Hanjo © Illustration by Marcus Shields and Patricia Westley

Japan Society is proud to announce its Fall 2022-Winter 2023 season of concert performances with in-person programs focused on traditional and modern works, spanning the disciplines of opera, film, Noh theater, puppetry, and prose.

Leading up to the North American premiere at NYC Skirball of the internationally-acclaimed contemporary opera Yukio Mishima’s Hanjo, based on one of Mishima’s Modern Noh Plays as adapted by prominent Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa, Japan Society hosts an artist talk and sneak preview on September 14. Founder of New York Catapult Opera Neal Goren (also Hanjo’s conductor) and director Luca Veggetti reveal their inspirations in the staging of this hopeless, mad-love romance. The evening begins with an introduction to Mishima’s original script by Professor Satoko Naito and culminates with a live performance of the opera’s centerpiece aria.  

On November 10, puppet artist extraordinaire Basil Twist discusses his creative role in Joe Hisaishi and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s upcoming musical staging of the beloved Studio Ghibli animated feature film, My Neighbour Totoro, in collaboration with Improbable and Nippon TV. Twist is known for surprising audiences with his infinite creativity, from 88 magical Japanese screen doors (Dogugaeshi) and dancing fabrics in an onstage water tank (Symphonie Fantastique) to a gigantic rock creature in his most recent work (Book of Mountains & Seas). In this event, Twist will share backstage images and describe the process of creating real-life versions of the film’s fantastical creatures for the live staging of My Neighbour Totoro set to premiere at London’s Barbican this fall. On November 4 at 7:00pm, Japan Society will hold a special 35mm subtitled screening of the animeTotoro.

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang has taken up the challenge of Japan Society’s commission of a new chamber opera by combining and reimagining three texts by novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa, widely regarded as the father of the Japanese short story. Making its world premiere on January 12 through 15, note to a friend, a co-production from Japan Society and Tokyo Bunka Kainan, will be a part of PROTOTYPE Festival 2023. The work is a stunningly haunting monodrama that addresses our eternal human fascinations with death, love, family, and suicide. Paris-based opera director and longtime member of Peter Brook’s international theater company Yoshi Oida directs and the mercurial New York vocalist Theo Bleckmann stars.

Japan Society’s Artistic Director Yoko Shioya says, “We are excited to introduce these highlights from an exceptional performing arts season, filled with magical music borne out of an amalgamation of Japanese and American imagination. Beginning with source material born from Japan — literature, history, animation — each of these works begin with an Eastern point of origination, but have blossomed into unique and powerful projects via the contributions of Japanese and non-Japanese artists alike. We can’t wait to share these events with our audiences.”

Much more information on these events follows below and is also available at japansociety.org/arts-and-culture/performances

Upcoming Musical Performances at Japan Society in Spring 2022

Hanjo © Illustration by Marcus Shields and Patricia Westley

Yuko Mishima’s Hanjo by Toshio Hosokawa

Wednesday, September 14 at 6:30pm

Contemporary Opera Lecture & Live Music

Co-presented with NYU Skirball

$15 General Public / $12 Members

Join us for a talk with the internationally-acclaimed Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa about his reality-bending opera based on the modern noh play Yuko Mishima’s Hanjo. Italian director Luca Veggetti and Catapult Opera’s founder and conductor Neal Goren discuss Hosokawa’smusic inspired by the long-distance love between Hanako, a geisha girl, and Yoshio, a young man. However, after years of waiting, Hanako doubts the unexpected return of her lover when a man calling himself Yoshio finally appears. The evening will be capped with a musical excerpt from the opera before its US premiere at NYU Skirball (September 30 and October 2).

Yukio Mishima’s Hanjo was commissioned by and premiered at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence 2004. Since then, it has been presented at many European opera houses and two Japanese concert halls. For Catapult Opera’s production, the inner life of each of the opera’s three characters will be expressed in movement by an analogous dancer. Hanjo expresses the fragility of the lives that we construct for ourselves when challenged by events beyond our control. Catapult’s production is directed and choreographed by Luca Veggetti, a frequent collaborator of Hosokowa, who will be reuniting with Catapult’s Artistic Director, Neal Goren, to conduct this production. Veggetti and Goren presented the US premiere of Hosokowa’s The Raven for the first New York Philharmonic biennial in 2014 and the US stage premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Tempest Songbook in the following year. The internationally-acclaimed Talea Ensemble will provide the orchestral element.

Born in Bologna, Italy in 1963 and trained at La Scala in Milan, Luca Veggetti began his career as a choreographer and stage director in 1990. Turning his interests toward contemporary music, experimental forms, and new technologies, he has collaborated with some of today’s most important ensembles and composers. His work has been produced and presented by leading theaters, companies, and museums around the world including The Drawing Center, Works & Process at the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and La Cité de la Musique in Paris. Notable productions include Iannis Xenakis’ Oresteia and Kaija Saariaho’s Maa at the Miller Theater in co-production with the Guggenheim’s Works & Process, a series of creations for the Martha Graham Dance Company, NOTATIONOTATIONS for the Drawing Center, Toshio Hosokawa’s operas Yukio Mishima’s Hanjo at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, The Raven for the first New York Philharmonic Biennial, Kaija Saariaho’s The Tempest Songbook at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Recent productions include Left-Right-Left, a co-production by the Japan Society in New York and the Yokohama Noh Theater; Iannis Xenakis’ Kraanerg for the Teatro Comunale in Bologna; Watermill, a new vision of Jerome Robbins’ iconic theater piece for the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Tanto quanto dura il soffio by Bruno Munari, a choreographic installation for the Setagaya Art Museum in Tokyo.

Toshio Hosokawa, Japan’s pre-eminent living composer, creates his distinctive musical language from the fascinating relationship between Western avant-garde art and traditional Japanese culture. His music is strongly connected to the aesthetic and spiritual roots of the Japanese arts (such as calligraphy), as well as to those of Japanese court music (such as Gagaku). He gives musical expression to notions of beauty rooted in transience: “We hear the individual notes and appreciate, at the same time, the process of how the notes are born and then die: a sound landscape of continual ‘becoming’ that is animated in itself.” Born in Hiroshima in 1955, Toshio Hosokawa came to Germany in 1976, where he studied composition with Isang Yun, Brian Ferneyhough, and later, Klaus Huber. Although his initial compositions drew inspiration from the Western avant-garde, he gradually built a new musical world between East and West. In the 1980s and 1990s, Hosokawa was a regular participant at the prestigious Darmstädter Ferienkurse new music festival in Germany. He first gained widespread recognition with the 2001 world premiere of his oratorio Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima. Hosokawa has written numerous orchestral works in recent years, including After the Storm for two sopranos and orchestra on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and Woven Dreams, commissioned as part of the Roche Commissions (Cleveland Orchestra, Franz Welser-Möst, Lucerne Festival 2010). Circulating Ocean, premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival in 2005, has also become part of the repertoire of many orchestras. In 2013, his Noh-inspired opera Matsukaze was presented as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. The organ concerto Umarmung, premiered in 2017 by Christian Schmitt and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under Jakub Hrůša, was performed by the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna at the Vienna Konzerthaus in 2018 and again at Suntory Hall in 2019. The orchestral work Uzu, premiered in 2019 by the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, received the Otaka Prize for the best Japanese composition of the year. Toshio Hosokawa has received numerous awards and prizes. He has been a member of the Academy of Fine Arts Berlin since 2001 and was a fellow of Berlin’s Institute for Advanced Study in 2006/7 and 2008/9. In 2013/14 he was composer in residence at the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra as well as at the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra from 2019 till 2021. In 2018 he received the Japan Foundation award and recently he was awarded the Goethe Medal for his services to cultural exchange between Japan and Germany. He is artistic director of the Takefu International Music Festival and artistic director of the Suntory Hall International Program for Music Composition.

Behind-the-Scenes of My Neighbour Totoro © Artwork courtesy of © Studio Ghibli and © RSC

Behind-the-Scenes of My Neighbour Totoro

Thursday, November 10 at 6:30pm

Contemporary Theater Conversation

$20 General Public / $16 Members

Puppet artist extraordinaire Basil Twist sits down to talk about his creative role in Joe Hisaishi and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s upcoming staging of the beloved Studio Ghibli classic anime, My Neighbour Totoro. Twist is known for surprising audiences with his infinite creativity, from 88 magical Japanese screen doors (Dogugaeshi) and dancing fabrics in an onstage water tank (Symphonie Fantastique) to a gigantic rock creature in his most recent work (Book of Mountains & Seas). In this event, Twist will share backstage images and describe the process of creating real-life versions of the film’s fantastical creatures for the live staging of My Neighbour Totoro set to premiere at London’s Barbican this fall

Basil Twist is a third-generation puppeteer, originally from San Francisco. Since coming to New York over 23 years ago, Twist has garnered an international reputation as an audacious designer, director and performer. Basil creates iconic, visionary puppetry worlds with a remarkable range of style and scope appearing in intimate nightclubs to large orchestra halls. He is a sought-after collaborator for theatre, ballet, opera, dance and film. His utterly unique approaches have been recognized with multiple awards and fellowships; critical acclaim and have furthered contemporary artistry and the technical craft of puppetry. Basil is known for revitalizing puppetry as a serious and sophisticated art form through his imaginative experiments with materials, techniques and uses in both narrative and abstract works. Basil’s shows range from productions of classic stories to abstract visualizations of orchestral music and are informed by puppetry traditions from around the world. Basil received a degree from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts de la Marionnette (ESNAM) in Charleville-Mézières, France, where he was trained in set design, costume design, dramaturgy, music and acting. Basil’s original work includes Symphonie Fantastique (1998) which featured abstract materials in a tank of water to simulate imagery and characters to music. He contributed to the magic of Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, creating the Dementors. Highlights of his original shows include PetrushkaDogugaeshi (commissioned by Japan Society), Rite of SpringHansel & GretelArias with a TwistLa Bella Dormente nel BoscoSisters FolliesA Streetcar named Desire (La Comédie Française, also co-director), and most recently the two operas Jean Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville’s Titon et l’Aurore at the Opera Comique (for online presentation in 2021 and live at the Palace of Versailles in 2022) and Book of Mountains & Seas by composer Huang Ruo in Copenhagen, New York City and soon to be at Koorbiennale Amsterdam. His honours include Obie, Henry Hewes and Doris Duke Performing awards, multiple UNIMA and Bessie Awards, a Guggenheim fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. Since 1999 he has served as Artistic director of the Dream Music Puppetry Program at HERE in New York City.

David Lang © Peter Serling; Yoshi Oida © Sébastien Coindre

note to a friend

World Premiere

Thursday, January 12 at 7:30pm

Saturday, January 14 at 7:30pm

Sunday, January 15 at 3:00pm

Jan. 12 Performance Followed by MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception

Jan. 14 Performance Followed by Artist Q&A

Commissioned and presented by Japan Society

Co-produced by Japan Society and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan

Part of PROTOTYPE Festival 2023

$60 General Public / $48 Members

note to a friend, a co-production from Japan Society and Tokyo Bunka Kainan, commissioned and presented by Japan Society, makes its world premiere as part of PROTOTYPE Festival 2023. The new hour-long opera combines and reimagines three texts written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, two of which explains the author’s meticulous thinking and planning behind his suicide. Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer David Lang created a score and libretto for this haunting solo chamber opera featuring singer Theo Bleckmann and a string quartet, depicting the erudite, even witty, narrator’s contemplation of his own end. Paris-based opera director and longtime member of Peter Brook’s international theater company, Yoshi Oida, directs this world premiere.

Passionate, prolific, and complicated, composer David Lang embodies the restless spirit of invention. Lang is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations, Musical America’s Composer of the Year, Carnegie Hall’s Debs Composer’s Chair, the Rome Prize, the BMW Music-Theater Prize (Munich), and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1999, he received a Bessie Award for his music in choreographer Susan Marshall’s The Most Dangerous Room in the House, performed live by the Bang on a Can All-Stars at the Next Wave Festival of the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The Carbon Copy Building won the 2000 Village Voice OBIE Award for Best New American Work. The recording of the passing measures on Cantaloupe Records was named one of the best CDs of 2001 by The New Yorker. His CD pierced was praised both on the rock music site Pitchfork and in the classical magazine Gramophone, and was called his “most exciting new work in years” by the San Francisco Chronicle. The recording of the little match girl passion released on Harmonia Mundi, received the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance. Lang is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can. His work has been recorded on the Sony Classical, Harmonia Mundi, Teldec, BMG, Point, Chandos, Argo/Decca, and Cantaloupe labels, among others.

Some of Lang’s most recent vocal works include the opera prisoner of the state (with libretto by Lang), which was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Rotterdam’s de Doelen Concert Hall, London’s Barbican Centre, Barcelona’s l’Auditori, Bochum Symphony Orchestra, and Bruges

Concertgebouw; his chorus piece the writings (2019), commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Netherlands Kamerkoor, and premiered by Theatre of Voices; the mile-long opera (2018), co-created with architect Elizabeth Diller and premiered in New York City’s mile-long elevated park The Highline; one-singer opera the loser (2016), for which Lang served as composer, librettist and stage director, which opened the 2016 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the public domain (2016) for 1000 singers at Lincoln Center’sMostly Mozart Festival; and his chamber opera anatomy theater (2016) at Los Angeles Opera and at the Prototype Festival in New York.

Yoshi Oida is a Japanese director/actor living in Paris. He is active in various European countries, the United States, and Japan. He is internationally known as a crucial actor for theater director Peter Brook since the 1970s. In the last two decades, he has become recognized further as one of the most sought-after opera directors, especially in Europe. Some of the major opera productions that Oida has directed include Death in Venice (Aldeburgh Festival, U.K., 2007, eight European cities, and Toronto, Canada), Idomeneo (National Theatre, Prague, 2010), Les Pêcheurs de Perles (Opera Comique, Paris, 2012), Peter Grimes (Opera de Lyon, 2014), Madame Butterfly (Opera Goteborg, Sweden, 2016), War Requiem (Opera de Lyon, 2017), and Shion Story (new opera by Akira Nishimura, New National Theatre Tokyo, 2019). His production of Curlew River, which premiered in 1998 at Festival d’Aix-En-Provence, has been performed across several different cities in Europe. It was also presented at Japan Society in New York in 2007 as part of its 100th anniversary. His most recent acting appearance in New York was in Shun-kin, directed by Simon McBurney and presented at Lincoln Center Festival in 2013. He is an author of several books, including An Actor Adrift (1993), translated into eight languages; The Invisible Actor (1997), translated into five languages; and An Actor’s Tricks (2008), translated into three languages. He received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1992, the Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2007, and the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 2013, the highest honor that the French government can bestow to an artist.

About Japan Society

Facebook: facebook.com/japansociety

Instagram: @japansociety

Twitter: @japansociety

Japan Society is the premier organization connecting Japanese arts, culture, business, and society with audiences in NYC and around the world. In over 100 years of work, we’ve inspired generations by establishing ourselves as pioneers in supporting international exchanges in arts and culture, business and policy, as well as education between Japan and the US. In 2022, Japan Society is celebrating our heritage through the 50th anniversary of our landmark building, designed by the late architect Junzo Yoshimura, with the launch of a new distinct modern logo and visual identity.  

Since the inception of Japan Society Performing Arts Program, the Program has brought 1000+ productions of and inspired by Japan to audiences in NYC and beyond through North American tours organized by Japan Society. Programs range from the traditional arts to contemporary theater, dance and music. Since the establishment of the Performing Arts Endowment in 2005, the Society also commissions non-Japanese artists to create Japan-related new works through fostering cross-cultural collaboration that has become part of its important mission.

Support for the 2022-2023 Japan Society Performing Arts Season

Lead Sponsor: MetLife Foundation. 

The season is made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.Major support is generously provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation and Doug and Teresa Peterson. Endowment support is provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund and the Endowment for the Performing Arts, established with a leadership gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Additional support is provided by Dr. and Mrs. Carl F. Taeusch II, Dr. Jeanette C. Takamura, Estate of Alan M. Suhonen, Susan McCormac, Sarah Billinghurst Solomon and Howard Solomon, Nancy and Joe Walker, Dr. John K. Gillespie, Paula S. Lawrence, Hiroko Onoyama, Lyndley and Samuel Schwab, and Nora and David Tezanos. Transportation assistance is provided by All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. Yamaha is the official piano provider of Japan Society. MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception is provided by MetLife Foundation.

Program Support & Partners:

Yukio Mishima’s Hanjo is supported by Doug and Teresa Peterso and presented in association with Catapult Opera and NYU Skirball.

Behind-the-Scenes at My Neighbour Totoro is supported by Doug and Teresa Peterson.

Miranda Curtis CMG – RSC Lead Production Supporter of My Neighbour Totoro

LOEWE is the Headline Sponsor for My Neighbour Totoro

note to a friend is co-produced with Tokyo Bunka Kaikan and is supported by Doug and Teresa Peterson, with special cooperation from The Japan Foundation, New York. Additional support is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. This project is presented by Japan Society as part of PROTOTYPE Festival 2023.

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