New National Theatre Tokyo
New National Theatre, Tokyo
|Address||1-1-1 Honmachi, Shibuya-ku
|Capacity||1,814 (Opera House)|
The New National Theatre, Tokyo (NNTT) (新国立劇場 Shin Kokuritsu Gekijō?) is Japan's first and foremost national centre for the performing arts, including opera, ballet, contemporary dance and drama. It is located in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo. The centre has been praised for its architecture and state-of-the-art modern theatre facilities, which are considered among the best in the world. In 2007, the NNTT was branded with the advertising slogan: Opera Palace, Tokyo.
The construction of the NNTT was completed in February 1997, with the Tokyo Opera City Tower connected to the theatre. Its first public performances took place in October of that year.
Besides the public performances, various enterprises are undertaken, such as the young artist training programs (for ballet, opera, and theatre), theatre rental for other performing arts groups, performing arts-related exhibitions, public usage of its video library and book library, public performances for children and young students, backstage tours, and most importantly, international exchanges for performing arts events, etc. Moreover, The Stage Set & Design Centre (located in Choshi city, Chiba Prefecture), stores and exhibits previously-used stage scenery and costumes.
The arts management of NNTT, including the enterprises in above, is commissioned to New National Theatre Foundation (NNTF) from the independent administrative institution, known as The Japan Arts Council. NNTT is managed by several trust funds, government grants, admission revenues, and private donations from many supporting companies.
The NNTT has been repeatedly criticized for its bureaucratic arts administration, which is very representative of usual Japanese politics. Although NNTT is financed by the Japanese government, major conductors, directors, and performing artists have all complained that their creative ideas are restricted by the bureaucratic style of the arts management. In 2010, the government decided to cut down the ¥4.8 billion grant NNTT received the previous year by half, and reduce the government grants to trainees who want to work and study abroad.
Theatres and performance facilities
The NNTT building contains three main theatres:
- The Opera House (1814 seats)
- The Playhouse (1038 seats)
- The Pit (468 seats max)
New National Theatre Opera (NNTO)
In 2005, conductor Hiroshi Wakasugi was named artistic consultant to the opera division of the New National Theatre (also known as New National Theatre Opera, or NNTO). This post preceded his appointment as artistic director (i.e. Music Director of the New National Theatre) from September 2007. However, Wakasugi died in July 2009 and Tadaaki Otaka was appointed as 'acting artistic director' for 2009/2010.
The company's productions are usually conservative, and the principal lead singers are frequently drawn from a circle of top foreign opera singers from Europe and elsewhere. World-class Japanese singers who are famous abroad are often invited to sing lead roles as well. To introduce Japanese-related works into the operatic world, the NNTO has embarked on producing works such as Shuzenji Monogatari, composed by Osamu Shimizu (June 2009), and Ikebe Shinichiro's Rokumeikan (June, 2010).
New National Theatre Ballet (NNTB)
The current Artistic Director of the New National Theatre Ballet (otherwise known as NNTB) is Asami Maki, who previously lead the Maki Asami Ballet Troupe in Tokyo. Frequent foreign guest artists include Svetlana Zakharova and Denis Matvienko. The company's balletic identity draws from Russian, British, and French classical ballet traditions. David Bintley who is the current Artistic Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet will lead the NNTB Company as the Co-Artistic Director with Asami Maki from 2010. The NNBT has performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (Asami Maki's Raymonda in February 2008), and will also perform Asami Maki's version of La dame aux camellias, as a guest company at the Bolshoi Theatre in September 2009. The NNTB is striving to become Asia's best ballet company as well as an internationally recognized company (Top 10) in the next few years.
Artistic director selection controversy
In the summer of 2008, the government-appointed theater board officials decided to replace artistic director Hitoshi Uyama with Keiko Miyata. The decision was announced at a June 30 board meeting, taking many of the board members by surprise because no prior discussion of replacing the director had taken place. When one of the board members, Ai Nagai, tried to question the decision, her questions were ignored by the board presidency. Nagai later went public with her questions on the decision in a statement signed by other prominent theater dramatists, including Hisashi Inoue, Yukio Ninagawa, and Yōji Sakate, but the board never responded to the questions.
- Press release.
- Tanaka, Nobuko, "Staffing decisions at the NNTT cause a stir in theater world", Japan Times, August 14, 2008.
- Tanaka, Nobuko, "Japanese bureaucracy can be incredibly frustrating, but it also makes great entertainment", Japan Times, March 19, 2010, p. 15.
- Tanaka, Nobuko, "Cuts fear clouds a year of diversity and innovation in Japan theater", Japan Times, June 30, 2015.
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