January 2009 is an important month for the Kabukiza, which starts its series
of 16 Kabukiza Sayonara K˘en (Kabukiza Farewell Performances), which will be held up to April 2010.
The year starts with an amazing program, full of all-times favourites:
Shiki Sanbas˘: Okina is the oldest ritual in the N˘ theater. This Kabuki version shows Okina, an old man who symbolizes eternal youth,
his attendant Senzai and the vigorous Sanbas˘, who perform dances solemnly for good fortune.
Sanbas˘ dances vigorously, stamping and shaking bells,
praying for agricultural fertility and prosperity for all.
This dances features Nakamura Baigyoku and Nakamura Tomijűr˘ in the roles of Sanbas˘ and Okina. It also features two Senzai,
Onoe Kikunosuke and Onoe Sh˘roku.
Shunkan: the priest Shunkan (Matsumoto K˘shir˘) has been exiled to Devil's Island for
plotting against the dictator Kiyomori. A pardon is given to his fellow conspirators, but
Shunkan is only saved by an additional pardon given by Kiyomori's compassionate son. Even so,
he gives up his place on the boat to freedom so his companion's new wife can accompany
her husband back to the capital. The boat leaves and Shunkan is left watching is disappear
in the distance, knowing he will be left on the island forever.
Featuring Band˘ Hikosabur˘ as the evil emissary Senoo and Nakamura Baigyoku as
the merciful envoy Tanzaemon. With Nakamura Shibajaku as the island girl Chidori and Ichikawa Somegor˘ as Naritsune,
Shunkan's fellow exile who has fallen in love with her.
Izayoi Seishin: love suicides are common in Kabuki, but usually as the conclusion
of a play, a tragic end to a love that cannot be. The playwright Kawatake Mokuami gave this play
an ironic turn by putting the love suicide at the very beginning of the play.
The priest Seishin (Onoe Kikugor˘) and the courtesan Izayoi (Nakamura Tokiz˘) are ostracized for having an affair.
Seishin decides to forget her and concentrate on his religious training. Before he can leave,
though, Izayoi convinces him to die with her. They throw themselves into a river,
but both survive. Unaware that Izayoi is still alive and given the chance to start again,
Seishin gives up his religious vows and turns to a life of crime.
With Nakamura Kichiemon as the poet Hakuren, in reality the thief ďdera Sh˘bei.
Sagi Musume: one of the most famous dances in Kabuki, this figure is familiar through
pictures and Japanese dolls. A beautiful young woman all in white appears in the snowy landscape.
She dances lightly of love, but then reveals that she is the spirit of a bird, a magnificent heron
that struggles wounded through a snowstorm. Starring onnagata
superstar Band˘ Tamasabur˘ in a dance that he has made famous through performances around the world.
Soga no Taimen: this is one of the oldest and most classical of all
Kabuki plays. In the Edo period, every January, plays appeared about the vendetta
carried out by the Soga brothers Jűr˘ and Gor˘ after eighteen years of hardship.
In "Soga no Taimen" the brothers confront Kud˘ Suketsune, the man responsible for
their father's death. More ceremony than play, it features each of the important
Kabuki character types, including the bombastic aragoto
style of Gor˘ and the soft wagoto style
of Jűr˘. This month features a cast headed by Matsumoto K˘shir˘ as Kud˘
and some of the most popular young stars in Kabuki with Nakamura Kichiemon as Gor˘ and
Onoe Kikugor˘ as Jűr˘.
Kagami Jishi: one of the most important dances for onnagata female
role specialists and is an audience favorite. The maidservant Yayoi performs an
auspicious lion dance for the Sh˘gun in his opulent palace, but she gradually finds
herself under the control of the lion spirit. In the second half of the dance,
the lion spirit itself appears and performs its crazed dance among peonies and
fluttering butterflies. Starring Nakamura Kanzabur˘ as both Yayoi and the spirit of the lion.
(The Princess and the Sardine Seller)
A modern play by novelist Mishima Yukio, this recreates the leisurely, comic atmosphere of early 18th
century Kabuki. A sardine seller famous for his vigorous chanting falls in love with a beautiful
courtesan and disguises himself as a wealthy patron, only to discover that she is actually a
princess that ran away from her family after falling in love with the call of a sardine seller.
Starring Nakamura Kanzabur˘ as the sardine seller and Band˘ Tamasabur˘ as the princess.
Source: Earphone Guide website