An Invitation to the 2003/2004 Opera Season

ThomasNovohradsky As the next Artistic Director of the Opera Division of the New National Theatre, Tokyo(NNTT), I am delighted to announce our program for the new season, which will commence in the autumn of next year. In planning the program, my first consideration was to develop a program that would meet the high standards of the opera-goers who do us the honor of attending our performances as well as allow the NNTT to rank with other distinguished opera houses around the world.
My tenure as artistic director will last three seasons, and during that time I intend to chart a journey through the history of opera, beginning with Mozart and continuing up to the 20th century. On this journey, we will trace the evolution of the opera through the productions created by our theater staff in cooperation with our stage directors, conductors, and a very exciting cast of singers.
I hope that the theme we have adopted for the each of the three seasons will make this journey even more irresistible. The theme for the 2003/2004 season is "The Fate of Men." In the operas that will be presented, the characters will undergo the full range of experiences encountered in daily life, the joys, sufferings, mysteries and dreams, and come, in the end, to a new and higher philosophical understanding of what life is all about. Each of the productions will present a unique perspective on human fate as interpreted by our production members.
Le Nozze di Figaro
The 2003/2004 season will open with Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), an immortal work that should be familiar to all opera aficionados. As with any great work of art, it always leads to new insights and discoveries. The first reason I chose this masterpiece for the season opener is that Mozart's operatic works are considered the foundation of modern opera history; second, it is a representative example of the workings of fate on human life; and, third, I felt that this work would serve as the best introduction to the Mozart series that will be presented during my tenure at the NNTT. The collaboration between Mr. Andreas Homoki, one of the greatest opera stage directors in the world today, and the inimitable conductor Mr. Ulf Schirmer, will lead the audience on a journey into the world of Mozart filled with fresh wonders and revelations.
Les Contes d'Hoffmann

The second opera for the season will be a new production for the NNTT, Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann), a work by Offenbach that represents la belle epoch (the beautiful period). This was the only grand opera created by this French composer but it is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of the operatic world. Because the work was left unfinished, it always leaves the audience with many riddles to grapple with. The orchestra will be conducted by Mr. Tetsuro Ban, one of the finest young conductors in the world today. The stage director and stage art designer will be Mr. Philippe Arlaud, the successor to Jean-Pierre Ponnelle who directed Tannhäuser at this year's Bayreuth Festival, which was conducted by Mr. Christian Thielemann. I am confident you will enjoy the unique interpretation provided by these two men of Hoffmann, a German writer who, through his literature, fled from reality into a world of dreams and imagination.

In the 2003/2004 season,too, Japanese operas will be presented at the NNTT, Japan's first opera house, which celebrated its grand opening with the staging of TAKERU. The two Japanese operas to be presented, NARUKAMI and SHUNKAN, combine the traditional Japanese theater forms of kabuki, noh and bunraku with the traditional Western art form of opera, and thus should appeal to an international audience. Their productions will be cosponsored with the Nikikai Opera Foundation and conducted by Mr. Kazuyoshi Akiyama, who has had the distinction of leading some of the best orchestras in the world and is one of the few Japanese conductors world famous for his baton technique. Mr. Akiyama, who has a profound knowledge of both traditional Japanese art forms as well as western opera, will undoubtedly breathe new life into these works, offering performances that will appeal to general audiences as well as opera enthusiasts.
Tales from Spain
The NNTT's performance of The Tales From Spain by Ravel, which combines ballet with opera, will, I feel, be a unique and interesting effort even by today's world standards. Although it may seem unusual to audiences today for a stage performance to contain both opera and ballet, in fact, this was a common art form in 19th-century Europe, as anyone who familiar with the history of French opera will know. At that time, these two forms were either staged together or else major ballet scenes were incorporated into an opera, and the result was invariably a great success with audiences. The conductor for our production will be Mr. Marc Piollet, who has been appointed as the next musical director of the Volksoper Wien. The stage director will be Mr. Nicola Mussin, who occupies an important place as a new-generation choreographer, and the art designer will be Mr. Davide Pizzigoni, who has displayed his multifaceted talents as an architect, painter, stage art designer and jewelry designer at Bvlgari. Production work is already underway in close cooperation with Ms. Asami Maki, Artistic Director for the NNTT's Ballet Division, whose support and advice for this ambitious work has been invaluable. This presentation is only possible because of NNTT's wonderful ballet company. I am sure the production will be enjoyed by opera, ballet, and orchestra buffs alike.
Götterdammerung (The Twilight of the Gods) is the final opera in Wagner's tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). NNTT has already performed Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold) and Die Walkure (The Valkyrie), and these performances have been held in such high esteem by international audiences that they have been dubbed "The Tokyo Ring." Under the baton of Mr. Jun Märkl and the stage direction of Mr. Keith Warner, the fate of the Gods will reach its climax with this new production. The NHK Symphony Orchestra, which is to play for Siegfried, will also perform for this production. In the history of music, Wagner's works have generated much controversy, but one thing can be said for certain: They have the power to appeal to audiences of all generations.
Next comes Macbeth, which I consider particularly important among Verdi's numerous operatic works. I am delighted that Mr. Hideki Noda, an extraordinary genius in theatrical circles, has accepted the commission to direct this masterpiece. His will team up with the conductor Mr. Miguel Gomez Martinez to provide what I am certain will be a most innovative production of Macbeth. I have seen several of Mr. Noda's plays and was strongly attracted by both his unique artistic vision and his interesting insights into the fate of human beings.
We will conclude the new productions for the season with Falstaff, which might be described as the last will and testament of Verdi and Shakespeare. Falstaff, a man who has had the full range of human experiences, stands at the last stage of his life with a detached smile on his face. No one is more suited to direct this opera than Mr. Jonathan Miller. His outstanding sense of humor, as well as his rich experience and profound knowledge of life, make him the perfect director for this work. The conductor will be Mr. Dan Ettinger, who, through his youth and passion, will, I am sure, unleash the vast energy contained in Verdi's work.

In addition to the operas mentioned above, NNTT will offer repeat performances of Tosca, Salome and Carmen.
I also wish to introduce one of the major pillars of support for the NNTT: the New National Theatre Chorus, which is led by Mr. Hirofumi Misawa, an experienced chorus master. The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, working with the internationally renowned conductors introduced above, will provide the musical identity for the performances at the theater.
For each of the productions, we will offer a varied cast of singers ranging from veterans with established international reputations to young singers who are just starting out on international careers in the opera world but who have already attracted public attention. Japanese singers who are active on the world stage will return to their home stage at the NNTT and grace us with their presence and I am sure that many of the Japanese singers who have accumulated experience at the NNTT will later move out into the world and achieve international success.

We are very excited about our 2003/2004 season and look forward to seeing you at our performances.

Thomas Novohradsky
Artistic Consultant (Opera)
New National Theatre,Tokyo
Major policy initiatives for the 2003/2004 Season
  1. To develop the NNTT into an opera house that attracts international attention
  2. To invite the audience to experience a "journey into the history opera" from Mozart to 20th-century composers
  3. To adopt the theme "The Fate of Men" for the season's new productions
  4. To increase the opera fan base through the performance of standard operas
  5. To perform masterworks that are rarely performed in Japan
  6. To perform works written by Japanese composers