- Bunraku: 良弁杉由来、増補忠臣蔵 (Roben and the Cedar Tree, Zoho Chushingura)
9/15/18 (Sat), Tokyo
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, and the National Theatre is featuring two productions from that era. After an astounding period of creativity, Bunraku had pretty much halted as a living art in the 18th century, and not many pieces were being written at this point. Whereas the Kabuki world was undertaking some dramatic experiments incorporating Western concepts, these puppet pieces stay safely within the bounds of their predecessors — which is fine when done as well as it is here. Continue reading
9/12/18 (Wed), Tokyo Kabukiza
All the shows in this month’s evening performance were pieces derived from ancient Noh theater: Sanbaso, a comic take on the austere Okina; the great Shunkan, Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s brash reworking of the old drama; and a new dance piece by National Living Treasure Tamasaburo based on the classics Hagoromo, Shakkyo and Dojoji.
A 1954 film by Heinosuke Gosho set in contemporary Osaka. Continue reading
An unforgiving 1961 satire of Japanese society by the ever-radical Nagisa Oshima based on a story by Oe Kenzaburo. Continue reading
- Kabuki: 盟三五大切 (Kamikakete Sango Taisetsu)
8/20/18 (Mon), Tokyo
The full-length version of Tsuruya Nanboku’s popular piece. Continue reading
7/21/18 (Sat), New York
An overwrought stage version of the Visconti film by man-of-the-hour Ivo van Hove, the busy avant-garde Belgian director. He’s best known for his minimalist productions, as in the interesting View from the Bridge, but here he’s taken a sharp turn to maximalist.
The saga, which broadly follows the movie plot, revolves around a rich steel manufacturer who has chosen unwisely to deal with the Nazis just as they are coming to power. The intricate story involves betrayal, greed, murder, suicide, political brutality, incest and other pleasantries, only to result in the end in the loss of the family’s steel plants to Hitler’s regime as the nation marches inexorably toward war.
7/20/18 (Fri), New York Off Broadway
Oscar Hammerstein II completed this English-language version of Carmen, reset in a black community in wartime America, just before turning to the starkly different world of Carousel, which I saw on Broadway a few days earlier. Carmen feels almost like a musical in the first place (Carousel, for that matter, sometimes feels like opera), so it makes much more sense as a Broadway show than, say, the La Boheme staging some years back. Still, the vocal requirements for this show must be a killer for an eight-performance week, and other issues, not least some less-than-PC black dialect, make productions pretty rare – the last time I saw it was in London several decades ago. So I wasn’t going to miss this.