In collaboration with Multi-Cultural Sonic Evolution’s 2019 Sound of Arts Festival and The Pleiades Project, I co-curated and produced World of Miyabi: Japanese Woman in Song. This program explores Japanese poetic genres from women’s perspectives through song and recited poetry, including Kiyoshi Nobutoki’s settings of waka and tanka from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, 20th-Century Japanese art songs by composers Akane Nakanishi and Makiko Kinoshita, and into the shimmering (2015), Leslie Uyeda’s contemporary song cycle with poetry by Joy Kogawa. These musical selections are interwoven with recited tanka, written by prominent female poets from the Heian period. World of Miyabi features sopranos and co-curators Aine Hakamatsuka and Manami Hattori-Fallen with pianist Marina Iwao.
Miyabi (雅), often translated as elegance, refinement, or courtliness, is a traditional Japanese aesthetic ideal from the Heian period (794 to 1185). Miyabi adherents, typically courtiers, rejected artistic styles that embraced rough or “vulgar” attributes, focusing instead on sensitive, transient depictions of nature and the human condition. In World of Miyabi, The Pleiades Project and our collaborators attempt to re-contextualize miyabi through the musical and literary contributions of Japanese female artists to explore Japanese poetry and song. By particularly highlighting female creators, we hope to present an inclusive and more accurate historical narrative around the creative contributions of Japanese women within these respective fields.
What is Ogura Hyakunin Isshu?
Ogura Hyakunin Isshu is a collection of one hundred waka, a form of Japanese classical poetry with a 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count. This collection highlights the works of one hundred individual poets, both men and women, over a 300-year period from the 10th to the 13th Centuries. Its title roughly translates to “one hundred people, one poem [each].” It was believed to be compiled by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241), a prominent poet living in the Ogura district of Kyoto, Japan, thus establishing the “Ogura” in its title. These waka, many of which are also tanka, include themes of nature, the passing of the seasons, the impermanence of life, and the joys and heartbreak of relationships. Ogura Hyakunin Isshu became the model for poetry collections of this type, and it has achieved an iconic status in Japanese cultural life to this day.
What is tanka?
Tanka, often translated as “short poem,” is a 31-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single, unbroken line. It can also be composed in a 5-line structure with a 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count. Tanka is the short form of waka, and from the 7th Century onwards, it became an incredibly popular poetic form amongst nobility in the Japanese Imperial Court. Due to its condensed format, tanka often dealt with intimate subject matter, and it was written and shared as a means of courtship.
Selected Poets from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
Selected Poetry from World of Miyabi
92 Nijoin no Sanuki (c.1141-1217)
Like a rock at sea,
At ebbtide hidden from view,
Is my tear-drenched sleeve:
Never for a moment dry,
And no one knows it is there.
from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
19 Lady Ise (c. 875 – c. 938)
Even for a time
Short as a piece of the reeds
In Naniwa’s marsh,
We must never meet again:
Is this what you are asking me?
from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
57 Murasaki Shikibu c. 973 – c. 1031
Meeting on the path:
But I cannot clearly know
If it was he,
Because the midnight moon
In a cloud had disappeared.
from Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
English translations by Clay MacCauley (1917)
Japanese Soprano Aine Hakamatsuka is the winner of the 2013 Yokohama International Music Competition (Japan) based in New York. She has performed roles including Papagena (Die Zauberflöte), Gretel, Dew Fairy (Hansel & Gretel), Lucy (The Telephone), Blonde (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Susanna, Barbarina (Le nozze di Figaro), Nanetta (Falstaff), Silberklang (Der Schauspieldirektor), Lucia (The Rape of Lucretia), and Belinda (Dido & Aeneas).
In concerts, she has appeared as a solosit in Paukenmesse (Haydn), Magnificat (Schubert), Requiem (Faure), 9th Symphony (Beethoven), Cantata No. 51 (Bach), and Gloria (Vivaldi). Ms. Hakamatsuka’s appearances in New York includes St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Queens Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, and Lincoln Center.
Soprano Manami Hattori is originally from Kobe, Japan but she has been living and singing in the US for more than a decade. She has recently sung several leading roles in the US and Canada, including the title role in Madame Butterfly with Mercury Opera, Opera Canada, Opera Lancaster, and Amore Opera. Other recent performances include Nedda in Pagliacci with Utopia Opera, Suor Angelica in Suor Angelica, Micaela in Carmen, and Musetta in La Boheme with DiCapo Opera Theater. She also sang Musetta with National Lyric Opera in MA. Ms. Hattori is also featured on a DVD of Sheila Silver’s The Thief of Love, on Hummingbird Films, as Hira. Other operatic performances include Berta in The Barber of Seville with the Ashlawn Opera Festival.
On the concert stage, she has sung numerous oratorios as a soloist, including The Messiah, St Matthew Passion, The Creation, Elijah, Faure Requiem, Beethoven 9, Coral Fantasie, Mass in C Minor by Mozart, and several Bach Cantatas.
She was also the winner, out of more than 200 Japanese singers, of the International Auditions of The San Francisco Opera Center in Japan, where she won a spot in the coveted Merola Opera Program. While at Merola, she sang in productions of The Elixir of Love, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and the Grand Finals Concert, where she received the Minton B. Evans Memorial Award. She is a very active musician in the NY area, where she regularly performs at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center with ASO and NY Philharmonic.
Ms. Hattori’s education includes a bachelor’s and graduate degree from KCUA, as well as a master’s degree from SUNY at Stony Brook.
Japanese born pianist, Marina Iwao has appeared on concert stages throughout Japan and the United States as a soloist and collaborative pianist. Performing regular recitals in Boston, New York, and Japan, Marina has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Merkin Concert Hall, and Across Fukuoka Symphony Hall in Japan. Marina was recently featured on WQXR’s McGraw Hill Young Artists Showcase with a cellist, Mina Kim, performing Lucas Foss’s Capriccio.
Marina was named a collaborative piano fellow at Music Academy of the West in summer 2018 and 2019 and was a collaborative piano fellow at Bowdoin International Music Festival in 2017. In fall 2017, she performed the Schumann Piano Quintet with the Quatuor Debussy at Fukuoka Symphony Hall in Japan.
As a soloist, she was the first prize winner of the 2015 Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition and was invited to perform at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Marina also won the Solo con Tutti concerto competition, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 as a soloist with the Alliance Ohio Symphony Orchestra. She has also attended the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine as well as the International Keyboard Institute Festival in New York.
Marina holds a master’s degree in Collaborative Piano from the Juilliard School, studied with Jonathan Feldman. She also holds professionals Studies Diploma in Piano Performance from Mannes College the New School for Music, an undergraduate diploma from Longy School of Music as well as a Bachelor of Music from Emerson College.
Currently based in New York City, she is a chamber music faculty and a staff pianist at The School for Strings and holds a staff pianist position at the Kaufman Music Center, the Juilliard School, and Mannes College the New School for Music preparatory division.
Photos: Elizabeth Van Os