Kent premiere for acclaimed Edo-period chamber opera

The multi-media chamber opera with a libretto by Dr Nancy Gaffield (School of English) will be performed at the Gulbenkian on 23 May.

Titled Tokaido Road, the fifty-minute opera is set in the rich, hedonistic ‘Floating World’ of Japan’s Edo period. A composite of music, poetry, mime, dance and visual imagery, Tokaido Road draws inspiration from the ravishing mix of art forms enjoyed by the wealthy members of Edo society.

The opera was created and commissioned by the Okeanos Ensemble , long renowned for its fascinating mix of Western and Japanese instruments (oboe, clarinet, viola, koto, sho, shakuhachi). The Ensemble will perform traditional Japanese music during the first half of the production and composer Nicola LeFanu’s celebrated music during the second half.

Tokaido Road

The idea for Tokaido Road grew from Dr Gaffield’s award-winning book of poems of the same name. Published in 2011, Dr Gaffield’s book was in turn inspired by Japanese artist Hiroshige’s woodcut prints (1833–34) depicting the landscapes and travellers of the Tokaido Road, which linked the Japanese eastern and western capitals of Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto.

Tokaido Road , published by CB Editions, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, nominated for the Forward First Collection Prize, and was awarded the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize.

The opera, which received its national premiere at the Cheltenham Music Festival in July 2014, appears at the Gulbenkian as part of the University’s 50th anniversary, part of which is to celebrate the work of members of its creative community.

Further information is available from Gulbenkian .

Dr Gaffield is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University’s School of English.