Italian opera group seeks to blend Japan, Italy

Italian opera group seeks to blend Japan, Italy
Artistic director Hirofumi Yoshida, center, and other people connected to an Italian opera company discuss the location of a stage and other issues in front of Himeji Castle’s main castle tower in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture.

HIMEJI, Hyogo - Five members of a noted Italian opera company recently visited Himeji Castle here to inspect the castle's Bizenmaru, the former site of its honmaru main building, where the company is scheduled to perform an opera in September.

This is the first time that an opera will be performed at the castle, according to the Himeji municipal government.

The visiting members of Teatro Comunale di Bologna seemed impressed, with one member saying, "There is no place more luxurious than Himeji Castle, which has the right conditions in which to perform an opera."

The five members included Hirofumi Yoshida, artistic director of the company's philharmonic orchestra, and director Gabriele Marchesini.

They visited the site on March 19, and with the help of staff from the castle's management office, confirmed the shape of the site, the location of the stage, acoustics and how to move equipment in and out.

There are architectural remains near the stone wall of the main castle tower, so the visitors made careful arrangements, asking the staff the precise distance that the stage will be from the remains.

Based in Bologna, Italy, the company plans to perform "Pagliacci," composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo. The company chose Himeji Castle as the site because the opera is often performed at or in front of castles in various regions in Italy, according to Yoshida.

"We'd like to present high culture at Himeji Casle, a castle Japan is proud of," Yoshida said.

One reason for choosing "Pagliacci" is that one of its arias was used in a commercial here, so the opera is known in Japan.

The stage to be built in front of the main castle tower will be designed to blend in with the castle through such means as painting stone-like patterns on lighting equipment, according to a company member.

"I think Himeji Castle, the most beautiful castle in Japan, and the supreme art that is opera will blend well," Yoshida said.

Calling Bizenmaru a beautiful place, Marchesini said he wanted to bring Japan and Italy's traditions together, not just present an opera in front of a castle.

This is not the first time for the company to perform an opera at one of the nation's World Heritage sites. The company performed an opera at Kyoto's Kiyomizudera temple in October 2013 and at Kyoto's Nijojo castle in September 2014.

"Pagliacci" will be performed on the evenings of Sept. 17 and 19.

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