The foremost kabuki actor hopes the blending of Japanese kabuki and western-style opera will leave a legacy of unity in diversity
As one of Japan’s foremost kabuki actors, ICHIKAWA Ebizo XI is no stranger to challenges. At one time, he played 13 different roles in one famous kabuki play. At another, he took the role as Kylo Ren in a kabuki version of Star Wars.
In mid-April, the 42-year-old world-renowned actor will take the spotlight at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, to stage KABUKI x OPERA “Luminous, The Lord”, a fusion of classical Japanese theatre and opera, Ebizo will collaborate with globally renowned opera singers Anna Pirozzi and Erwin Schrott plus other talented kabuki actors. The Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium will be the competition venue for table tennis during the Tokyo 2020 Games.
The one-off performance will mark the start of TOKYO 2020 NIPPON FESTIVAL, an official cultural programme of the Tokyo 2020 Games aimed at promoting the realisation of a symbiotic society, participation and exchange among diverse people.
The slogan of the event, “What is challenge?”, was announced at a press conference held in late January. “There are various forms of art, including opera and kabuki. One of the ideas behind the performance is to blend the art forms in harmony. I think the event will become a legacy if such collaboration could happen in many other fields,” said Ebizo. He referred to the Tokyo 2020 Games vision of “Unity in Diversity”.
Based on many famous kabuki plays, “Luminous, The Lord” will be a brand-new story about the good confronting the evil, with opera melodies interwoven into the performance.
“I think opera is very similar to kabuki. In opera, the performer’s singing is as important as the storyline. To some degree, kabuki is similar because it consists of singing, dancing and skills,” said Ebizo. “Moreover, both arts have a similar 400-year history.” He believed the collaboration with the opera actors will bring new possibilities to both art forms.
The performance will be Pirozzi’s first one in Japan. “It is all so overwhelming to sing arias from famous operas on stage directed by an acclaimed kabuki stage director,” commented the Italian soprano in a video shown at the conference. Schrott, who had performed in Japan before, surprised the attendants at the press conference with a video message delivered in Japanese. “I am humbled by this special invitation and grateful to the organisers of the kabuki-opera project and for the kabuki artists for allowing me to perform alongside them. I am looking forward to giving my best performance for the opera fans and the kabuki fans of Japan,” said Schrott.
Despite the excitement and expectation, Ebizo was frank about his nervousness in putting on an important performance related to the Tokyo 2020 Games. “In today’s society, there is a growing tendency that whenever a person takes the challenge, some people will point fingers at him or her. It’s becoming harder to take challenges,” said Ebizo. Such tendency, however, only strengthened his resolve to carry on. “I will take this as a chance to keep challenging in spite of other’s doubts,” he added.
In May, Ebizo is to change his stage name to ICHIKAWA Danjuro XIII, Hakuen. Danjuro is a highly prestigious stage name passed down since the 17th century. Regardless of the pressure of the name, Ebizo said he will take the plunge.
“The performance [KABUKI x OPERA "Luminous, The Lord"] might be my last stage performance as ICHIKAWA Ebizo XI. To make the performance well qualified for the task, I will take the plunge further and spare no efforts to the very end as ICHIKAWA Ebizo XI,” he said.
Tokyo 2020 / Ryo ICHIKAWA
|Date||Saturday 18 April 2020, 17: 00- (planned) * 1 day only|
|Venue||Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium (Address: 17-1 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)|
|Ticket||Ticket lottery starts on 14 February 2020 Ticket website: https://w.pia.jp/t/kabukiopera20 (available from 14 February 2020)|
|Performers||ICHIKAWA Ebizo XI, Anna Pirozzi, Erwin Schrott, ICHIKAWA Udanji, NAKAMURA Kotaro, TSUCHIYA Tao, Travis Japan, and other performers|