NOTE TO A FRIEND
In response to Japan Society’s commission for a new chamber opera, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang combined and reimagined three texts by iconic Japanese novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The result is this stunning and haunting monodrama, note to a friend, addressing our eternal human fascinations with death, love, family and suicide. Theater luminary Yoshi Oida, Paris-based opera director and longtime member of Peter Brook’s international theater company, directs this world premiere for the legendary New York vocalist Theo Bleckmann. The musicians are from Japan, and have been selected by Tokyo Bunka Kaikan in Japan, co-producer of this production. Don’t miss this meetup of international gems!
*Please note the performance on Thursday, January 12 will be followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artist Reception, and the performance on Saturday, January 14 will be followed by an artist conversation.
note to a friend is co-produced by Japan Society and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, and is supported by Doug and Teresa Peterson, with special cooperation from The Japan Foundation, New York. Additional support is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. This project, commissioned and presented by Japan Society, makes its world premiere as part of PROTOTYPE Festival 2023.
333 E 47th St
New York, NY 10017
Subway: 4,5,6,7 and S at Grand Central Station; 6 at 51st Street and Lexington Avenue, E,M at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street.
Bus: M15, M101, M102, M50
Public Parking nearby
Lang is one of America’s most performed composers. Many of his works resemble each other only in the fierce intelligence and clarity of vision that inform their structures. His catalogue is extensive, and his opera, orchestra, chamber and solo works are by turns ominous, ethereal, urgent, hypnotic, unsettling and very emotionally direct. Much of his work seeks to expand the definition of virtuosity in music — even the deceptively simple pieces can be fiendishly difficult to play and require incredible concentration by musicians and audiences alike. Lang is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations, Musical America’s Composer of the Year, Carnegie Hall’s Debs Composer’s Chair, the Rome Prize, the BMW Music-Theater Prize (Munich), and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Lang is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can. His work has been recorded on the Sony Classical, Harmonia Mundi, Teldec, BMG, Point, Chandos, Argo/Decca, and Cantaloupe labels, among others. His music is published by Red Poppy Music and G. Ricordi & Co., New York (ASCAP) and is is distributed worldwide by the Universal Music Publishing Group.
Yoshi Oida (b. 1933) is a Japanese director/actor living in Paris. He is active in various European countries, the United States and Japan. He is internationally known as a crucial actor for theater director Peter Brook since the 1970s. In the last two decades, he has become recognized further as one of the most sought-after opera directors, especially in Europe. Major opera productions Oida has directed include: Death in Venice (Aldeburgh Festival, U.K., 2007, and other 8 European cities and Toronto, Canada), Idomeneo (National Theatre, Prague.2010), Les Pêcheurs de Perles (Opera Comique, Paris, 2012); Peter Grimes (Opera de Lyon, 2014); Madame Butterfly (Opera Goteborg, Sweden, 2016); War Requiem (Opera de Lyon, 2017); Shion Story (a new opera by Akira Nishimura, New National Theatre Tokyo, 2019). His production of Curlew River premiered in 1998 at Festival d’Aix-En-Provence has been performed in many cities in Europe and was presented at Japan Society in New York in 2007 as part of its 100th anniversary. His most recent acting appearance in New York City was in Shun-kin, directed by Simon McBurney, presented at Lincoln Center Festival in 2013. He is an author of several books, including An Actor Adrift (1993), which has been translated into eight languages, The Invisible Actor (1997), translated into five languages, and An Actor’s Tricks (2008) in three languages. He received Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1992, Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2007, and Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 2013, the highest honor that the French government gives to artists. https://www.yoshioida.com/
Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, pseudonym Chōkōdō Shujin or Gaki, (born March 1, 1892, Tokyo, Japan—died July 24, 1927, Tokyo), prolific Japanese writer known especially for his stories based on events in the Japanese past and for his stylistic virtuosity. As a boy Akutagawa was sickly and hypersensitive, but he excelled at school and was a voracious reader. He began his literary career while attending Tokyo Imperial University (now the University of Tokyo), where he studied English literature from 1913 to 1916. The publication in 1915 of his short story “Rashōmon” led to his introduction to Natsume Sōseki, the outstanding Japanese novelist of the day. With Sōseki’s encouragement he began to write a series of stories derived largely from 12th- and 13th-century collections of Japanese tales but retold in the light of modern psychology and in a highly individual style. He ranged wide in his choice of material, drawing inspiration from such disparate sources as China, Japan’s 16th-century Christian community in Nagasaki, and European contacts with 19th-century Japan. Many of his stories have a feverish intensity that is well-suited to their often macabre themes. In 1922 he turned toward autobiographical fiction, but Akutagawa’s stories of modern life lack the exotic and sometimes lurid glow of the older tales, perhaps accounting for their comparative unpopularity. His last important work, “Kappa” (1927), although a satiric fable about elflike creatures (kappa), is written in the mirthless vein of his last period and reflects his depressed state at the time. His suicide came as a shock to the literary world. Akutagawa is one of the most widely translated of all Japanese writers, and a number of his stories have been made into films. The film classic Rashomon (1950), directed by Kurosawa Akira, is based on a combination of Akutagawa’s story by that title and another story of his, “Yabu no naka” (1921; “In a Grove”).