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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad 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.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Trade Talks Could Heat Up in 2015

With boosting trade a top priority for the Obama administration, 2015 may be the year that an agreement is finally reached on the Trans Pacific Partnership. But the trade deal, which is intended to boost trade between 12 Pacific countries, faces opposition as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school

All About America

AppleAndroid