In Yeats’ “Hawk’s Well”, Cuchnulainn’s weapon is a spear. In “Takahime, the weapon is a sword. Yeats admired with awe the Japanese “Bizen Osafune” sword presented to him as surprise a gift from Junzo Sato when he traveled to Portland, Oregon in the US in 1920 for a lecture. He sang:
Is Sato's ancient blade, still as it was
still like a looking-glass
Unspotted by the centuries;
That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn
From some court-lady's dress and round
The wooden scabbard bound and wound
Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn.
Junzo Sato just happened to live then in Portland (on business) and saw a poster about Yeat’s lecture. He brought the sword to the U.S. It was probably his family treasure. Yeats' eulogy for Cuchulain is found in his plays “Death of Cuchulain” and “Cuchulain comforted”.
Upon my return home in Kyushu, I searched the YouTube site. A number of Hawk’s Well came up, beginning with the Nara performance where the same Gensho Umewaka, a living National Treasure, played Takahime in Shibuya. I watched Hawk Well in musical /opera formats, and experimental modern drama as well as Kabuki formats. Some of them were performed internationally – in Europe, U.S. and South America. I know Yugen Theater, in San Francisco, specialized in its effort to promulgate Noh in California. I remembered The Japan Foundation periodically sponsored traditional art performances like Noh and Kabuki. My ex-employer in San Diego sponsored a couple, including the Kodo Drum troupe from Sado Island. Noh related associations in Tokyo are reportedly planning special Noh events for the participants from abroad with English subtitles in preparation for the year 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A nice incentive and gesture of welcome!
Anuna Choral singers stayed on stage from the beginning to the end, singing together with the Noh “rock” masked singers. I first thought their collaboration would come to an end sooner, so it was quite a surprise. Reading an article by Michael McGlynn after the show, I understood what Anuna singers were trying to accomplish. Michael said they dare not compete with the Noh singers, nor try to harmonize at all. No room for competition like in opera, Michael wrote. They keep their chorus aloof and independent. It could be the breaths of humans, mythic sounds of the breeze and whisper, rustling of tree leaves, or lapping waves, created by plural voices of Anuna singers, each in different tone and scale, over and above the composite Noh ensemble including instruments, to be culminated as result in creating a piece of great artwork. I was impressed. Looking up the historical career, the Anuna Choral group was founded in 1987 to recreate and give a new life to medieval Irish in the present era. Anuna singers have visited Japan often. They sang on the 1997 Japan Academy Award winning film “Princess Mononoke”, an epic historical fantasy anime directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
My Hino friend told me that the Anuna reminded her of “Holy Mother in Nagasaki”, a modern Noh written by Tomio Tada, in which a Psalm was sung by local high school girls. I’ve heard that this Noh play was performed in New York and Boston some years ago and I’m putting it on my wish list to see it this year.