News / Asia

Metropolitan Opera Brings More Than Just Music to Japan

A scene from Act 3 of Donizetti's
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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs