CULTURE NAGANONagano Prefecture Culture and Art Information Dissemination Site


Opera "Onbashira" "Another Onbashira" supported by citizens

Opera "Onbashira" "Another Onbashira" supported by citizens

In the Suwa region of Nagano Prefecture, the Onbashira Festival at Suwa Taisha Shrine is a traditional ritual held once every seven years in the year of the tiger and the monkey.The official name of this festival is the Shikinen Zōei Mihashira Taisai, and it is a nationally famous festival.

2022 (Reiwa 4) is the year of the pillar.In addition to spring festivals in various places in the Suwa area, there are various regional Shinto rituals and events related to Onbashira. The public opera "Onbashira" (script/composition: Toru Nakamura, music director/conductor: Junji Yamagami, direction: Michio Shimada) will be performed. Since its premiere in 11, it has been performed in 27, 1998, and 10 in conjunction with the Onbashira Festival, and this is the fifth time it has been performed in Reiwa. It will be the first performance ever.We visited the site of this unique initiative at Canora Hall.

Photo: Opera Onbashira FlyerOpera "Onbashira" leaflet

Together with the citizens, sing out loud the creation of culture

Kanora Hall opened in 1989.Modeled after a theater in Frankfurt, Germany, the European opera house-style architecture has a large hall with horseshoe-shaped seats that can accommodate more than 1400 people, a small hall that can be used for various purposes, and conference rooms. and practice rooms.

This cultural facility, named "Canora", which means reverberating loudly in Latin, offers a wide range of activities, from classical concerts and rakugo (traditional comic storytelling) to meeting the needs of citizens, as well as performances of jazz and popular music. There are also sponsored projects.

  • Photo: Opera Onbashira Canora Hall LobbyLobby
  • Photo: Opera Onbashira Canora Hall Large Halllarge hall

Among the sponsored projects, what stands out is the large number of citizen-participation projects. In 1991, the Kanola boys and girls choir was established, and children from elementary school to high school continue to practice and perform throughout the year. In 3 (Heisei 2001), a citizen orchestra called the Canorata Orchestra was also organized.It is a valuable cultural facility that hosts many performances in which the general public can participate, and from which continuous activities are born.

Using the power of the region to transmit cultural information unique to the region

``I want to be a familiar hall that is used and loved by everyone in the community,'' he said. This is Mr. Daisuke Ariga, a staff member of the business division who became a staff member of Canora Hall in 1998 and has been working with the opera "Onbashira" for many years.

Photo: Mr. Ariga, a staff member of the Opera Onbashira Business DivisionMr. Daisuke Ariga, an employee of the Business Division

The opera "Onbashira" was conceived in 5 as a project commemorating the fifth anniversary of the museum's opening.It is surprising that it was planned from the beginning on the premise that it would be performed again in conjunction with the Onbashira year.

Mr. Ariga
“I wanted to convey a cultural message unique to the region.The following year, I started soliciting synopsis from the general public and started full-scale production. Based on that story, I commissioned Mr. Toru Nakamura, a professor emeritus at the University of the Ryukyus and a composer, to write and compose the play.Currently, I am using the revised script for Act 2, Five Scenes, which was revised for the second performance. However, at the time of its premiere, it was a masterpiece of three acts, six scenes, and more than three hours.”

Photo: Opera Onbashira Script2016 script

This work is a mythical opera set in the ancient Suwa region.The stage of the work is centered around Lake Suwa, and tribes with names reminiscent of the various villages that spread north, south, east and west appear. Characters such as Moreya, who have names that are familiar to people living in the Suwa area, play an active role.
And the power of the citizens is indispensable for staging works with a strong regional flavor.

Mr. Ariga
“About 90 people participate in the citizen choir. Some of them continue to perform from the first performance every year of Onbashira. , Playing the role of 'Wind Spirit' when I became a high school student, and then appearing as an adult role again and again."

  • Photo: Opera Mibashira 1998 edition1998 performance
  • Photo: Opera Mibashira 2010 edition2010 performance
Photo: Opera Mibashira 2016 editionPerformance in 2016 (finale scene)

It is the same as the original Onbashira Festival that continues to be involved while changing roles every seven years.We will take over the role from the elders and connect it to the next generation.
It seems that the hall staff are the same as changing roles and continuing to be involved.The role of Kanora Hall is so-called "production".Make a schedule, act as a window for the choir, and coordinate with professionals.The hall side acts as a link between the professionals, the executive committee, and the citizens.
It seems that the production of the opera "Onbashira" takes almost a year with all 1 staff members, but it seems that they do not have the same duties every time.Normally, he is an unsung hero, but Mr. Ariga jumped out to talk about his success as a performer at the premiere when he had just joined the company.

Mr. Ariga
“Maybe it was partly because I was just a newcomer, but…I guess it was like a substitute for training. About three months before the performance, the director at the time called me and said, ‘We don’t have enough men. and (laughs)

Only in scenes where the male chorus was necessary, it seems that he participated in the night practice after finishing the daytime work.When I asked him about his impressions of being on stage, he smiled and smiled, saying, "How was it?" You may have enjoyed the stage appearance of.

Hearing such stories, I feel that hall staff are also “locals” and “local citizens”. The 30 or so members of the executive committee are also in charge of the operation together with the hall.

Practice that “brings out the power of citizens”

The day I visited was a practice of the citizen men's chorus.Just like the actual performance, rehearsals were held on the stage of the large hall, marking with tape and sheets to visualize the stage setting for the actual performance.

Photo: Opera Onbashira rehearsal

Rehearsals by the director Michio Shimada and the chorus teacher will proceed.While confirming the standing position, speak out and consider which line is good.Is it better to focus on dividing the parts into groups, or should we create groups according to the roles and match the presentation of the story?
When I actually changed my standing position and sang, I could hear the voices coming together, and on the contrary, it felt scattered. Mr. Shimada gave instructions one after another and searched.

Even in such a situation, the choir teacher said, "Your voice will fall down with that way of singing," and, "If you don't match the piano, if you don't match the conductor, your voice won't come together because of the depth of the stage. ”, and the chorus members are seriously listening to the instructions.

Photo: Opera Onbashira rehearsal

I can't feel the sweetness of "because it's an amateur chorus...".Each part has a leader who informs members who arrive late for rehearsals of any changes.There are many people who have finished work and school during the day, and the feeling of "getting together for the Onbashira after finishing work" is the same as the original Onbashira Festival.

In the practice of this day, the standing position was finally changed.
"At this stage, this is our position, but there is a possibility that it will change. This change is for everyone to be able to maximize their power, so please understand it with that in mind," Mr. Shimada explained. Impressive.In chatting during rehearsals, it was said that while there are times when the director and the music director are at odds with each other on the set of the opera, all the teams in this group are on good terms.
The professionals involved in the opera "Onbashira" have the common goal of drawing out the power of the citizens, and are united in the literal meaning of "Suwa is one" on the back of the staff shirt.

Handed down and passed down from generation to generation

Through the interviews, I got a strong impression that this opera performance is not just a participatory performance, but a performance in which citizens play the leading roles.

Mr. Ariga
“I would say it is a choral opera, but it has a lot of chorus parts in terms of volume, and it cannot be completed without a citizen chorus. It was established with the idea that the local people should do something with the motif of the theme unique to this region.

  • Photo: Opera Onbashira rehearsal
  • Photo: Opera Onbashira rehearsal

Ingenuity to get citizens involved can be seen everywhere.The costumes were newly ordered for the 3rd reenactment, and some of them were commissioned to students of the fashion design department at a high school in Suwa City.

This time, the 5th time, there is a new twist, and the stage will also use a curtain made from old cloth collected from the citizens. ``I don't just collect cloth, I collect things that have been cut into circles. It seems that there is a mechanism to encourage citizen participation.
It seems that 5000 pieces of circular cloth were collected, exceeding the number of applications, but the curtain was successfully completed by the hands of 30 workshop participants.

  • Photo: Opera Onbashira Workshop
  • Photo: Opera Onbashira Workshop

What kind of performance is the opera “Onbashira” for Canora Hall?
We asked Ms. Ariga, with a wry smile, about her frank thoughts.

Mr. Ariga
“There may be a lot of complicated things. When you put on an opera performance, you need a lot of support, including financial support. There are also local companies that support us.Of course, we are doing it with subsidies from the government.This opera uses the name "Onbashira", but it is a business that has been approved by Suwa Taisha Shrine. It's a business that has received support and understanding from various places.

“Festivals” require a lot of preparation time and a lot of manpower, and there is also an economic burden.It may not be all fun during the long preparation period, but on the day of the festival, Suwa people's blood will be noisy.In this way, the festival will be handed down every seven years and will continue beyond generations.

It looks like it will be a performance where you can feel the culture unique to the Suwa area, where many citizens have gathered. I am looking forward to seeing the performance in November.

Interview, text, photography (rehearsal room): Naoko Ishida
Photography (Interview): Tanakara

Opera "Onbashira"
2022 / 11 / 27 (sun)
Start: 14:00 (doors open: 13:15)
Fee [Unreserved seat] General, society member 3,000 yen Elementary, middle and high school students 1,000 yen

Okaya City Cultural Center (Kanora Hall)

Okaya City Cultural Center (Kanora Hall)
Okaya City 8-1 Saiwaicho


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