austerities during their pilgrimages across the sacred mountains between the present-day Osaka and Nara prefectures.
This noh is full of action, featuring a group of yamabushi forced to sacrifice one of their young acolytes by hurling him down a valley, and the intervention of a fierce deity who coming to rescue the child.
Tanikō famously inspired Bertolt Brecht’s school operas Jasager/Neinsager.
All information on the play and on how to reserve your seat HERE.
Suigian (水戯庵), a sushi restaurant featuring a noh stage, is set to open in Nihonbashi (Tokyo) on March 20, 2018. The restaurant will offer daily performances of Noh and Kyogen. I have mixed feelings about it. Yes offering this kind of performance is not philologically incorrect as people did eat drink and even smoke inside noh theatres in the past. Yes, we need to bring more people closer to noh so we should embrace ways to popularize it. But would you like to watch noh with the noise of people drinking cheering chewing etc? With the smell of food and alcoholic burps in the air? Would performers like it? The restaurant looks posh enough and is endorsed by performers (you can see famous actors and musicians featuring the photos on the website) still… I wonder what plays they will perform… in the case of Noh, I can think of very few that I would enjoy watching while having something in my stomach… I wonder what you guys think!
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.