I formed Hartland Chamber Opera to present my puppet opera, The She-
In October 2001 the production went to Japan. The tour began on the island of Sado. We stayed, rehearsed and gave the first performance at Saruhachi-
The second, overcrowded, performance was in the magical setting of the Buddhist Taikeiji Temple, Kanai, Sado. Then to the mainland and the least satisfactory performance of the tour at the Mirage Hall, Uozu, Toyama. This was followed by probably our best performance -
The town of Iida hosts an annual puppet festival, and the audience included a number of puppeteers, a bit nerve-
I thought it worked quite wonderfully. I was immeasurably moved at the end, not by the story, but by the respect shown between puppets and puppeteers, singers and musicians. I had tears in my eyes and that doesn't happen very often. Thank you!
(Angela Jeffs, author and columnist for the Japan Times.)
It was a marvellous performance which both stirred my imagination and moved my heart. A truly happy encounter.
(Aiko Chikaba, a director with NHK television.)
The text for the play Shinoda-
The story concerns a nobleman, Yasuna, who, having killed the man who murdered his father, is living in exile in Shinoda forest. He has saved a vixen and she, out of gratitude, has become a beautiful woman, Kuzu-
They marry and now have a five-
Now that her true nature has been revealed she can no longer remain with her family but must return to the wild. She writes an explanatory farewell letter to her husband and attaches it to Doji’s sash. Then she writes a poem on the paper wall and, her son being asleep, disappears. Yasuna returns to find Doji in a state. Reading the poem and the letter he determines to get his wife back. Doji insists on going with him.
Yasuna and Doji search the wood for Kuzu-
Takeshi Nishihashi, the puppeteer, was born in 1948. He undertook Theatre Studies at Waseda University. In 1970 he became a bunraku puppeteer under Minosuke Yoshida, taking the stage name Minoshi Yoshida. He appeared regularly at Tokyo’s National Theatre and Osaka’s Asahi-
In 1979 he moved to Sado Island where he became a member of the bunya puppet troupe Osaki-
In 1998 they were invited by the Kodo Cultural Foundation to accompany the Kodo drummers on a UK tour, performing on the South Bank and at the Edinburgh Festival.
Simon Piggott, who has translated the text, was born 1950. He holds degrees in history and Japanese from London University. Since 1978 he has lived in Japan, working as a freelance commercial translator. His present home is in Oshika, a remote mountain village in Nagano Prefecture.
The Artistic Challenge for me, the composer, was to create a Japanese 'feel' whilst avoiding pastiche. I listened to traditional music but without analysis and with no thought of replication. Is it possible to absorb these influences in the way that composers such as Takemitsu, Noda, Hirota and Satoh absorbed Western music? Or should they themselves -
There are few precedents for this opera. The obvious one is Benjamin Britten's Curlew River. But though his instrumentation reflects Japanese usage there is, as he wrote, 'nothing specifically Japanese left in the Parable...that I have written.' He converted the Noh ritual of the original play into that of medieval liturgical drama, which allowed him to take his musical inspiration from plainsong. In our opera the story retained its Japanese setting and characters and was performed by the puppets in traditional style. Yeats believed that the Noh technique, in which dramatic and narrative presentation are fused, appeals strongly to the modern mind. I hope we achieved a similar fusion.
As with film, I had to write music to fit a pre-
Simon Piggott summarised the challenge in an email to me, 'I don't think the play will be a success with Western audiences simply as a rendering of Japanese deep feelings. A personal interpretation is called for. At the same time we must beware of creating a gap between our interpretation and the puppets. I think we are lucky to be working with someone like Ken (Takeshi) with his openness to Western culture and keenness to experiment.'
This project was in part funded by South West Arts (Year of the Artist) The Dartington Hall Trust and the Elmgrant Trust. Saruhachi-