Kabuki Club: The Sumidagawa Project

Three versions. One haunting tale. A mother searches for her lost son. Driven half-mad with worry, she meets a ferryman on the Sumida River who may know something. But is she prepared to learn the truth? The tragic story of Sumidagawa has haunted Japanese and Western artists for hundreds of years. Join us as we explore three very different versions of the story: Noh theatre, Kabuki theatre, and Britten’s chamber opera.

Check out the links below and explore on your own one of the most haunting tales in world history.

Related Links

General links about Noh, Kabuki, and other Japanese performing arts are here.

Videos (see also Related Videos below)

Synopses/Translations/Primary Sources

Commentary

Related Videos

Performance Reviews

  • Review of Yoshi Oida’s production of Curlew River in New York (2007)
  • Reviews of Olivier Py’s production of Curlew River, Lyceum, Edinburgh (2005)
  • Review of Czech production of Curlew River (2005) – pp. 40 ff.
  • Reviews of Graham Vick’s production of Curlew River at BBC Prom 17 in London (2004)
  • Review of Graham Vick’s production of Curlew River at BBC Prom 17 in London by Nick Breckenfield (2004)
  • Review of Kinki Sakurama’s production of Curlew River in Suffolk, England (2001)
  • Review of Chanticleer’s production of Curlew River in San Francisco (1998)
  • Review of Voice of the Spirit, London Voices recording of Curlew River at the Academy of St Martin in the Fields (1998)
  • Review of Sumidagawa (Tessenkai Noh Troupe) and Curlew River (Jonathan Eaton production) by Anthony Tommasini (1997)
  • Review of Sumidagawa (Tessenkai Noh Troupe) and Curlew River (Jonathan Eaton production) by Lindsley Cameron (1997)
  • Review of St Giles’s Church performance of Curlew River in Cripplegate, City of London (1996)
  • Review of Center for Contemporary Opera’s production of Curlew River (1988)
  • Review of Southwestern University’s production of Curlew River in Texas (1985)
  • Review of Chamber Opera Theater’s production of Curlew River (1984)
  • Excellent review of the original production of Curlew River (1966)
  • Review of the original production of Curlew River (1965)
  • Sumidagawa (Natsu Nakajima’s Butoh version) / Curlew River performances in Vancouver, Canada (2007)
  • Sumidagawa (Susumu Yoshida’s opera version), France (2007/2008)

In 2011, JETAANC Kabuki Club explored three versions of the story: Noh theatre, Kabuki theatre, and Britten’s chamber opera:

Sumidagawa (Noh version) September 11, 2011, 2pm, Center for Japanese Studies, UC Berkeley First performed in medieval Japan, the Noh version of Sumidagawa has moved audiences for centuries with its particular blend of mystery and pathos. A master work in the kyojomono category of Noh play—dramas of madwomen.

Sumidagawa (Kabuki version) September 18, 2011, 2pm, Oakland Asian Cultural Center With inspiration from Russian ballet, the Noh version was adapted to the Kabuki stage. The result is one of the great modern masterpieces of Kabuki. The famed onnagata Nakamura Utaemon VI plays the mother in one of his signature roles.

Curlew River (chamber opera version) October 16, 2011, 2pm, Center for Japanese Studies, UC Berkeley With special guest, internationally-recognized actor, director, and composer, Jeffrey Bihr, director of Chanticleer’s critically acclaimed production of Curlew River. Benjamin Britten was a world-renowned composer when he saw the Noh Sumidagawa in Japan in 1956. Intensely moved, he vowed to write a chamber opera of the story. Transposing the setting to the Curlew River in medieval England, Britten composed a powerful and touching parable for our times.