ICMA Jury member Juan Lucas from the Spanish music magazine Scherzo has written the libretto for Die Judith von Shimoda, an opera by Fabián Panisello for eight singers, chamber choir, ensemble, electronics and multimedia which will have its premiere on 17 August at the Bregenz Festival, and will then go to Vienna and to Madrid.
Juan Lucas adapted his libretto from the original text by Bertolt Brecht. Brecht wrote the piece in fall 1940, during his exile in Finland, together with his host, the playwright Hella Wuolijoki. They collaborated on an adaptation of Yamamoto Yuzo’s play The Sad Tale of a Woman, the Story of Chink Okichi from 1929.
Yamamoto Yuzo described different periods in Japan’s history and Chink Okichi offers the vision on the feudal system of the early Tokugawa period.
Brecht concludes his adaptation of Yuzo’s play by adding a prelude, 10 intermezzos and an epilogue between the scenes, played by a group of qualified observers, adding to the plot the Brecht characteristical “distancing effect”. This discursive technique will be translated to the musical and multimedia development of the piece as well.
Synopsis, by Juan Lucas: A mansion in Tokyo at the beginning of the 20th century. An English orientalist, an American journalist and a Japanese poet have been invited by the politician and press magnate Akimura to attend a private performance of the play Tojin Okichi (The Foreigner Okichi), written by the popular Japanese playwright Yamamoto Yuzo. Between scenes, guests will comment on the historical, social and ethical aspects of Okichi’s sad story.
In 1856, the United States is forcing Japan’s trade opening, using all its diplomatic arts to achieve advantageous trade agreements, including the threat of bombing its coastal cities with its naval artillery. The Geisha Okichi is forced by the Japanese authorities to attend to the American consul and prevent him from destroying Shimoda Port. But once she has achieved her goal, she is repudiated for her ‘treachery’ and even abandoned by those who oblied her to participate in the plot and benefited from it. Offended and humiliated, Okichi demands that she would be given the moral recognition of which she considers herself a true creditor.
Her story is that of the vindication of the individual’s dignity, in this story embodied by a remarkable woman, spiritually annihilated by the indifference of a State who only pursue their own pragmatic interests, and by a society that lacks fundamental respect for women.