INI – International Noh Institute Gala Recital

This year’s INI – International Noh Institute Gala Recital celebrates 50 years of stage life of its founder, Master-Actor Udaka Michishige (Kongo School).

Noh: Yuki (‘The Snow’)

Makiginu (‘The Rolls of Silk’)

The program will also include a variety of chant and dance excerpts. Foreign and Japanese students of Udaka Michishige will perform on stage. Information material will be available in English and Japanese.

Place: Kongo Noh Theatre, Kyoto. Subway Karasuma line: get off at Karasuma-Imadegawa (K06), South Exit 6, walk South 300m and find the theatre on the right.

Time: 12 June 2010 (Sat) 1:00pm – 5:30pm.

Fee: Free of charge. The audience is free to come and go quietly.

A reception will follow from 6:30pm (fee: 1000 yen). Come share your impressions on Noh theatre and to talk to the teacher and the performers! Meet us at ‘Tenshokan’(天正館)2nd Fl., Mukadeya-cho 380, Shinmachidori Nishiki-koji-agaru Subway Karasuma-Shijo, Exit 24, walk West, then North at Shijo-Shinmachi (about 5 minutes). Click here for a directions from the Kongo Theatre to Tenshokan.

FULL PROGRAMME

Map for the Kongo Nogakudo (金剛能楽堂)

来日

Tomorrow I am embarking on a new journey to Japan.  After I began to practice Noh theatre I went back to Japan almost every spring in order to undertake training with Udaka Michishige in Kyoto. For someone like me, coming from a non-Japanese studies background, it is rather hard to find opportunities to go to Japan and study there. So far I always managed with travel grants and research funding. This year will be my first experience as ‘official’ exchange student at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Among the choices were Waseda and Keio – with all due respect, the exchange programme committee was a bit surprised to see that my first choice was Rits. However Kyoto is the city I love and the headquarters of Udaka-sensei’s International Noh Institute. I am going to stay there until September, entering then my 4th and final PhD year at Royal Holloway.

This time in Kyoto is going to be very special. On 12 June 2010 I will take my first role as actor in a full Noh theatre performance, Makiginu, as companion of the main actor, or shite-tsure. The shite role will be taken by Monique Arnaud, advanced student of Udaka Michishige and licensed instructor of Noh (shihan). While this tsure is a rather static role, its function is primarily centred on the chant. As he opens the performance singing a rather long chant section, his responsibility is setting the mood of the play. I will post more information about this event as my training progresses.

The other reason that makes this performance particularly special for me is being on stage with Monique Arnaud, who has taught me Noh theatre while I was living in Italy. If I have a chance to be performing on a Noh stage today, I owe it to Monique-sensei. I will write more about her later on.

As for now, wish me good luck.

Akira Kurosawa 100th Anniversary

How to pay my respect to one of the greatest masters of Japanese cinema? Well, first of all with a ‘thank you’. It is through one of Kurosawa-sensei’s films, Throne of Blood (1957) that I first encountered Noh theatre. While working on my MA dissertation at University of Verona (I was studying Shakespeare at the time) I fortuitously bumped into this screen adaptation of Macbeth. Kurosawa explicitly draws from Noh theatre to produce a masterpiece of black and white, sound and silence. Since then, I have seen Throne of Blood a zillion times, I wrote articles on it, produced the extras for the Italian DVD edition, etc.). Still the perfection of this film moves me as a few other things in my life did. My humble contribution to the genius of Kurosawa is in fact a token of thankfulness for having introduced Noh theatre in such a creative, yet ‘authentic’ way. Kurosawa not only loved Noh: he also understood it so well to know how to transpose its ineffable aesthetics on film, and with such a power. Akira Kurosawa has been long criticised by the Japanese for being too ‘Western’ – I say that it is thanks to artists who dare to do challenge the boundaries of genre, class, local criticism that an artistic dialogue, notoriously more effective than the political, can successfully take place. My reception of Noh started with his work, and I am doing my best to follow his example. So.. thank you, Kurosawa-sensei.

Kurokawa Noh

I would like to share some rare amateur videos of Kurokawa Noh I found on YouTube. Click on the video to be redirected on YouTube and find more videos on the performance before-and-after on the uploader’s page.

There is not a lot of literature on the subject in European languages: here are some resources:

– Martzel, Gérard. La fête d’Ogi et le nô de Kurokawa. Paris: Publications Orientalistes de France, 1975.
– Grossman, Eike. ‘Under the burden of Noh: Community life in Kurokawa and ritual Noh performances’ in Noh Theatre Transversal. Stanca Scholz-Cionca and Christopher Balme eds. Munich: Iudicium, 2008.

Noh Robots: Noh Theatre Neongenesis Evangelion

Of all the shinsaku-noh (modern noh) I have come across this is by far the most bizarre.. an adaptation of the popular anime Neongenesis Evangelion in Noh style by shite Yamai Tsunao (Konparu school). Apparently Yamai-san has a wide range of interests including singing in a rock-band etc.. This is not the first time a manga has been made into Noh: a few years ago Umewaka Rokuro transposed the manga Kurenai Tennyo into a shinsaku Noh. I do not know either mangas and have not seen the plays.. surely these are images that make you think…

Here the link to the original article.

Puns on Noh

I am collecting ways the word Noh has been used to create more or less funny or catchy puns on Noh (usually titles for newspaper articles).

  • ‘Noh Woman Noh Cry’ (reported by Melissa Poll) – this could actually be my current favourite
  • Nō to ieru kyōgen’ (‘The Kyogen that can say Noh’), probably after the essay No to ieru nihon (‘Japan that can say No’) – suggested by Helen Parker.
  • ‘Japanese theatre bulletin: Noh news to report’. Random Tweet
  • ‘Be in the Noh’ workshop at SOAS (Londond, 2001) ran by Matsui Akira (reported by Helen Parker)
  • ‘Noh business and sho business’. Episode in a series of three programmes on Japanese music for BBC Radio 3, The Japanese Ear, in the early 1990s. (reported by Helen Parker)
  • ‘Nohledge of Zeami’s treatises’ (suggested by Matthew W. Shores)
  • ‘Noh news is good news’. (random tweet)
  • ‘Are You in the Nō?’ (Vogue, 1/7/1916) suggested by David Ewick
  • ‘When Noh means yes’ (American Theatre, 7/1/04)
  • ‘Noh business is like Noh business’ (Various articles)
  • ‘To be or Noh to be’ (American Theatre, 11/1/03)
  • ‘Troupe says yes to Noh’ (News Tribune Tacoma, 27/3/07)
  • ‘Noh theatre for you!’ (missing reference)
  • ‘The American Who Couldn’t Say Noh’ (by Charles Danziger)
  • ‘Japanese No-Noh: The Crosstalk of Public Culture in a Rural Festivity’ . an article by Bill Kelly in Public Culture suggested by Prof. Matthew Cohen
  • ‘Japan’s magical landscapes: there’s noh place like it’. (Tom Yarwood, The Guardian 7/10/11)

Do you have more to suggest?

Hi-res Noh

Claire suggested me this promo video by Canon, showing off the amazing capabilities of the 5D Mark II model camera. Interestingly enough, Canon used Noh for the concept of this advertisement. The images are just gorgeous and I love the superimposition of movements and non-Noh music. Philologically, the autumn sequences are a bit out of place as Hagoromo, the play shown, is a Spring play ‘par excellence’. The authors were probably inspired more by the colours of the choken, the dance cloak the shite wears in the second half of the play. Though my impression of the video is very positive, I know other people in the Noh would be annoyed by what is sometimes considered an over-aestheticisation of what should be more austere and less flashy. However, Noh is not in the Taisho era anymore and I wonder to what extent it is possible (and meaningful?) to leave it as it was…

Parents & Children Noh

Any non-Japanese Noh enthusiast has sooner or later faced the bitter truth about the scarce interest of his or her Japanese peers. ‘reminds me of my grandpa’.. ‘it’s stuff only good for ojisan’.. ‘isn’t it called Kabuki?’ are only some of the responses I heard from young Japanese when engaged in a conversation on what I think is the most beautiful thing on the planet. Most of the young generation do not have a clue of what Noh is, and do not bother at all. Its language (performative, poetic, visual) does not speak to the contemporary audience – or, contemporary audience grew too illiterate to be able to understand it. Noh world has lost touch with its audience: it just takes you to go to an average Noh performance to realise the average age is around 60. Shocking, if you are used to go to the Globe.

Among the various attempts at healing this broken bound, and reconnect with the lost audience are workshops, demonstrations, exhibitions, inviting non-habitual Noh theatregoers to give it a try. In summer 2008 I attended a most interesting Parents and Children Noh performance at the National Noh Theatre in Tokyo. The programme featured a funny and engaging introductory speech by a Kyogen actor, followed by the Kyogen Kaminari (‘The God of Thunder’) and the Noh Kokaji (‘The Fox Swordsmith’).

Both plays are very dynamic pieces in the repertoire and in fact resulted in a big success: kids (8 years old on the average) laughed out loud during Kaminari and jumped on their chairs during Kokaji, imitating fights with the magic sword. Children and parents had also the chance to try out instruments and masks in the theatre lobby. Among the cutest features of the day was the printed programme, introducing Noh and its elements in a deformed manga style. I loved this day at the National Noh Theatre as much as the kids did. How long before they lose their interest?

Noh theatre and videogames

The allure of Noh theatre reaches the world of videogames. The new release of the popular Tekken features a stage on a Noh stage – along with an interesting soundtrack with nohkan and ko-tsuzumi. At first I didn’t realise, then I zoomed a little and… check out the soundtrack and the pictures below. I am trying to figure out what play it is – judging from the costume and what look like candles on the headpiece my guess is Kanawa.