Photograph: Jacques Moatti
Modern composer Maki Ishii's musical suite Kaguyahime, which debuted in 1984, will be performed by the Paris Opera Ballet as a new production at the Opéra Bastille in June and July, 2010. Directed by Jiří Kylian, one of modern ballet's most celebrated choreographers, seven members of Kodo will join the Paris Opera Ballet, western percussionists, and a gagaku (old Japanese court music) ensemble for this production. This will mark the first time for a taiko group to ever take the stage at the Opéra National de Paris.
The musical suite Kaguyahime was originally created as a comprehensive stage production including a Japanese percussion ensemble, a Western percussion ensemble, ballet, pantomime, and spoken word, making it an especially unique performance piece among Maki Ishii’s numerous works.
The suite was first performed in 1984 at the Berlin Opera House, with music performed by Kodo and the Opera Percussionists. In 1985 the version incorporating ballet made its debut featuring the Tokyo Star Dancers Ballet, Kodo and the Percussion Ensemble Okada of Japan.
In 1988 Maki Ishii and Jiří Kylian joined forces to bring Kaguyahime to the next level, creating a whimsical combination of Eastern and Western art that was showered with critical acclaim. This show first took place at the Holland Dance Festival featuring Kodo's own Katsuji Kondo, and the world has waited eagerly for the return of this incredible international collaboration.
Opéra Bastille, Paris
Written by renowned composer Maki Ishii specifically for Kodo, Kaguyahime is a production of Eastern and Western Percussion combined with ballet. This piece was a veritable showcase of Kodo's diverse range of talent, harnessing every last one of the performance techniques the group used on stage at the time it was written, from Ishii's "Monochrome" and "Dyu-Ha," to Kodo standards such as "Miyake," "Yatai-Bayashi," and "Gezan-Bayashi." Said Ishii, "I used every single idea that came to mind, to the extent I think I won't be able to write anything fresh for Kodo again."
The first performance of "Kaguyahime" in 1984 was as a musical suite, and so the story was told in music. The percussionists were directed in a way that would add a visual story-telling element to the production. For example, there is a scene where the aristocrats and the villagers battle over Kaguyahime (Princess Kaguya), and I remember Kodo played western percussion and the Western percussionists played taiko to create a battle scene.
In 1985, the ballet element was added, and this became Kodo's first time to play music for ballet. Even now, I think this composition is rare in the ballet world, and having this kind of production at the Paris Opera House will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. This time under new artistic direction, it is truly exciting and a great honor for Kodo to join the Paris Opera Ballet on the Opera Bastille stage to perform "Kaguyahime."