Posts Tagged ‘The Fujiwara Opera’

The Fujiwara Opera is said to be Japan’s oldest professional opera company and it has vowed itself – since the 1930, when it was founded – to preserve the traditions of Italian opera in this country (with occasional forays in other repertoires). I cannot be scientific about what I am going to say, but I notice that many an opera-goer (especially from a certain age on) in this country is also a fan of kabuki, a genre where the keyword is tradition: programs explain to you that the actor you are seeing belongs to the same family of the first person to play that role in the XVIIIth century etc. If someone from, say, Berlin happened to see today’s performance of Bellini’s La Sonnambula he would understand the experience of some sort of museological experiment. Costumes sets, stock gestures, everything suggests a black and white photo from which someone like Toti dal Monte could spring back to life. If you get into this sort of mindset, there is some craft in the way everything makes sense in its extreme artificiality, but – since the spirit is doing things à la lettre – the anachronistic costumes and props (flashlights!) jar. For my part, I found it of great anthropological interest the way choristers were made to behave in what the director supposed to be XIXth-century-Swiss-village style (and what ultimately looked like the kind of acting one sees in a Kenji Mizoguchi film).

In any case, even if one doesn’t have any museological or anthropological interest, the musical side of today’s performance are to be reckoned with. Nobuko Takahashi has a shimmering, sweet tonal quality à la Ileana Cotrubas that makes all the difference in the world in a role like Amina. She has very secure in alts, lands in her low register with the naturalness of a Mirella Freni and phrases with grace and sensitiveness. There are some tremulous and unfocused patches in her singing and her coloratura is not really precise, but everything is dealt with with such elegance and musicianship that you forgive her everything, even the fact that she does not really try to go beyond “touching” (this Amina has no dark sides, what makes the inn scene really less interesting). I have really enjoyed her performance – especially her heartfelt Ah, non credea mirarti. On the other hand, tenor Yojiro Oyama was something of a frustrating experience to me. It is not a mellifluous voice – rather dry and nasal – but he sang Prendi, l’anel ti dono with such breathtaking ease in his high register, liquid legato and sense of style that I kept waiting for more, but nothing after that was truly smooth: technique, intonation and taste were erratic and some moments were downright awkward. Pity. Although Hidekazu Tsumaya’s voice sounded smaller than what it usually is, he still offered an extremely satisfying performance, a classy Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni in particular. He could also find a welcome patrician attitude that set him apart from the remaining villagers.

The Fujiwara Opera Chorus combined both animation and precision in their acting and singing, and maestro Ryuichiro Sonoda proved to have taken Bellini’s score seriously, refusing just to accompany his singers, but actually setting an atmosphere in an appropriately bright, alert yet polished orchestral sound and expressive contributions from instrumental soloists.


Read Full Post »