Moto Osada's Chamber Opera FOUR NIGHTS OF DREAM Gets North American Premiere
Japan Society is proud to present the North American premiere of Moto Osada's chamber opera Four Nights of Dream on Wednesday, September 13, repeated on September 15 + 16 (7:30 pm). Conducted by Ken-David Masur, this striking new production inaugurates Japan Society's freshly renovated theater, marking the opening of the organization's 110th Anniversary season. Following its New York run, Four Nights of Dream will be presented by the prestigious Tokyo Bunka Kaikan performing arts center, which co-commissioned the production. In both cities, a diverse cast of New York-based singers will be accompanied by twelve musicians of the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Chamber Orchestra. A cast list appears below.
Four Nights of Dream is directed by Obie Award-winning theater-maker Alec Duffy. The set designs (shown above) are by Mimi Lien, the first scenic designer to be named a MacArthur Fellow, with costumes by noted designer Oana Botez. Tickets are $55, $45 for Japan Society members, available at japansociety.org.
Born in Tokyo, Moto Osada (pictured left) is a longtime New Yorker who holds degrees from NYU and the Manhattan School of Music. Four Nights of Dream, his first full-length opera, was warmly received in its world premiere at Sweden's Vadstena Academy in 2008. Svenksa Dagbladet called it "an irresistible mix of Japanese and Western influences. The music is easily accessible, dynamic, and often breathtakingly beautiful. The sweep of notes and clipped motifs vary and shift from meditation and frustrated resignation to absurd comedy, suggestive ghostly mystique, and metaphysical poetry." Portions of Four Nights of Dream were later performed in concert as part of New York City Opera's 2012 VOX Festival.
Osada adapted the opera's libretto from Ten Nights of Dream by Natsume Soseki (1867 - 1916) one of Japan's most beloved novelists. (Natsume's picture has appeared on Japan's 1000 Yen note, the equivalent of a $10 bill.) The cast of Four Nights of Dream comprises six singing roles. It takes place in four unrelated scenes that contrast highly in theme, tone, and musical character, but are united by Osada's uniquely poetic sensibility. The running time is approximately 90 minutes.
In the first scene, an angry samurai attempts to achieve enlightenment through Zen meditation, vowing to behead a monk who taunted him if he succeeds, or to kill himself if he fails. The second scene strikes a comic tone, telling of a handsome but lazy young man who is forced to navigate between desire (a beautiful woman), fear (a precipice), and disgust (a herd of pigs). A chilling tale of infanticide and karmic revenge drives the third scene. In the opera's gorgeous finale, a patient widower's act of devotion is rewarded with a miraculous transformation.
Says Osada, "The four stories I selected are very operatic and anti-operatic at the same time. They deal with either love/sex or death, or both...of course those are traditional, classic subject matters for opera. The stories are anti-operatic in the sense that they aren't very dramatic - not much happens. So I thought it would be interesting and at the same time challenging to make them into an opera... Basically, I just needed to let the events and the characters inspire me."
Female Narrator/Female Chorus I (Lyric soprano): Marisa Karchin
Samurai/Male Chorus I/Son (Baritone): Makoto Winkler
Female Chorus II/Woman (Mezzo-soprano): Gloria Park
Shotaro/Male Chorus II/Man (Lyric baritone): Jesse Malgieri
Ken-san/Father (Tenor): Christopher Sokolowski
Male Chorus III (Bass): Rocky Sellers
Director: Alec Duffy
Conductor: Ken-David Masur
Set design: Mimi Lien
Lighting design: Tuce Yasak
Costume design: Oana Botez
Since the inception of the Performing Arts Program in 1953, Japan Society has introduced nearly 700 of Japan's finest performing arts to an extensive American audience. Programs range from the traditional arts of noh, kyogen, bunraku and kabuki to cutting-edge theater, dance and music. The Program also commissions new works to non-Japanese artists, produces national tours, organizes residency programs for American and Japanese artists and develops and distributes educational programs. Wrote Back Stage, "At once diverse and daring, the program stands toe to toe with some of the most comprehensive cultural exchange endeavors today."
Founded in 1907, Japan Society in New York City presents sophisticated, topical and accessible experiences of Japanese art and culture, and facilitates the exchange of ideas, knowledge and innovation between the U.S. and Japan. More than 200 events annually encompass world-class exhibitions, dynamic classical and cutting-edge contemporary performing arts, film premieres and retrospectives, workshops and demonstrations, tastings, family activities, language classes, and a range of high-profile talks and expert panels that present open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia.
During the 2017-18 season, Japan Society celebrates its 110th anniversary with expanded programming that builds toward a richer, more globally interconnected 21st century: groundbreaking creativity in the visual and performing arts, unique access to business insiders and cultural influencers, and critical focus on social and educational innovation, illuminating our world beyond borders.
Tickets & Information: Tickets for performances and related events at Japan Society can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 212-715-1258 or in person at Japan Society (M-F 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm and Sat-Sun 11:00 am - 5:00 pm). Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between First and Second Avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street). For more information, call 212-832-1155 or visit japansociety.org.