10/06/2012, 00.00
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On the anniversary of the Reformation, Luther becomes a mask of the Noh Theater

Toshifumi Uemura, professor at the Japanese Lutheran College in Tokyo, has written a play on the life of Martin Luther using the canons of the great classic theater of Japan: "I was inspired by Fr. Kadowaki, a Catholic, who with the same style staged for John Paul II the baptism of Jesus."

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - In celebration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's reformation, a Japanese playwright of the Christian faith has decided to bring his life on stage using the Noh theater, one of the most important forms of expression of Japanese culture. Toshifumi Uemura, professor at the Japanese Lutheran College in Tokyo, hopes to bring the show across the country in 2017, the year of the anniversary, but intends to present it in Tokyo within the next year.

The teacher says: "I have already composed the poetry and the prose of the play, which is entitled 'Luther'. But my aim is principally to let the Bible speak, as in Handel's Messiah. In the second half of the text I used a hymn composed by Luther himself, which is called 'A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.'"

The professor says he decided to "express Christ on the soil of Japanese culture" after a series of very significant encounters: "A long time ago I met Fr. Kakichi Kadowaki, a Catholic priest and professor emeritus at Sophia University, who in 1988, before John Paul II, staged in the Vatican 'The Baptism of Jesus' precisely in the form of a Noh play. It was he who inspired me."

Noh is a form of theater that first appeared in Japan in the fourteenth century. It favors topics such as honor and war and is meant for an audience with a high level of education (as opposed to kabuki, considered more "popular").

The lyrics and music of this form of theater are designed to be interpreted by the viewer: the Japanese in fact have many homophonic words, with which the authors seek to build a world made of double entendres. From the aesthetic point of view, Noh is characterized by slowness, a spartan grace by the actors, and the use of characteristic masks.

"I hope", the author concluded, "that with this play the Christian message can be better understood in Japan, a country where today more than ever the values ​​of the Gospel and their application in the lives of human beings are fundamental." 


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