Saturday, October 24, 2020

360. NOH-KYOGEN. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975

Noh play Funa Benkei.

NOH-KYOGEN [Dramas/Comedies/Japan/Japanese Language] P: The Carnegie Hall Corporation and Pacific World Artists, Inc., under the Sponsorship of the Foreign Ministry of Japan, K.B.S., and the Asahi Shinbun; T: Carnegie Hall (OB); 3/24/71-3/26/71 (3)

Kyogen: Boshibari (Tied to a Pole), Futari Daimyo (Two Daimyo), Shido Hogaku (Shido Hogaku, the Horse), Futari Bakama (Two Pairs of Trousers)

Noh: Funa Benkei (Benkei in the Boat), Aoi no Ue (Lady Aoi), Sumidagawa (The Sumida River)

Three one-night programs of two of Japan’s classical theatrical forms, billed as the National Theatre of Japan, the dramatic noh and the comical kyōgen, on each of which one from each genre was performed. Noh and kyōgen are closely related and usually appear together on the same program in Japan. A kyōgen actor may play a special kyōgen part in a noh play, but noh actors never act in kyōgen plays. These forms go back to the 14th century, although their antecedents predate them by several centuries. The noh company represented during this visit was of the Konparu school, the kyōgen of the Izumi.

Mel Gussow, viewing the first program, thought the noh “intense and fascinating,” but the kyōgen seemed “too unsubtle and tedious.” He was distressed by the inappropriateness of the spacious Carnegie Hall as a venue for such intimate works. “But,” he admitted, “even half-seen and in an alien setting setting, this is a rare and indelible experience.”

Kyogen play, Futari Daimyo, seen in 1971.

A kyōgen troupe visited Carnegie Hall without the noh on April 16, 1975, for two performances presented by Kazuko Hillyer. They brought back Boshibari, and added Urinusubito (The Melon Thief) an Kusabira (Mushrooms).