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Clue of the Month
major form of Japanese musical drama
Common clues: Japanese
drama; Yokohama drama; Japanese theater; Kabuki cousin; Play with
masks; Drama in Kyoto
2 times a year
- derived from the Japanese word for "skill" or
"talent" - is a major form of classical Japanese
musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century.
Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female
roles. Traditionally, a Noh 'performance day' lasts all day and
consists of five Noh plays interspersed with shorter, humorous
kyōgen pieces. However, present-day Noh performances consist
of two Noh plays with one Kyōgen play in between.
the field of Noh performance is extremely codified, and regulated
by the iemoto system, with an emphasis on tradition rather than
innovation, some performers do compose new plays or revive
historical ones that are not a part of the standard repertoire.
Works blending Noh with other theatrical traditions have also
with the closely related kyōgen farce, Noh evolved from
various popular, folk and aristocratic art forms, including
Dengaku, Shirabyoshi, and Gagaku.
and his son Zeami Motokiyo brought Noh to its present-day form
during the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573) under the patronage of
the powerful Ashikaga clan, particularly the third shogun,
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It would later influence other dramatic
forms such as Kabuki and Butoh. During the Meiji era, although
its governmental patronage was lost, Noh and kyōgen received
official recognition as two of the three national forms of drama.
tradition, Noh actors and musicians only rehearse together once,
a few days before the actual performance. Generally, each actor,
musician, and chorus member practises his or her fundamental
movements, songs, and dances independently, under the tutelage of
a senior member of the school. Thus, the mood of a given
performance is not set by any single performer but established by
the interactions of all the performers together. In this way, Noh
could be seen as exemplifying the medieval Japanese aesthetics of
transience, exemplified by the saying of Sen no Rikyu, "ichi-go
ichi-e", "one chance, one meeting".
of the important centres of Noh was Nagoya, which upholds its
tradition in today's Nagoya Noh Theatre.
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