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<<  -- 2 --  Keith Bramich    A JAPANESE 'RIVERDANCE'?


As we hurry to our seats on 27 April 2002 in Tokyo's 10,000 seater Budokan Hall (an 'in the round' venue, designed for martial arts and similar to London's Albert Hall) a female voice over the public address system urges us repeatedly in Japanese to 'take our seats ... the performance is about to start'. In this highly organised 21st century Japan, everything, from digital bathrooms to supermarket parking and queueing, is controlled and efficient.

Budokan Hall, Tokyo. Photo: Keith Bramich

Looking around the packed hall, something of the scale of the forces to be employed is already apparent ... a large Western-style orchestra augmented by Japanese instruments, groups of Taiko drummers to the far left and far right of the stage, and twenty sound and lighting staff.

Shunsaku Tsutsumi, conductor

The lights dim, two bells begin to ring, dancers arrive on stage and, in the midst of all this, conductor Shunsaku Tsutsumi takes his bow and applause. At his sign, hundreds of lights begin to flicker on, high above and all around the stage, as thousands of choral singers come into action, spurred on by eight relay conductors, each with a shining red-tipped glow-in-the-dark baton. 'Wake up Emperor', they sing -- music by Eijiro Koroku, lyrics by Rei Nakanishi -- in a chorus that reminded this pair of Western ears of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov.

Eijiro Koroku (left), composer of 'Sleeping King' and Rei Nakanishi, lyricist

Announced as traditional Japanese artforms combined with Western music, dancing and opera, Nemuri Oh -- Ai to Magokoro no Yakusoku (Sleeping King -- The Promise of Love with a True Heart), is really a modern extension of Kabuki, keeping its traditional wide appeal in a light style reminiscent of Spanish Zarzuela. The Kabuki actors are doubled with Western operatic style soloists, who sing with communication earpieces and rock concert-style individual loudspeakers for feedback. It's a highly technical production for one of the world's most technologically advanced countries -- even the orchestra is amplified. Sleeping King features four thousand performers, synthesised music and sounds, laser-enhanced choreography, colourful costumes, video projection and colour-coded lighting.

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Copyright © 19 May 2002 Keith Bramich, London, UK




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