THE RAVEN at the Grand Théâtre-Luxembourg

by ToSHIo HoSokAwA

It often happens that animals and plants interact with human beings and have a conversation with them in traditional Japanese stories. Different from European
countries, in Asia where animism roots deeply from long ago, there is no clear boundary between human beings and animals and plants. When I read The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, it reminded me of the Japanese Noh plays. A view of the world in the Noh is not anthropocentric. Some of the main characters in the Noh are animals and plants and some are unearthly spirits.

Poe described the process of collapsing an order of the modern rational world, due to an invasion upon the world by a weird animal, a “raven” which lives in the
other world. I considered this poem as a story of Noh and expressed it in the form of a monodrama with a Mezzo Soprano and an ensemble. Although the main character is originally a man in The Raven by Poe, it is a woman who speaks and sings in my monodrama. It is the reverse casting to as is the case in the Noh play, because a role that is originally a woman in the story is traditionally played by a man in a Noh play.

On a stormy night the main character in The Raven by Poe indulges in reminiscences alone. Every incident that happens in the story might be an imagination in
his mind, a dream or a phantom. (In Noh play, almost all the incidents happen in a dream world.) When the protagonist recalls Renore, his lost beloved, a raven appears. The raven seems to be a ghost of Renore. The raven that speaks only “Nevermore” and that is as an eerie ghost. This poem by Poe is a conversation with the ghost and a communion with it.

In many works of mine in which a woman plays a key role, she is considered to be a “shaman” – connecting this world and the other world. In this monodrama, the Mezzo Soprano is not only a modern person whose rational world is made to collapse by the weird natural power of the raven, but also a shaman who communicates with the other world, with a mysterious and incomprehensible world. Does the dead lover Renore possess the voice of the main character, sing and speak, and become mad at last?

The rational world of human beings, madness beyond the human reason, and a relationship with the incomprehensible silence of nature; that is my understanding of Poe’s poem that I used when I composed this monodrama.

Dedicated to Charlotte Hellekant, who played a role of “Murasame” in my opera Matsukaze, and to United Instruments of LUCILIN.

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