world premiere of opera note to a friend based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Japan Society to Present the Contemporary Opera World Premiere of “note to a friend”

note to a friend

Thursday, January 12 at 7:30 p.m. – Performance Followed by MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception
Saturday, January 14 at 7:30 p.m. – Performance Followed by Artist Q&A
Sunday, January 15 at 3:00 p.m.

Japan Society – 333 E. 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)

Admission: $60 General Public | $48 Japan Society Members

The contemporary opera world premiere of note to a friend will take place at Japan Society. Part of the 2023 PROTOTYPE Festival, the opera is co-produced by Japan Society and Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, composed by David Lang, and directed by Yoshi Oida, with featured vocalist Theo Bleckmann.

world premiere of opera note to a friend based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa
note to a friend ©Japan Society

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang’s new hour-long opera, note to a friend is based on three combined and reimagined texts from renowned Japanese novelist Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, widely regarded as the father of the Japanese short story. The result is this stunning and haunting monodrama addressing our eternal human fascination with death, love, family, and suicide. Theater luminary Yoshi Oida, Paris-based opera director and longtime member of Peter Brook’s international theater company, directs for the legendary New York vocalist Theo Bleckmann. Tokyo Bunka Kaikan in Japan selects the featured string quartet members.

To purchase tickets, please visit Japan Society’s website.

world premiere of opera note to a friend based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Theo Bleckmann (left) and Cyrus Moshrefi.
Photo credit: ©Takaaki Ando.

About David Lang

world premiere of opera note to a friend based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa
David Lang, ©Peter Serling

Passionate, prolific, and complicated, composer David Lang embodies the restless spirit of invention. Lang is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations, Musical America’s Composer of the Year, Carnegie Hall’s Debs Composer’s Chair, the Rome Prize, and the BMW Music-Theater Prize (Munich). He has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1999, he received a Bessie Award for his music in choreographer Susan Marshall’s The Most Dangerous Room in the House, performed live by the Bang on a Can All-Stars at the Next Wave Festival of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Some of Lang’s most recent vocal works include the opera prisoner of the state (with libretto by Lang), which was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Rotterdam’s de Doelen Concert Hall, London’s Barbican Centre, Barcelona’s l’Auditori, Bochum Symphony Orchestra, and Bruges Concertgebouw; his chorus piece the writings (2019), commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Netherlands Kamerkoor, and premiered by Theatre of Voices; and the mile-long opera (2018), co-created with architect Elizabeth Diller and premiered in New York City’s mile-long elevated park The Highline.

About Yoshi Oida

world premiere of opera note to a friend based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Yoshi Oida. ©åSébastien Coindre

Yoshi Oida is a Japanese director and actor living in Paris. He is active in various European countries, the United States, and Japan. Internationally known since the 1970s as a crucial actor for theater director Peter Brook, he has become further recognized as one of the most sought-after opera directors, especially in Europe.

Some of the major opera productions that Oida has directed include Death in Venice, Idomeneo, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Peter Grimes, Madame Butterfly, War Requiem, and Shion Story. His production of Curlew River, which premiered in 1998 at Festival d’Aix-En-Provence, has been performed in several different cities across Europe. It was also presented at Japan Society in New York in 2007 as part of its 100th anniversary.

His most recent acting appearance in New York was in Shun-kin, directed by Simon McBurney and presented at Lincoln Center Festival in 2013. He is an author of several books, including An Actor Adrift, The Invisible Actor, and An Actor’s Tricks.

He received the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1992; the Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2007; and the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in 2013, the highest honor that the French government can bestow to an artist.

About Theo Bleckmann

world premiere of opera note to a friend based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa
Theo Bleckmann. ©Lynne Harty

Grammy-nominated jazz singer and new music composer Theo Bleckmann’s diverse recorded work includes albums of Las Vegas standards, Weimar art songs, and popular “bar songs” (all with pianist Fumio Yasuda); a recording of newly arranged songs by Charles Ives (with jazz/rock collective Kneebody); and his acclaimed Hello Earth! – The Music of Kate Bush. Bleckmann has most recently appeared as a special guest on recordings by Ambrose Akinmusire for Blue Note Records and Julia Hülsmann’s trio for ECM Records.

In 2017, ECM released Bleckmann’s recording with his Elegy Quintet, produced by legendary label head and founder, Manfred Eicher. Bleckmann has collaborated with musicians, artists, actors, and composers, including Ambrose Akinmusire, Laurie Anderson, Uri Caine, Philip Glass, Ann Hamilton, John Hollenbeck, Sheila Jordan, Phil Kline, David Lang, Kirk Nurock, Frances MacDormand, Ben Monder, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kenny Wheeler, John Zorn, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and, most prominently, Meredith Monk, with whom Bleckmann worked as a core ensemble member for more fifteen years. He has consistently appeared in the top-five spots in the DownBeat Critics’ Polls for Best Male Vocalist and top-ten spots in their Readers’ Polls. His work on Phil Kline’s Out Cold helped place that production on WQXR’s Operavore “Best Opera of 2012.” In 2010, Bleckmann received the prestigious JAZZ ECHO award from the Deutsche Phono-Akademie in his native Germany.