Art & Design

Noh time like the presentí─ A Tribute to Akira Matsui

24 -25 February 2017, London

These two performances at LSO St Luke’s are a rare opportunity to experience the 650-year-old art of noh, and the genius of classical noh performer Akira Matsui, now age 70, in a bold collaboration with western opera, theatre, ballet, music and poetry. We are particularly pleased that this special programme will include ‘Rockaby’ by Samuel Beckett.


Noh is at its best when it is a total theatre of experience: immersive by intention, multi-disciplinary by design. Akira Matsui, is a unique traditional Japanese noh artist, classically trained from childhood and a long-time performer within the noh world’s Kita School. He is recognised for his contribution to the international understanding of noh, numerous intercultural projects, and his performances across the world.


The programme will comprise four pieces. The first is devoted to ‘Rockaby’ by Samuel Beckett, a poetic but bleak depiction of a person trapped in the inertia of a life reduced to nothing more than the to-ing and fro-ing of a gently rocking chair - and also demonstrates the dramatic quality of noh in relation to this western theatre piece performed by Akira Matsui and actor Hugh Quarshie. The second piece treats us to the classical music of the hayashi instruments of noh: the dynamic resonances of the kotsuzumi (played by Kayu Omura) and the otsuzumi (Eitaro Okura) and their distinctive drums calls working in harmony with the nohkan flute (Richard Emmert), with its delicate, and at times, intense melodies.


In the third, East meets West again, this time ‘Noh meets Bach’ to demonstrate the vocal qualities of noh when extracts from three traditional noh plays are sung by Akira Matsui accompanied by Lucia Capellaro playing three movements from Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suite No 1.


After the interval, the fourth and final piece presents something new. Articulating the principles he has learned from decades immersed in noh performance, Emmert has composed and directs Jannette Cheong’s noh-structured poetic text, Opposites-InVerse. This new conceptual piece, illustrates aspects of life in a three-part work which draws on philosophy, science, and the art of noh. It brings together noh movement and western contemporary ballet (Akira Matsui with contemporary ballet dancer and choreographer, Peter Leung), with noh music and opera vocals (sung by Piran Legg and Meili Li) and breathes fresh new life into the spirit of this classical art.


Opposites-InVerse is the second collaboration between Richard Emmert (composer/director) and Jannette Cheong (writer). They first came together when they created the full English noh play ‘Pagoda’ (2009 Europe, 2011 Asia), a joint Theatre Nohgaku and Oshima Noh Theatre production, in which Mr Matsui also performed.


Performance programme


by Samuel Beckett
Performed by Akira Matsui, Hugh Quarshie
(Rockaby is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd)


Noh Hayashi
Richard Emmert (nohkan flute), Eitaro Okura (otsuzumi), Kayu Omura (kotsuzumi)


Noh meets Bach - Extracts from three classical noh plays sung by Akira Matsui combined with three movements from Bach’s unaccompanied cello suite No1 played by Lucia Capellaro




Opposites-Inverse a new noh-inspired work.
Written by Jannette Cheong
Composed and directed by Richard Emmert
Performed and choreographed by Akira Matsui and Peter Leung
Singers: Piran Legg (Baritone), Meili Li (Countertenor)
Hayashi Instrumentalists: Richard Emmert, Eitaro Okura, Kayu Omura


The Key Project Features


The programme:

  • Highlights the universality, contemporary relevance, flexibility and innovative qualities of classical art forms
  • Draws out, and illustrates, the dramatic, vocal, musical, dance, poetic text, and the use of the mask in the art of Noh
  • Demonstrates how Western classical performance forms, such as opera, theatre and dance, can ‘embrace’ and work with other cultural classical art forms
  • Illustrates that ‘cultures’ can work together, and ‘difference’ can be celebrated and made integral to artistic endeavours
  • Encourages academic research into the importance of ‘cultural difference’ to society and how noh has contributed to this

Provides a not-for-profit, artistic, experimental cultural exchange and strengthens Japan-UK relations.



‘Getting to Noh… more’        


Outreach and educational activities


The project also includes a range of education activities ‘Getting to noh... more’, including a Seminar on Noh Theatre and Western Culture, at 6pm on 20 February 2017 at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and a series of lecture-demonstrations on Noh Maskmaking, in partnership with The Japan Foundation, from 17-24 February 2017 in Norwich, Oxford, Durham, London, Southend and Dublin. For more information contact:


24 - 25 February 2017, 7pm start

LSO St Luke’s

161 Old Street, London, EC1V 9NG

See link below

Unanico Group, Jannette Cheong & Richard Emmert present: