Organizer and Chair: J. Scott Miller, Brigham Young University
Discussant: Yoko Chiba, Saint Lawrence University
Although during the Meiji period over three dozen Japanese performing groups toured Europe and America, few left any impression greater than the occasional review in local newspapers. However, in 1900 the "Imperial Japanese Theatre Company," led by Kawakami Otojirô and his wife, actress Sadayakko, traveled across the U.S. and Europe. Adjusting their performances to suit their audiences, the troupe employed a combination of improvisational skill and entrepreneurial genius that generated enthusiastic public response, leading to another, expanded, European tour the following year. Large numbers of Westerners, including both the cultural elite and the masses, formed strong, often markedly polarized, impressions of the Japanese and Japanese theater from the Kawakami performances.
This panel presents three different studies of the Kawakami troupe's European experience. Ayako Kano offers a re-examination of Sadayakko, often seen as Japan's first modern actress, as both individual and cultural icon. Scott Miller, who recently discovered sound recordings made during the first Kawakami tour, will discuss how the horizon of japonisme led early European pioneers of film and sound technology to document the Kawakami troupe. Arthur Groos will examine the impact of the Kawakami performances on the eventual creation of Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
Geisha, Actress, Mistress, Wife: Kawakami Sadayakko Reconsidered
Ayako Kano, University of Pennsylvania
Kawakami Sadayakko is conventionally portrayed in both theatrical and women's history as someone who stole the stage by accident: a woman who became an actress under duress, who had neither much training in nor talent for acting, and whose success can be attributed mostly to her relationship with powerful men. When we look at Kawakami Sadayakko more closely, however, focusing on various representations of and by her in interviews and autobiographical writings, a very complex Sadayakko begins to emerge. When combined with an analysis of her various stage roles, this new Sadayakko is particularly intriguing.
She was trained as a geisha, married an actor, became an actress herself, then became mistress to a former patron after her husband's death. During her tours in the United States and in Europe she performed kabuki-like extravaganzas and was regarded as the embodiment of the archaic and mysterious Orient by Western admirers. Curiously, upon returning to Japan she switched to roles that represented the modern West to Japanese audiences.
Because of the diverse roles she played-both on stage and off-Kawakami Sadayakko may be read as a site where paradoxes become visible. She may also be seen as a central focus of intense debate over the role of women in society, the role of theater in the nation, and the role of Japan in the world. This paper will explore these roles and the paradoxes of Kawakami Sadayakko, focusing on her performances abroad and in Japan.
Documenting the Exotic: Early European Recordings of the Kawakami Troupe
J. Scott Miller, Brigham Young University
At the turn of the century Europe was mesmerized by the Orient, and japonisme in particular had spread from France to Europe and across the channel to England. Against this backdrop it was fortuitous for stage entrepreneur Kawakami Otojirô and his wife Sadayakko to arrive with their troupe of Japanese performers in London in the spring of 1900. They quickly captured the public eye with their histrionic sampler of kabuki and other Japanese drama, polarizing the reviewers and charming the British public.
Their fame preceded them to Paris, where they performed for weeks at Loie Fuller's Paris Exposition Theater. The troupe played to sold-out crowds that included the likes of Gide, Debussy and Rodin, as well as the young Picasso. In addition to these impressionable luminaries, the Kawakami troupe also attracted the attention of pioneers in the newly-emerging fields of film and sound recording, eager to document the exotic Japanese performers.
As a result, we now can view rare cinematic images of one Japanese performer lost amid a swirling crowd of French dancers, and listen to a newly-discovered collection of sound recordings made by the Kawakami troupe. These early media artifacts open new avenues of inquiry into the enigmatic fame the Kawakami troupe garnered during their European tours. This audio-visual paper explores the contemporary European impact of the Kawakami film and sound recordings and examines how they added momentum to an emerging global zeal for ethnographic documentation.
Puccini's Madama Butterfly: The Sadayakko Connection
Arthur Groos, Cornell University
In late April 1902, Giacomo Puccini attended the Milan performances of Kawakami Otojirô's "Imperial Japanese Theatre Company," featuring Otojirô's wife, Sadayakko, and then nearing the end of a second European tour. The impact of Puccini's attendance on Madama Butterfly is primarily discernible from subsequent musical borrowings, but also extends to a re-conceptualization of the action.
After the performance, the composer immediately wrote the entrance of Cio-cio-san in Act I, using "Echigo jishi," which Sadayakko had played in Kesa Gozen four days before (a 1900 recording of Sadayakko allows for a comparison with Puccini's adaptation). Puccini also acquired A Collection of Japanese Popular Musics/Nippon Zokukyokushû from which he took four of some ten Japanese melodies, three note for note and in the same key. Less obvious but more interesting ties emerging from the Milan performance of the Kawakami troupe are the implications of the Italian reception of Sadayakko for Puccini's orientalizing drama and its heroine. The drastic reduction of the "Imperial Theatre Company's" offerings, progressing with "terrible efficacy," induced Puccini to completely abandon an act set at the American Consulate and led to a more leisurely alternation of Western and Eastern ambiances.
More generally, the protean instability of Sadayakko's "primitive" Japanese heroines is reflected in Puccini's small shifts of emphasis in a series of episodes foregrounding "details for embarrassing Cio-cio-san," which underscore the heroine's inability to master Western forms of behavior and become "Madama B. F. Pinkerton."