an inspired synergy between words, music, visuals and spaceOpera magazine
wonderfully and meticulously crafted piece… presented a unique way of looking at the (opera) art formSchmopera
A cross-cultural work
Although the source material for the opera is deeply rooted in in Japanese customs and aesthetics, the themes tackled are universal; communication difficulties, intimacy issues, gender expectations, and changing cultural identities. Staging THE鍵KEY in London as part of the pioneering Tête a Tête: The Opera Festival gave UK audiences the chance to reflect on these themes through the lens of their own experiences and to engage with an array of Japanese art forms in an intercultural context.
Bringing the work to the UK was a cross-cultural endeavour in itself. UK- and Europe-based artists and organisations were invited to join the project. For some, it was their first time to engage with Japanese culture. Akane Kudo (The Wife) and Shozo Ayaka (Kimura) came from Tokyo to join forces with Germany-based Hiroshi Amako (The Husband) and UK-based Akari Mochizuki (The Daughter) to form the cast for the UK premiere.
THE鍵KEY : re-imagined
A new context
Performing in London meant staging THE鍵KEY in an entirely new context. Aspects of the story, staging, costume and temporality all had to be re-examined in order for the opera to be successfully staged without any feeling of disconnect between content and place. The story remained the same but the setting was adapted; the opera’s central characters became a modern-day family who had emigrated from Japan to suburban London. The contemporary time setting in particular affected the choice of mannerisms, gestures and costumes of the characters. On the other hand, the bi-lingual libretto remained largely unchanged, reflecting the timelessness of the story.
Highlighting themes through the architecture
As with every rendition of THE鍵KEY, the layout of the house shaped the staging. 10 Tollgate Drive was designed for a happy family; the large, open-plan spaces were made for the residents to gather together and enjoy each other’s company. Staging the story of a family who can’t openly interact and are anything but happy with one another in such a house intensified the dysfunctionality of the family. Each family member is forever performing for another, pretending they don’t want their secrets to be known. The large windows in every room of the house offered perfect opportunities for them to peer in on each other, veiled only by the reflections in the glass.
New possibilities for Kimura
In the UK performances, Kimura was not assigned a room or trio of his own. Instead, he moved throughout the house alone and entered the rooms of other characters at specific points in the drama. This strengthened the concept that Kimura is viewed differently by each family member and that the overall style of his movement is determined by which character’s perspective he is seen from.
It was a very new experience for me to move around rooms to follow the story. What a unique idea!
Fascinating to watch different character’s motivations. Dancer expressive of all the unspoken emotion. Fantastic tension, staging, sense of being a voyeur. Wonderful.
2019 London: UK premiere
Performances: Saturday 3rd August 2019, 2pm and 6pm
Sunday 4th August 2019, 2pm and 6pm
Venue: 10 Tollgate Drive, London, UK
Staged by: ‘Kagi’ Project Executive Committee in partnership with Japan Foundation, Mu Arts, Azuki Foundation and Powell Tuck Associates.
Supported by: Arts Council Tokyo (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture), Arts Council England, Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and RVW Trust.
Cooperation: Southbank Sinfonia, Tête a Tête: The Opera Festival, London Festival of Architecture, Whole Hog Theatre
THE鍵KEY was an official event of the Japan-UK Season of Culture
The Husband Trio
The Husband: Hiroshi Amako (tenor)
Shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute): Clive Bell
Double bass: Mark Lipski
The Wife Trio
The Wife: Akane Kudo (soprano)
Sho (Japanese mouth organ): Naomi Sato
Cello: Idlir Shyti
The Daughter Trio
The Daughter: Akari Mochizuki (mezzo-soprano)
Shimedaiko (Japanese percussion): Akinori Fujimoto
Violin: Joana Ly
Kimura: Shouzo Ayaka (dancer)
Composer and director: Francesca Le Lohé
Dramaturg: Alexandra Rutter (Whole Hog Theatre)
Choreographer: Kae Ishimoto
Executive producer (UK): Akiko Yanagisawa (Mu arts/Azuki Foundation)
Producer (Japan): Naoya Yamashita
Production assistants: Fiona Allison and Joanna Pidcock
In collaboration with Asia Grzybowska
Venue courtesy of Angus Shepherd and his family
Photography and videography provided by Tête a Tête: The Opera Festival
“Peering into private lives. Crossing boundaries”
In conjunction with the UK premiere performances of the THE鍵KEY, a panel talk and taster performance evening was held at the 2019 London Festival of Architecture in collaboration with Powell Tuck Associates. More information can be found here
Tête a Tête: The Opera Festival
Since its inception in 1997, the festival has presented and managed many productions in diverse styles from around the world and established its position as the go-to platform for new opera in the 21st century. The 2019 edition of Tête a Tête: The Opera Festival hosted the UK premiere of THE鍵KEY.
Powell Tuck Associates
Powell Tuck Associates is an award-winning practice of expert architects and designers based in West London. 10 Tollgate Drive, the venue for the UK premiere of THE鍵KEY was originally designed by the practice’s founding architect, Julian Powell Tuck. Angus Shepherd, a director of the practice who currently lives in 10 Tollgate Drive, provided the venue for the performances. Practice associate Asia Grzybowska collaborated with the opera’s producers for the “Peering into private lives. Crossing boundaries” event and for the performances.
Founded in 2004 by Akiko Yanagisawa, Mu:Arts has a highly successful track record in curating, producing and coordinating cultural productions and events. Mu:Arts aims to offer open and creative platform that encourages genre-defying, cross-cultural collaborations, connecting tradition with contemporary life, arts and culture.
The Azuki Foundation, set up in 2012, is a registered charity which, through
Japanese and Asian arts and culture, offers unique experiences to stimulate
peoples’ creativity and imagination.
London-based chamber orchestra Southbank Sinfonia supports promising graduate musicians from around the world to develop illustrious careers through their annual fellowship. Southbank Sinfonia provided the violinist, cellist and double bassist for the UK premiere of THE鍵KEY from their alumni players.
London Festival of Architecture
The world’s largest annual architecture festival celebrates London as the global hub for architecture. The “Peering into private lives. Crossing boundaries” event held in conjunction with Powell Tuck Associates was a highlight event of the 2019 London Festival of Architecture.
Whole Hog Theatre
Whole Hog Theatre is an award-winning UK company and
creative collective for emerging creating eclectic adaptations
that encourage diversity and new audiences to the theatre.
Staging the “unstageable” since 2011, the company specialises in
adaptation, working with emerging artists, creating productions
using recycled materials and facilitating Anglo-Japanese
projects. In 2013, Whole Hog Theatre staged the world’s first
theatrical adaptation of Princess Mononoke with the kind
permission of Studio Ghibli. Wishing to build on their success
with Tristan and Isolde and due to the project’s aim of
promoting Anglo-Japanese exchange, Whole Hog Theatre is
excited to support this project with production assistance.