Japan Stories

21st June, 2023

On 16 June, at the Alliance Française theatre in Paris, a Nô play was performed in French for the first time. The auditorium was packed. 

Nô is a traditional Japanese theatrical art form that was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008. The most important prop is the mask. The set is simple and unadorned. The costumes are kimonos. The result is a stage that emanates an atmosphere that is both noble and spiritual, true to the philosophy and aesthetics of Nô.

Seneca's tragedy Medea was adapted today. The Roman play, performed by the Nô, captured the audience's attention with its original staging. The characters of Jason, the governess and the messenger were played by French actors. In this living art form, the lines resonate like a melody. The sounds created by the lexicon and rhythm of the French language bathed the auditorium in an unprecedented aura, while respecting the rule of balance between silence and movement.  
On this day, the audience was instantly immersed in a world reputed to be hermetic. The appearance of the main character, played by Nô master Masato Matsuura, captured the audience's attention. Matsuura teaches Nô and sword techniques in France. A master of dance and martial arts, the typical movement of the foot was sublimated by his gesture, rehearsed and perfected over and over again. 
The mask intrigues, catches the eye and inspires a moment of transcendence. There is a Japanese expression, "an inexpressive face like a Noh mask". Yet depending on how it is tilted, it expresses joy or sadness. The wearer of the mask sometimes seems full of life and smiling, at other times downcast or in tears. The uniqueness of the Nô mask lies in its emotional versatility. The force of the character's mood swings throughout the play captures the audience's imagination and gets them involved. 

The performance was a great success. The hour and a half passed quickly. It presented this dramatic art in a new light and revealed a beautiful harmony between the language of Molière and the rhythm of Nô.

Japan Stories