Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Enjoying Rome's Academies: Kabuki in Rome

Shibajaku Nakamura VII, one of Japan's most famous Kabuki actors
We're fans of the international academies in Rome, and scout the papers for their programs.  One day this year there was a promotion for a "Kabuki conference."  And, there was a big and expensive (as in too rich for our blood at Euro 100+ per ticket) Kabuki show in town.  So we decided to try out this free "conference,"  billed as complete with one of Japan's preeminent Kabuki stars and musicians playing tamburi and shamisen in costume. 

The Japanese Cultural Academy was packed with several hundred people and was SRO.  The "conference" turned out to be a Kabuki star explaining the Japanese drama form - in Japanese, translated into Italian.  We waited patiently through this; it was sprinkled with a bit of music from the traditional instruments. 

And then we were promised a demonstration of an actor getting into costume.  The actor in this case was a 20-something Japanese youth who set up his make-up table and proceeded to turn himself into a Japanese geisha.  The transformation was spell-binding.  In Kabuki, as in classical Shakespearan drama, men play all the roles, including the female ones.  And becoming a Kabuki actor who portrays females is passed down in the family.  When the young actor passed through the audience in mincing female steps and demeanor, we were in awe.

That's 55 year-old Shibajaku Nakamura VII in the photo, who explained the art to us, and also explained that he inherited the art from his father.  He is famous in Japan for the "elegance and expressive richness" of his portrayal of female roles. 

Hey, we were impressed!


1 comment:

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

Alison writes: "Fascinating post. Would love to have seen that transformation."