The Paris Opera is bringing modern productions of the Western operatic repetoire to Japan in a tour of unprecedented size set against the backdrop of 150 years of Franco-Japanese relations.
Japanese Kansai Telecasting Corp. invited the Paris National Opera company to tour Kobe and Tokyo to mark the anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries and the broadcaster's own jubilee.
Kansai at the time described the tour as "avant garde".
"We think it will give the Japanese public a new impulse that will allow it to open-up to modern opera," said Kansai.
Starting Saturday, nearly one fifth of the Paris company will give nine performances -- featuring works by early 20th century composers Bela Bartok, Paul Dukas and Leos Janacek, as well as 19th century operatic giant Richard Wagner -- through to July 31.
Some 300 musicians, singers, technicians and administrative personnel -- out of a total of 1,680 permanent staff -- will be in Kobe between July 19-21 and in Tokyo for the second leg.
The tour will alternate performances of Bartok's one-act opera "Bluebeard's Castle", Janacek's song cycle "The Diary of one who Disappeared", and Dukas’s "Ariadne and Bluebeard", with Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde".
Paris Opera director Gerard Mortier in 2007 accepted the tour "under the condition of giving two productions of works from the 20th century" with a focus on musical modernity and original production.
The avant garde productions of Bartok, Dukas and Janacek will feature designs by Catalan theatre group La Fura dels Baus and German post-industrial set designer Anna Viebrock.
The production of "Tristan and Isolde" will also have a contemporary influence with sets and video art done by Americans Peter Sellars and Bill Viola.
Japan first discovered Western opera in 1894, when Charles Gounod's "Faust" was first performed there, while the Paris Opera's ballet troupe performed "Carmen" there in 1961.