Last year, the live performance industry was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
With the closure of concert houses, the opera in particular found itself facing an uncertain future as musicians were no longer allowed to perform in front of live audiences in the traditional format. Fortunately, at a time when the entertainment world was thrown into a crisis, the Hibiya Festival set out to create opportunities for the artform to start afresh.
The collaborative effort of Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd. and Tokyo Midtown Management Co., Ltd. to provide a space for musicians to perform following the Hibiya Festival 2021’s cancellation has given spectators a great opportunity. They can view awe-inspiring performances of the Metropolitan Opera (MET) Orchestra members Amy Kauffman, Barbara Currie, Dov Scheindlin and Mariko Anraku from New York and Mihoko Kinoshita, soprano with the Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation, and get up close and personal with the performers via an online talk session that offers perspective and insight into the musicians’ performances.
From Tokyo to New York
On June 16, the organizers announced the presentation of a remotely filmed concert video on their YouTube platform, HIBIYA FES CHANNEL, featuring members of the MET and Kinoshita performing a series of operas. Prior to the release of the video, a live-streamed online talk session featuring the performers in New York and Tokyo was announced. This thought-provoking conversation premiered on the channel on June 18.
The MET Orchestra Musicians and Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation “Online Talk Session” featured Kinoshita in Tokyo and four musicians of MET in New York, who spoke about the aims, difficulties, and possibilities of collaborating across different spaces and time zones. During the half-hour session, which was conducted in both English and Japanese, the musicians shared insights on their unique circumstances as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the musicians hadn’t played since government-mandated states of emergency shut down concert venues and performances spaces. New York City was especially impacted by the outbreak of the virus, leaving many of the musicians unable to work and forcing them to adapt to stringent stay-at-home measures.
Thankfully, when the Hibiya Festival approached them with the opportunity to partner on a new venture—a collaborative, virtual theatrical presentation with Kinoshita in Tokyo—they were able to end their long performance hiatus and partake in an unforgettable and moving experience. In one segment of the talk, the musicians spoke about how although the Hibiya Festival created an avenue for them to perform in a high-quality setting despite the absence of a concert stage, not being able to hear or see each other during their preparation and playing posed formidable obstacles.
Kinoshita also went on to detail how she selected the pieces for the collaborative performances, drawing inspiration from loss and grief in a time of crisis, as well as seeking out heartwarming compositions to uplift musicians and audiences. Other members of the ensemble detailed how they overcame hurdles and fortified their audio-visual technology skills that enabled them to reach audiences. In the end, they were able to create a rich, sonic fusion that shocked and touched even the musicians themselves.
New Future for Opera
Their moving reactions are on display as they watch a preview of the video showing their performance of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, featuring Kinoshita filmed in scenic locations in Tokyo as the musicians simultaneously accompanied her from a New York studio. The exciting preview builds considerable anticipation for the full performance, which was added to YouTube on July 1 and features the performers showcasing pieces from Madame Butterfly, as well as “Ave Maria,” and “Song to the Moon.”
The concert marks the first occasion that members of the MET had performed as an ensemble since March 2020. As the world and the entertainment industry rebounds from the pandemic, the Hibiya Festival continues to offer musicians the chance to pursue their art while delighting audiences around the world with digital resources, proving that despite adversity, the opera remains resilient and creative. Nowadays, the opera house has transformed into a space that can be accessed from anywhere in the world, through collaboration, inspiration and technology.
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