Friday, July 1, 2011


I'm holed up in Tokyo for a few days and it's hot and humid. Normally I'd be walking, but memories of dehydration put paid to that idea.

So it's been off to some shows at night at Opera City, a large complex in Shinjuku and a short taxi ride from the hotel. As well as the New National Theatre (opera and ballet) where I saw Butterfly a few weeks ago, there's a concert hall and separate recital hall. The ballet was on, Romeo and Juliet (after MacMillan) in the theatre. Prokofiev - that's a score I like.

The usual pre-performance announcement (Japanese and English) wasn't quite as usual. After the customary electronice devices warning, and please don't lean forward as it restricts the view of the neighbours, came the announcement that the building we were in was built to the highest fire and earthquake protection standards, and in the event of an earthquake, please remain seated and bend forward. Well, now I've heard it all!

The performance was, how to put it, almost saved by the lovely, extremely delicate, joyously youthful dancing of Ono Ayako. Here she is aged 17. How gorgeous is that! You can imagine her Juliet some 7 years later. Everyone is so young here. The conductor looked like he should be at home doing his homework.

Next night to the concert hall for a subscription night at the Tokyo Philharmonic (100 years old and Tokyo's first symphony orchestra). We love concert halls, or had you noticed.

(entrance to concert hall, opera city)

Inside is timbered, an almost square very open and high vaulted space with a reflecting and lighting panel over the concert platform, though quite high up. Timber baffles protrude from the ceiling.

The sound was very bright and not particularly nice I thought. In fact everything sounded sharp to the point of wondering if they had tuned sharp (except the violinist, who seemed to be going the other way). The programme was Three Film Scores by Toru Takemitsu, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto (Teiko Maehashi, not having a good night) and the Shostakovich 5th. The Largo was good. The audience was wildly enthusiastic.

Tonight the Mahler 5!

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