Kanze Noh Theater

Today, we went to the Kanze Noh Theater in Kyoto. I had never seen a Noh performance before, and although I had read about Noh for lecture, I didn’t know what it would like to be in the actual audience.

The Noh performances opened with an ensemble of musicians: a flutist and drummers. Percussive vocals soon joined the instrumental music–I was impressed by the vocal control of the drummers, and later on, the choir and actors.

Thinking of my experiences with choral music, I recognized immediately the skills that these singers had. To transition smoothly from a deep, guttural sound to a falsetto requires a strong command of posture, breath, and tone. It was just incredible to witness the stamina of the singers and actors, too! There were several deliveries sung for at least five minutes at a time.

As the performances continued, I was amazed at the costumes–particularly those of the “Shite.” In the first performance, the Nochi-shite was a god while in the second, it was a spirit of a “nue.” Both had fantastic costumes with elaborate designs and possibly gold leaf. Along with the masks that the actors wore, the effect of these huge, brilliant costumes was somewhat terrifying–especially when the actors danced at the ends of the performances.

What contrasted the arcs of slow, controlled movements of the Shites in the first act was a series of quick, articulate gestures in the dance. The movements, however, remained just as graceful. It was truly an incredible experience.