Jan 15th: Noh performance

Today we saw the performance of two Noh plays–Haku Rakuten and Ikkaku sennin (the horned hermit). With each performance I found out something new about this art as well as about myself. For one, I realized that I’m¬†not physically capable of staying awake for the duration of two whole performances; I was awake for about 97% of the first play (having taken Diego’s advice to come hungry), but by the second play I’d eaten and the result was seeing the entrance of the performers and then waking up to see their frantic battle and exit from the stage. The performances were both striking and interesting in their own ways though.

As far as actual Noh performances, there were many interesting little things I was able to take note of that I couldn’t have seen as easily had I not seen a performance (like, for example, what appeared to be two tiny finger cups that the O-tsuzumi player used to produce the very loud and sharp sound).

For Haku Rakuten, I remembered most of the story and some of the translation pretty well and decided to try following along without use of the translation: I felt most accomplished when I was able to take note of specific words, which allowed me to know where in the story we had progressed. Along with the ability to identity which part of the script the actors were singing came the ability to see the abstract movements and dances of each performer and try to figure out which physical action they corresponded to. The easiest to notice was probably when the old fisherman started fishing (since he had an entire fishing pole to work with). On the other hand, probably the most abstract one was the conjuring of a divine wind towards the end (which Diego actually revealed to us was not completed quite successfully by the Shit this time, but could be seen in our imaginations nonetheless). I felt like in a the ending play, Ikaku Sennin, it was a lot easier to make out the diffeent actions and scenes thanks to the relative plethora of stage props the play featured.

There were also moments during the performances that words would probably fail to explain properly. When the Ji-utai sang at a certain pitch and volume at one point during Haku Rakuten, I felt the most haunting/sombre feeling, a moment I truly can’t explain. Also the abrupt start of the two child dragons in Ikkaku Sennin struck me with a similarly inexplicable feeling. Their voices created an ambiance that I doubt could be replicated in any other form of theater–it felt like a moment completely unique to Noh and physically demanded my attention from beginning to end. The performances were striking, each in their own ways, and I look forward to asking Udaka-san several questions about it tomorrow.

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