A Vermilion Calm
A modern opera, inspired by Japanese art and literatur
„Learn my child, to listen to the voices of the winds.“
„Merest Shadows of life are works of art... music is the soul.“
About this project
This opera was composed with Jan Jakub Monowid, a leading Polish countertenor singer, in mind, and premiered in 2020 in Wroclaw, Poland.
This time in Berlin, the opera will be staged in a new, more compact form, and will be an experimental challenge. The lead singer and the principal musicians who were active in the Polish premiere have been invited to join. As a new cast, Caroline Redl, a remarkable German actress, will join to express the deep loneliness of Japanese youths and the darkness of communication problems in modern society through her unique physical expression as an Aikido 3-dan holder. We would also like to take advantage of the unique space of the Rudolf Steiner Haus, and at the same time, aim to express the sense of space and time of Japanese culture with light and shadow.
Although we call this work a chamber opera, the composer of the work, Keiko Fujiie, who also wrote the libretto herself, is Japanese and was strongly influenced by Noh, a traditional Japanese
theater form. Instrumentalists are on the stage (not in the pit) and take part in the performance in some roles and meanings. As an opera, the main element is, of course, the
music-singing, but the subtle changes in lighting and movement, and shadows created by these elements are intermingled with the psychological changes of the main character (a young
man) and absorbed into the music itself, so that the opera embodies the protagonist's internal and external worlds as one microcosm.
The main theme of the opera is: 1. the question of the nature of communication and 2. the fluidity of all boundaries.
1. The difficulty of essentially "knowing" others, the danger of projecting one's own ideals onto others and thinking that this is love, all the modern means and practices of not entering into profound relationships with others in order to avoid being hurt...and the deep darkness of loneliness that results.
2. The very fluidity and existence of the boundary between day and night, land and sea, man and woman, wildness and reason, and every other kind of duality. The
balance between the two continues to change. By representing these things along the lines of the changing seasons and celestial movements, we hope to soothe the hearts of
each and every one of the audience and create a sense of empathy for one another.
Even today, Curlew River, which Benjamin Britten composed based on the Noh play "Sumida River," is a popular opera in Europe and the United States. However, 60 years after Curlew River, it will be very interesting to see a collaboration of performers from Japan, Germany and Poland, aiming for a deeper mutual understanding between the East and the West under current situation - the dramatic spread of social networking services and the worldwide pandemic of COVID19 have brought about major changes in the form and reality of communication. This work was born in the midst of these changes, and both the first and the second productions have faced various difficulties, not to mention financial ones. However, since the theme of the work itself and the social situation are two sides of the same coin, our goal in the opera production is to share the difficulties of life in the current world, loneliness, and suffering, and to find hope and a way forward together as a mirror of society.
Also, the nature and role of opera must have changed with the times. Opera began as a luxurious pastime for the privileged classes, and in an age without radio or movies, it was not limited to dream fantasies and love stories, but was also based on actual historical events, political issues, and a wide variety of content expressing aspects of society. Now, in the age of film production, television, and even the Internet, what is the "raison d'etre" of opera? Opera houses in various cities have become tourist attractions, but they can hardly expect to recover the large production costs (because they cannot attract the corresponding number of visitors) and are not viable without the support of their governments. Popular operas that still can attract a certain number of audiences are repeatedly staged in various cities, but new operas can only be staged a few times. In addition, the projection of subtitles in English and other languages has become the norm for multinational and multilingual audiences, and as can be seen from this, the art form as an art form in a closed world for a limited and specialized audience can no longer survive. This production is also a proposal for the state of opera in this era.
In the sense of returning to the original charm of singing, the accompaniment will be mainly by guitar, with a few additional instruments, so as not to stress the singers about volume, and to have them pursue delicate vocal expression. Instead of dealing with a dramatic incident or story and featuring prototypical characters, the piece will carefully depict the deep, contradictory, and turbulent psychology of a single person. Instead of an orchestra led by a conductor, each individual chamber musician "speaks out" through music. They share the protagonist's problems, and so does the audience. Of course, the content of the words remains important, but the meaning of the "speech" of the instruments, dancer/actor, and light and shadow, which do not speak human language, is equal to that of the words, and the result is intended to be an art form that is not based on words=non-verbal.
©Keiko Fujiie (all rights reserved)