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?
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.
The other day a Noh scholar asked me if I didn’t feel uncomfortable with Asian actors taking roles in opera productions. The question implied the fact that it is normal for the Japanese to be uncomfortable with non-Japanese taking roles in Noh theatre, and was supposed to merit a positive answer. My answer was simply ‘of course not’, as I didn’t really know where to start explaining why the answer could not be anything but ‘OF COURSE not’. When I am asked about foreigners in Noh I often use opera as a comparison, as I take for granted that most people accept that ‘European classical music’ is now an artistic patrimony of many countries in the world. I assume that no one is shocked to see a Korean soprano or a Japanese tenor singing arias written in 19th century Italy, for example. European classical music (I apologise for the awkward appellation) is part of the educational curricula of all Japanese schools. However, I realise that this should not be taken for granted, especially in environments as conservatives as that of Noh theatre. We really have a long way to go…
Today I am going to speak at the Fall Seminar series entitled Present and Future of Noh, organized by the Hosei University Noh Research Institute in Kyoto. I am honored to have been invited to talk about the International Noh Institute and Udaka Michishige. Today I will be presenting along with shite actor Kanze Yoshimasa and Kyogen actor Nomura Manzō. I am looking forward to the talk and I will be posting again after the event.
Inter-cultural theatre plays involving Noh and other performance forms are not mere artistic endeavours, but acts with strong political relevance.
This seems to be the case of The Piano Tuner (in Polish ‘Stroiciel fortepianu‘), a Noh play written byJadwiga Maria Rodowicz who is (at once) a Japanese Noh scholar, the ambassador of Poland in Japan, and was a long-time member of the famous experimental Polish theatre group Gardzienice. The combination of these three elements contains an east/centre/west triad that marks the sign of the times. Claudel was ambassador of France in Japan for six years, at a time when being ambassador did not require knowing Japanese culture.. or even Japanese language! The influence of Japanese theatre in its work has been long studied, yet Noh does not seem to have revolutionised his conception of theatre. Many Western theatre practitioners (including Grotowski, of whom Gardzienice’s leader Staniewski was a disciple) claim influence of Noh in their production… yet we can hardly find Noh specialists among them.
I have not seen The Piano Tuner yet but certainly its premises are much alluring. It is not clear what the non-Noh elements will be (besides piano and costumes), but the plot and the characters clearly reveal the attempt to make interculturalism the main theme of this play.
Below is an extract from the original article, to be found here:
Warsaw’s Witkiewicz Studio Theatre hosts the premiere of the first ever Polish Noh production – a major form ofJapanese classical dance theatre – performed by the legendary Tessenkai Theatre Company from Tokyo
Jadwiga Maria Rodowicz, a well-known Orientalist specialising in the history of Japanese drama and theatre aesthetics, is responsible for the drama’s text, entitled “The Piano Tuner”. Since 2008 Rodowicz has been Polish ambassador to Japan, and from 1979-89 she was a leading member of the acclaimed “Gardzienice” theatre group.
The drama plots a symbolic meeting between two renowned artist friends in the enchanted garden at Nohant, namely Fryderyk Chopin and Eugène Delacroix. Having grown weary of Paris, the ageing Delacroix pays a visit to Nohant. In a strange vision he encounters Chopin, with whom he is able to engage in masterful debates about art, music and Chopin’s own attempts to mediate between his Polish and French identities…
Chopin-Noh Project calendar of events:
Premiere of ‘The Piano Tuner’ – three performances on February 17, 18 & 19 at 19:00, at the Witkiewicz Studio Theatre in Warsaw
Promotion of Jadwiga Rodowicz’s new book ‘Boski Dwumian’ (jointly curated by the Jerzy Grotowski Institute) – 17:00 on February17 at the Witkiewicz Studio Theatre
Theatre workshop (open to the public) given by members of the Tessenkai Theatre Company – from 13:00 – 15:00 on February 19 and again from 11:00 – 13:00 on February 20 at the Zelwerowicz Theatre Academy, ul. Miodowa 22/24
Partial performance of “The Piano Tuner” in the nave of the Holy Cross Church (ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 3) on February 20 at 13:50.