Sumidagawa and Curlew River: Britten’s Encounter with Noh

6 September 2012

6:00 – 7:30pm, followed by a drinks reception to 8:15pm

Daiwa Foundation Japan House

Organised by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation

Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan’s leading specialist music and arts college, is staging back-to-back performances of the Noh play Sumidagawa and Benjamin Britten’s opera Curlew River, in London and Suffolk on 7 and 9 September (sumidagawa-curlewriver.com). Curlew River is closely based on Sumidagawa, which Britten saw twice when he visited Japan in 1953. In advance of these performances, this event aims to help audiences understand both pieces and put them into context. How does Sumidagawa fit into the Noh tradition? Why did this ancient Japanese art have such a powerful impact on Britten? And how did he digest his Japanese experiences as he produced Curlew River, shifting the locale from Tokyo’s Sumida River to the marshy landscapes of East Anglia, transforming the “capital birds” of the original into curlews, and replacing Buddhism with medieval Christianity? Whether you are able to attend the performances or not, the encounter between one of Japan’s most sophisticated art forms and the UK’s greatest 20th century composer is a fascinating story.

Professor Tomotaka Sekine

Professor Tomotaka Sekine began his stage career at the age of four playing the child parts in Kurama Tengu and Hibariyama, and gave his first shiteperformance in Tsunemasa in 1963. After graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts, he became a pupil of the 25th Kanze Soke Motomasa Sakon. Becoming independent in 1981, he gave performances ofShakkoMidare and Dojoji. Performing as a member of Kenkyu-Kai, Kanno-Kai and Mori-no-Kai, his Noh repertoire included OkinaKinutaMochizukiand Sotoba Komachi. He joined Tokyo University of the Arts as an associate professor in 2004, becoming a professor in 2010 (Department of Traditional Japanese Music, Kanze ’school of Noh’). In the university’s “Beauty of Traditional Japanese Music” programme, he collaborated with other art fields in presenting Konjaku Monogatari. He was certified Intangible Cultural Property, is a board member of the Kanze Association, a member of Kenkyu-Kai, and the chairman of Kangetsu-Kai.

Dr Daisaku Mukai

Dr Daisaku Mukai is a lecturer in musicology at Ueno Gakuen University, Tokyo. He has also been a research fellow at the Research Centre of the Graduate School of Music, Tokyo University of the Arts since 2009. His specialities are 20th century music and music aesthetics. He completed his PhD on Britten at Tokyo University of the Arts in 2008. In his dissertation entitled “Dramaturgy of invisible sounds in Benjamin Britten’s opera”, he analyses Britten’s musical dramaturgy, focusing on his leitmotiftechnique and the function of invisible sounds in his operatic works. He is now working on the study ofCurlew River and Britten’s relationship with Japan.

BOOKING FORM

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