note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi
Chanters … Toyotake Rosetayu; Takemoto Aikodayu
Puppeteer … Yoshida Seizaburo
Toyozawa Tomisuke; Takezawa Dango; Toyozawa Ryouji
“Tsubosaka Kannon Reigenki” (Miracle at the Tsubosaka Kannon Temple)
written by Kako Chika
first performed at the Hikorokuza Theatre, Osaka, in 1887
Chanter … Takemoto Tsukomadayu
Ostao, the Wife … Yoshida Kazuo
Sawaichi, the Husband … Yoshida Tamame
Takezawa Danshichi; Takezawa Dango
Mochizuki Tamenari Ensemble
Three seasons ago, The Japan Society of Boston showcased an evening of traditional Noh (drama) and kyogen (comedy) theatre; the Society has now hosted the opening of the 2007 Tour of BUNRAKU: THE NATIONAL PUPPET THEATRE OF JAPAN, the first major presentation in America since 1992 and its first appearance in Boston since 1984. An all-male art form that began in the 18th century, Bunraku features puppets that are three-quarters life size, each manipulated by three visible puppeteers and accompanied by an onstage narrator who chants the dialogue and musicians who perform on the banjo-like shamisen. The troupe enacted two classic love stories (the girl Oshichi risks execution to save her warrior-lover; the blind Sawaichi and his devoted wife Osato find salvation through their mutual sacrifice), along with a demonstration of Bunraku’s aesthetics and its puppets’ complex mechanisms. This was not an evening for children or tired businessmen: Western eyes were bombarded by ritual and artifice; Western ears, by piped and grunted declamation, the plunking of shamisen and stomping of feet --- but one soon thrilled to Oshichi’s ascent up an icy ladder to warn her lover and was moved by Sawaichi and Osato’s suicides and their joyous dance of redemption; as with the Noh and kyogen showcase, Time slowed down then gave way to the Timeless.
BUNRAKU: THE NATIONAL PUPPET THEATRE OF JAPAN will complete its 2007 tour at selected universities and cultural centers in Illinois and California, 6-20 October.