| Minoru Miki Opera
|Reviews for "Ai-en ~ To Die for Love ~" DVD
performed in Tokyo in Jul. 2006 by the New National Theatre in Tokyo
Ai-en Review 1
Moroishi Sachio, Record Geijutsu, July 2008, Monthly Review for New Releases
Ai-en (To Die for Love), a major operatic work by Miki Minoru which premiered in 2006, has been released as a DVD. This is his eighth opera, with libretto by Setouchi Jakucho, Japan’s prominent woman writer, and consists of fourteen scenes in three acts, total performance time 160 minutes. The story takes place in both eighth-century Nara (Japan’s then capital) and Tang China. Young Ono Kiyoto is appointed to the government mission (kento-shi) to China with instructions to bring back Ai-en, a pipa (Chinese lute) piece that has been carefully guarded as a secret. Kiyoto leaves his lover, Sakurako behind, and when he is shipwrecked on the way to China, Sakurako, who is misinformed of his death, kills herself. Actually Kiyoto does not die and continues his journey in China in pursuit of Ai-en. And when he finally comes across the piece, he is enraptured by Ryurei, a virtuosa pipa player and the living image of Sakurako. It is soon disclosed that Ryurei is Sakurako’s twin sister and that the secret piece was in fact composed by their father. Kiyoto is deeply moved by this solemn fate (end of Act Two). In the scene where the melody of Ai-en is transmitted to Kiyoto, the story reaches its climax with a conflict between sublime love and cruel reality.
The music includes the beautiful and mysterious pipa piece Ai-en as the title song, along with attractive arias and part-singings, and shows the composer’s musical maturity with an elaborate orchestration that constantly captures audience’s attention. The DVD, with its superior tone and image qualities, offers an appreciation quite different from the stage premiere and will hopefully be watched and enjoyed by as many people as possible.
Ai-en Review 2
Matsuoka Nobuyasu, Record Geijutsu, July 2008, Monthly Review for New Releases
This magnificent story (with libretto by Setouchi Jakucho) unfolds in both Japan and China of the eighth century around the fate of Ono Kiyoto, who is ordered to bring back the secret pipa (Chinese lute) piece Ai-en from Tang China. It is a romantic tale that evolves around contradicting emotions of love (ai ) and jealousy (en). The appearance of such historic figures as Abe Nakamaro, Emperor Gensho, and Empress Koki should please history buffs.
Composer Miki Minoru took 33 years to complete this series of eight operas based on Japanese historic themes, and as this is the last of the series, the music is well-controlled and superbly written. Pipa player Yang Jing, who plays the title tune, is brilliant
The realistic staging is spiced with spectacle elements, and the go board games, which play a significant role in the dramatic development, are cleverly visualized. The singers make a powerful performance, and Otomo Naoto’s unpretentious conducting is admirable.
The DVD includes interviews with Setouchi and Miki, which will be a special delight for their fans.
Ai-en Review 3
Obata Tsuneo, Ongaku no Tomo, July 2008, DVD Gallery
Miki Minoru’s opera, Ai-en, performed at Tokyo’s New National Theatre in 2006, is a historical romance that takes place in eighth-century Japan and China and describes the fateful love affair of a young Japanese court musician and twin sisters. The libretto by Setouchi Jakucho is rich in language, the pipa (Chinese lute) performance of the secret tune Ai-en by Yang Jing dazzling, the lead singers Kamahora Yuko and Idane Yasuhiko most satisfying, and the contents abundant. This DVD reproduction offers a valuable and delightful opportunity to enjoy the premiere stage once more.
Ai-en Review 4
Yamamoto Yoshihiko, CD Journal, July 2008
The libretto by Setouchi Jakucho, while centered on the romance between a star-crossed couple, is intriguing and full of episodes. Some of the scenes are, in fact, quite humorous: for example, one cannot help laughing at the somewhat raunchy bantering among men on the streets of a southern Chinese city. The staging is excellent, and among others, Kamahora Yuko (soprano), who plays the double role of the twin sisters Sakurako and Ryurei, and Idane Yasuhiko (tenor), who plays the leading role of Ono Kiyoto, are outstanding. Miki Minoru’s excellent arias and part-singings designed to bring each voice forth should be particularly noted. The entire music livens up the drama effectively, the highlight of which is the secret pipa (Chinese lute) piece Ai-en, and the choruses perform a valuable role. My wish is for this wonderful achievement in modern Japanese opera to be seen by as many people as possible.
Ai-en Review 5
Ito Seiko, Bravo, June 2008
Ai-en, which premiered in 2006, is a masterpiece by Miki Minoru and the eighth and last of his lifework of historical operas. Miki’s operas are noted for their motifs of Japanese aesthetics, and in his earlier works like Joruri and Shunkin-sho, he succeeded in capturing his audiences by his music, which is both dramatic and rich in nuance. Foremost is the climax scene with the virtuoso performance of the title piece Ai-en, by pipa (Chinese lute) soloist Yang Jing. The powerful performance by such first-line singers as Kamahora Yuko is most noteworthy.
Ai-en Review 6
Weekly PIA, 26 June 2008
Opera Ai-en: Enjoy the world premiere performance on DVD!
Enjoying operas on DVD has become commonplace, but this is the first time for an opera performed at Japan’s principal opera house, New National Theatre, Tokyo, to be published as a DVD. This memorable DVD presents the premiere performance of Ai-en, the masterpiece opera by Miki Minoru with libretto by Setouchi Jakucho. Ai-en is the last of Miki’s series of eight operas, which took 33 years to complete, and the culmination of his musical gifts, which wed Asian traditional instruments with western music. This DVD will surely bring the sensation of Ai-en’s first performance to your home.