Okeanos premieres Tokaido Road at the Cheltenham Festival


Okeanos announces

Tokaido Road
A Journey after Hiroshige

Music - Nicola LeFanu
Libretto - Nancy Gaffield
Conductor - Dominic Wheeler
Director – Caroline Clegg

World premiere at the Cheltenham Music Festival 6/7/2014

Okeanos, the UK’s unique Western-Japanese music ensemble, announces a new multi-media chamber music opera, Tokaido Road, to tour National Festivals from July 2014. This 50 minute work, composed by Nicola LeFanu with a libretto by Nancy Gaffield, is a composite of music, poetry, mime, dance and visual imagery.

In 1832 the young artist Hiroshige set out on Japan’s great Eastern sea-coast road: Tokaido Road, linking Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. His paintings from the journey, the famous woodblock prints ‘Fifty Three Stations of the Tokaido’, made his fortune. Till then, prints depicted geisha or actors; now, the secrets of a hidden country were revealed.

In the opera, we meet young Hiro discovering the landscape in all its perilous beauty. Through projected images, mime and sung poetry, we travel with him. The journey was dangerous: as well as contending with natural disasters - earthquake, flood – travellers had to scale cliffs and ford rivers. To constrain travel, the military government had forbidden bridge-building.

Hiro savours all his adventures – not least the amorous ones – and his paintings bring to life everyone he met: old men and beautiful women, samurai and geisha, pilgrims, porters and passers-by.

Hiroshige in old age is present in the opera too, reflecting on what had gripped his imagination twenty-five years earlier. Behind every welcoming inn and tea-house (‘station’) on the Tokaido, there was another story: persecution, dispossession, famine. Hiroshige braved the government censor by publishing prints that show the horror of death through starvation. His work reminds us of the power of art to bear witness.

Tokaido Road will premiere at the Cheltenham Music Festival on 6th July 2014. Following the premiere, Tokaido Road will tour to seven other high profile UK venues and undertake an outreach project in Kent, coordinated by award-winning ‘Workers of Art.’

Travel, discovery, art…we can all relate to these timeless themes. In Tokaido Road, Okeanos will show how powerfully Hiroshige’s art can still resonate today. As we follow his journey, like travellers on the Tokaido, we meander between centuries.

Notes for Editors

Tokaido Road – A Journey after Hiroshige

Okeanos formed in 2000 and is known for its unusual mix of Western and Japanese instruments. It has premiered over 100 new works and been featured on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and Resonance FM, as well as performing extensively in high profile UK venues.

Nicola LeFanu (music) has composed over 100 works, which have been played and broadcast all over the world; her music is published by Novello and by Peters Edition and recorded by NMC, Naxos, Metier, Lorelt and NEOS. This will be her second collaboration with Okeanos.

Nancy Gaffield (libretto) is an award-winning poet and senior lecturer in creative writing at University of Kent. Her collection Tokaido Road was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, was nominated for the Forward First Collection Prize and won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize 2011.

Performance dates
Cheltenham Festival (WP) 6th July 2014
Lake District Summer Music 6th August 2014
Six further performances in 2015.

Robin Thompson Sho
Melissa Holding Koto
Jinny Shaw Oboe
Kate Romano Clarinets
Bridget Carey Viola
Sophie Harris Cello
Dominic Wheeler Conductor

Caroline Clegg Director
Kimie Nakano Designer
Daniel Whewell Lighting
Theo Burt Images
Wynn White Images
Stuart Calder Producer

Hiroshige images supplied by the British Museum

The commission and the production are supported by funding from Arts Council England, JTI, Britten Pears Foundation, Stanley Thomas Foundation, The Leche Trust, John S Cohen Foundation, The Radcliffe Trust, The Sasakawa Foundation.

Okeanos are grateful for corporate support towards development costs from JTI
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