London, United Kingdom
Japanese Opera - Noh
Painting - Enamels On Wood
Noh (ÄÜ N¨?), or Nogaku (ÄÜ˜S N¨gaku?) - derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent" - is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Traditionally, a Noh "performance day" lasts all day and consists of five Noh plays interspersed with shorter, humorous ky¨gen pieces. However, present-day Noh performances often consist of two Noh plays with one Ky¨gen play in between.
While the field of Noh performance is extremely codified, and regulated by the iemoto system, with an emphasis on tradition rather than innovation, some performers do compose new plays or revive historical ones that are not a part of the standard repertoire. Works blending Noh with other theatrical traditions have also been produced. Together with the closely related ky¨gen farce, Noh evolved from various popular, folk and aristocratic art forms, including Dengaku, Shirabyoshi, and Gagaku.
Kan'ami and his son Zeami Motokiyo brought Noh to what is essentially its present-day form during the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573) under the patronage of the powerful Ashikaga clan, particularly the third shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It would later influence other dramatic forms such as Kabuki and Butoh. During the Meiji era, although its governmental patronage was lost, Noh and ky¨gen received official recognition as two of the three national forms of drama.
By tradition, Noh actors and musicians only rehearse together once, a few days before the actual performance. Generally, each actor, musician, and chorus member practises his or her fundamental movements, songs, and dances independently, under the tutelage of a senior member of the school. Thus, the mood of a given performance is not set by any single performer but established by the interactions of all the performers together. In this way, Noh could be seen as exemplifying the medieval Japanese aesthetics of transience, exemplified by the saying of Sen no Rikyu, "ichi-go ichi-e", "one chance, one meeting".
One of the important centres of Noh was Nagoya, which upholds its tradition in today's Nagoya Noh Theatre.
January 22nd, 2012
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