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 Nakamura Baigyoku as Kud˘
and some of the most popular young stars in Kabuki with Onoe Sh˘roku as Gor˘ and
Onoe Kikunosuke as Jűr˘.
Musume D˘j˘ji: a beautiful young woman dances under cherry blossoms
at a dedication ceremony for a temple bell. She dances the many aspects of a
woman in love, but is actually the spirit of a serpent, driven to destroy the
bell out of jealousy. In addition to being the most famous of all Kabuki dances,
"Musume D˘j˘ji" is considered to be the pinnacle of the art of the onnagata.
The role of the shiraby˘shi
is played by Living National Treasure Sakata T˘jűr˘, who performs at the Hakataza his kiju kinen dance.
Kamiyui Shinza: Shinza is a barber that goes from door to door, but at
the same time, he is a villain that kidnaps Okuma, the beautiful daughter of a
wealthy household, and even resists the efforts of Yatagor˘ Genshichi, the most
prestigious strongman in town, to get her release. Starring Onoe Kikugor˘ as Shinza,
Onoe Kikunosuke as Okuma, Nakamura Tokiz˘ as Chűshichi and Ichikawa Danz˘ as Yatagor˘ Genshichi.
Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami: Sugawara no Michizane was a
high-ranking imperial court minister who was a brilliant calligrapher and scholar.
But political rivalries forced him to be exiled to distant Kyűshű,
where he died. After Michizane's death, a series of disasters in the imperial
capital were attributed to his angry spirit and he was appeased by being made a god,
Tenjin, and he is now revered as the god of learning. His story was dramatized as
an epic puppet drama in 1746 and the play remains a favorite in both Kabuki and
the Bunraku puppet theatre. The two acts of
this month production don't focus on the drama of Sugawara himself but
on the triplets, Matsu˘maru, Ume˘maru and Sakuramaru, three brothers named
after the pine, plum and cherry trees, who each serve the heads of different
political factions. The key character is Sakuramaru, who has to commit suicide
in the second act to atone for what he did in the first one.
(The Kamo Riverbank)
Young Sakuramaru (Nakamura Baigyoku) serves imperial prince Tokiyo (Nakamura Matsue) who has fallen in
love with Princess Kariya (Nakamura Baishi), Michizane's beautiful daughter.
Sakuramaru and his wife Yae (Nakamura Tokiz˘) are charmed by the affair, since
it reminds them of their own love. But the affair is discovered and Michizane's
rivals use it as proof that he is attempting to take over the imperial court.
This innocent love affair triggers the tragedies of the play.
Ga no Iwai:
(The Birthday Celebration)
The three brothers are supposed to gather with their wives for their father
Shiratayű's (Ichikawa Sadanji) birthday, but Sakuramaru does not appear.
While waiting, Matsu˘maru (Nakamura Kanjaku) and Ume˘maru (Onoe Sh˘roku)
get into a fight and break the branches of the cherry tree.
Shiratayű sees this and disowns both Ume˘maru and Matsu˘maru for their
failures in duty. In fact, Shiratayű knows that these are omens that his
youngest son must die. When everybody leaves, Sakuramaru appears and sadly
commits ritual suicide for being responsible for the incident used as an
excuse to send Michizane into exile.
Dattan: this is an evocative dance, that takes its name from a
Buddhist rite held every March at T˘daiji Temple in Nara.
The story is about a monk yearning for a woman he left behind.
Featuring Onoe Kikugor˘, Sakata T˘jűr˘ and Nakamura Kanjaku.
Benten Musume: this play is a sewamono (realistic play about commoners)
written by the late 19th century playwright Mokuami who is famous for his plays about thieves.
The thief Benten Koz˘ dresses up as a woman to commit extortion, but his plans are ruined when his disguise is seen through.
In the highlight of the play, he undresses, showing his colorful tattoos and introduces himself in a famous poetic speech.
Afterwards, he is joined by the members of his gang on a riverbank, and,
using the playwright's famous poetic rhythms, in turn, they each boast of their careers as thieves.
Onoe Kikunosuke stars as Benten Koz˘, with Ichikawa Danz˘ as Nippon Daemon and Onoe Sh˘roku as Nang˘ Rikimaru.
Source: Earphone Guide website