News / Asia

    Metropolitan Opera Brings More Than Just Music to Japan

    A scene from Act 3 of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," taken during the Metropolitan Opera's tour to Japan, June 2011.
    A scene from Act 3 of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor," taken during the Metropolitan Opera's tour to Japan, June 2011.

    New York’s Metropolitan Opera may not have its two biggest stars on tour in Japan, but that has not dampened the troupe’s reception in the nuclear-stricken country.

    Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, says the cast and crew have stirred relief and celebration in Nagoya and Tokyo where they are performing this month.

    “The trip is unlike any other the Metropolitan Opera has taken here because we are the first major performing arts company to come to Japan since the earthquake,”Gelb told VOA from Tokyo, referring to the March 11 quake that triggered a tsunami and caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.


    Audio from Verdi’s “Don Carlo.” Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus. James Levine, conductor. Sony © 1994

    Other prominent acts, including the Vienna Boys Choir, the Lyon Orchestra and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, cancelled their scheduled tours of Japan following the nuclear accident.

    Fears of radiation also kept the Met’s acclaimed soprano Anna Netrebko and tenor Joseph Calleja at home.

    The opera company brought in radiation expert David Brenner of New York’s Columbia University to discuss the possible health effects of visiting Japan so soon after the nuclear meltdown.

    Brenner said there were some spikes in radiation doses in the capital shortly after the Fukushima accident, but the threat has eased. “The radiation doses in Tokyo right now are the same as they were last year,” Brennar said. “They basically returned to the same dose levels that were the case before the radiation accident.”

    Despite the assurances, Gelb says it was hard to allay all concerns because of the varied media coverage on the nuclear crisis.

    “They don’t always put things in context when one reads about the meltdown. They don’t also report the fact that Tokyo is okay,” he said. “So it’s understandable that those people who are prone to being anxious and nervous about things they don’t know about. And radiation’s certainly a subject that nobody knows too much about, so there was a lot of fear and anxiety.”

    The Met spent four years planning the Japan tour. And after assessing the risks, Gelb scrambled to make it happen. Soprano Marina Poplavskaya and tenors Marcelo Alvarez, Rolando Villazon and Alexey Dolgov replaced the missing stars.

    From left: Yonghoon Lee, Marina Poplavskaya, General Manager Peter Gelb, Principal Guest Conductor Fabio Luisi, Mariusz Kwiecien, Piotr Beczala, Barbara Frittoli, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Ekaterina Gubanova, and René Pape. (photo: Koichi Miura/Metropolitan Opera)

    The Metropolitan Opera’s tour has brought much needed business to Japan’s tourism industry and the theater world, which has been hard hit since the crisis.

    “The crews that work backstage, which typically work together with the crews of visiting theatrical groups have basically been unemployed,” said Gelb. “So they were particularly delighted to see us and have a chance to get back to work.”

    When the group arrived in Nagoya, Gelb said the entire hotel staff, from the chambermaids to the chefs, lined up along the street to wave to the company. He said the feelings of goodwill are mutual. “Almost everybody who’s supposed to be on this tour is on the tour,” he said. “And I think that everyone who’s here is absolutely thrilled, from the stagehands to members of the orchestra to the many super opera stars who have made the trip.”

    Gelb said the company is keeping things in perspective.

    “The inconvenience to the Met is nothing compared to the tragedy that the people of Japan have faced,” he said. “I think all the members of our company realize that if they can provide some small degree of solace to the citizens of Japan who can forget their worries for a couple of hours while they’re sitting in a performance of the Met, we’re delighted to do so.”

    The Metropolitan Opera’s seventh tour of Japan ends on June 19.

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora