‘Four Nights of Dream’

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‘Four Nights of Dream’

Post by lennygoran » Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:19 am

Never heard of Osada-we've been to Japan Society for art exhibits but didn't know about their musical events-the photo of the set looked interesting. Regards, Len

Review: A Japanese Writer’s Reveries Inspire ‘Four Nights of Dream’


A samurai, balked on his path to enlightenment, contemplates killing his spiritual adviser, or himself. A likable wastrel takes up with a beautiful woman, who offers him the choice of leaping from a precipice to his death or being licked by a pig, as ultimately happens. A father trudges a great distance, with his blind son on his back, only to discover the child is a man he murdered 100 years before. A dying woman asks a man to bury her and wait 100 years for her return — as a white lily.

Epitomizing the muddled quality of dreams, these stories — wisps of fitfully coherent narrative, each sketched in a mere two or three pages of Natsume Soseki’s slim 1908 volume “Ten Nights’ Dreams” — might seem unlikely grist for an opera.

Yet there it was on Wednesday evening in the renovated auditorium of the Japan Society, Moto Osada’s “Four Nights of Dream,” a chamber opera, in a new staging by Alec Duffy, a coproduction with the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, to open the society’s 110th season in grand fashion.

The opera, the first by Mr. Osada, a New York-based Japanese composer, had its premiere in Sweden in 2008. It uses a Western contemporary idiom and Western instruments, played here by the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Chamber Orchestra, incisively conducted by Ken-David Masur.

The concept is intriguing, and there is much to admire in this production: Mimi Lien’s set design, Oana Botez’s costumes and Raja Feather Kelly’s choreography. But Tuce Yasak’s lighting design, while sometimes evocative, often assaulted eyes that had grown used to darkness.

Still, there is a fundamental problem for anyone familiar with Soseki’s feather-light “Ten Nights’ Dreams,” with its quintessential economy of language and evanescent images. To add music and try to tease out a plot is to weigh down the original and make it earthbound. Some scenes dragged on too long.

And for anyone not familiar with Soseki, Mr. Osada’s English libretto was probably hard to follow in the absence of projected titles, which might have made a nice substitute for some of the lighting gimmicks. Though much of the text setting was almost recitative-like in nature and easily understood when solo singing was involved, some of the words were lost in long, flowing lines, like those by the fine lyric soprano Marisa Karchin in the final scene.

Others were covered by competing voices or the brilliant orchestration. And that orchestration was compelling in itself, so effective in setting a mood that it was almost easier at times to see the work as a four-movement symphony with voices rather than a four-act opera supported by an orchestra.

In any case, it was splendidly performed by the Japanese players and a small vocal cast. Makoto Winkler, after a tentative start amid manic lighting effects, was impressive as the samurai. Christopher Sokolowski, in the father’s measured plod around the auditorium, sang with solid, attractive tone; Jesse Malgieri was a winsome idler, and Gloria Park striking as his tormentor.

In all, this was a refreshingly original take on Western opera, notable for its daring concept, however flawed in the execution.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/15/arts ... collection

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