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Work of the Week – Toshio Hosokawa: Futari Shizuka

Toshio Hosokawa’s music straddles two cultures, with influences from traditional Japanese music and the world of European art music. This is evident in his new chamber opera, Futari Shizuka (The Two Shizukas), which will be premiered on 1 December at the Autumn Festival in Paris by Ensemble Intercontemporain with conductor Matthias Pintscher, soprano Kerstin Avemo and Nô performer Ryoko Aoki.

Futari Shizuka is a 12th century play from the Nô tradition, one of the four Japanese theatre traditions alongside Kyogen, Kabuki and Bunraku. Nô combines sets, dance, chanting, and masks with a fixed narrative structure to convey the story to audiences. With a new libretto by Japanese author Oriza Hirate, Hosokawa’s version of Futari Shizuka tells the story of Shizuka, a dancer whose ghost takes possession of a young refugee girl at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Helene.

Futari Shizuka by Toshio Hosokawa: a fusion of the traditional and contemporary

Two musical cultures come literally face to face in Hosokawa’s opera with the role of Helene sung by a classically trained opera singer and Shizuka performed by a Nô artist.

Many artists in Japan want new art that shows underlying influences from Europe and America. Many Japanese intellectuals think it is remarkable when I talk about my Japanese influences. They say you do not need to do this because the world is one…but traditional Japanese music is very different and I stand between Japan and Europe, which I find hard and I feel alone. – Toshio Hosokawa

On 3 December, the German premiere of Futari Shizuka will be presented at the Cologne Philharmonie. Hosokawa’s companion piece, the one-act opera The Raven, can be seen on 7 and 10 December at the Théâtre National in Luxembourg.