The highlight of these February Grand Kabuki programs is the spectacular and beautiful dance-drama "Seki no To"!
The dance-drama "Kanda Matsuri" is also a rare treat as it was staged for the last time in October 1997.
"Soga no Ishidan" is famous for its tachimawari on giant stone steps followed by
a spectacular gand˘-gaeshi.
The others items -"Keya-mura", "Jinmon/Kumiuchi" and "Fudeya K˘bŕ"- are classics whose leading actors
are respectively the Heisei stage giants
Onoe Kikugor˘, Nakamura Kichiemon and Matsumoto K˘shir˘.
Soga no Ishidan: In the Edo period, the medieval Soga brothers,
who endured eighteen years of hardship before they avenged the death
of their father, became popular guardian gods and hundreds of plays about
their exploits appeared. This particular rarely performed play shows the
brothers confronting the two men who killed their father in a fight
scene on a set of stone steps, then the set turns over in a
spectacular transition to reveal the next scene which takes place
in the pleasure quarters. Starring Nakamura Karoku as Kud˘ Suketsune, the man
that had the father of the Soga brothers killed, Nakamura Mantar˘ as the wise and
restrained Soga no Jűr˘ and Nakamura Kash˘ as the impetuous Soga no Gor˘.
Featuring Nakamura Shibajaku and Nakamura Baishi as the courtesans ďiso no Tora (Jűr˘'s lover) and Kewaizaka no Sh˘sh˘ (Gor˘'s lover).
Featuring also Nakamura Matagor˘ and Nakamura Kinnosuke in a spectacular fight scene on a stone stairway.
Keya-mura: Rokusuke (Living National Treasure Onoe Kikugor˘), a sword master who lives a simple country life,
is taking care of a small foundling child. He hangs the boy's kimono outside his house in
the hope that the boy's relatives will see it and know where he is.
One day he finds himself attacked by a woman named Osono (Nakamura Tokiz˘)
who turns out to be the aunt of the child. As they talk, they find that they are in fact linked by promises of marriage
although they have never met directly. Osono is searching for Ky˘goku no Takumi (Ichikawa Danz˘), the killer of her father, Rokusuke's master, and
Rokusuke promises to help in her vendetta.
Seki no To:
(The Snowbound Barrier)
A snow-covered barrier decorated by a mysteriously blooming cherry tree provides
the background for the larger-than-life story of a traitorous aristocrat
disguised as a barrier guard and the beautiful woman, actually a supernatural
spirit in disguise, that will defeat him. Onoe Kikunosuke(the keisei Sumizome, in reality the spirit of Komachi's cherry tree),
Matsumoto K˘shir˘ (Sekibŕ, in reality ďtomo no Kuronushi), Onoe Kikunosuke (Ono no Komachi) and Nakamura Kinnosuke (Yoshimine Munesada)
star in what is considered to be one of the greatest Kabuki dance-dramas.
Jinmon/Kumiuchi: one of the greatest stories from the Japanese
tradition is the encounter of the Genji warrior Kumagai and the young Heike
general Atsumori. Although they are enemies, Kumagai would like to spare Atsumori
because he is the same age as his own son, but the necessities of wartime
force him to kill Atsumori nonetheless and this experience fills Kumagai
with disgust at warfare and makes him become a priest. This Kabuki version of
the story is filled with plot twists to emphasize the pathos of the situation.
Starring Living National Treasure Nakamura Kichiemon as Kumagai and Onoe Kikunosuke as Atsumori, with Nakamura Shibajaku as Atsumori's lover
Kanda Matsuri: this is a Kabuki 1839 dance-drama, which depicts a lively festival
at the Kanda My˘jin Shrine in downtown Edo.
Starring Living National Treasure Onoe Kikugor˘ as a tobigashira. Featuring also Nakamura Tokiz˘, Nakamura Shibajaku and Ichikawa Komaz˘ as geisha.
Fudeya K˘bŕ: first performed in 1885, this play by Kawatake Mokuami
shows the disruptions in society caused by the Meiji Restoration.
In the Edo period, the samurai were on top of society, but in the new
Meiji world, a samurai unable to find a new way of becoming a success
got left behind. This play stars Matsumoto K˘shir˘ as a former samurai named K˘bŕ,
who makes a meager living making writing brushes. Since his wife has died,
he must raise his three children by himself, but his oldest daughter is blind
and the youngest boy is a baby. K˘bŕ is helped by a generous woman named Omura (Nakamura Kaishun),
but everything that he has is taken by a moneylender and he decides that
he and his family have no choice but to commit suicide. Suddenly, there
is the sound of merry music from a party at the house of a rich man next
door and something in K˘bŕ snaps. He starts to dance madly around,
doing the dance from the N˘ theatre of the ghost of Tomomori with a
ragged broom in place of a magnificent halbard. This scene is the
highlight of the play and is a virtuoso test of the actor's skills.
Featuring also Band˘ Hikosabur˘, ďtani Tomoemon and Nakamura Kinnosuke.
Sources: Earphone Guide Website or Sh˘chiku Kabuki Official Website