The world premier of Dai Fujikura's opera, A Dream of Armageddon, at the New National Theater Tokyo was an utter triumph.
Fujikura, a London-based composer originally from Japan, put the short novel by H.G. Wells into sublime music. It reminded one of the Karesansui Japanese garden traditions, an apotheosis of which is the famous Ryoanji Temple rock garden, once visited by Queen Elisabeth II. Against this backdrop of this abstract expression of the world at large, Fujikura's music occasionally brought fresh breaths of astonishing vivid colour of life.
The opera starts with a cappella chorus, a rarity in the genre. It ends with the solo of a boy soprano, who is one of the soldiers of the power that be. Fujikura accomplished the magic of matching the grand finale of Wagner's Gotterdammerung with a single "amen" at the very end, giving the audience a deep sense of redemption.
The libretto by Harry Ross, a long-time friend of Fujikura, used words in a sparing and inspirational way. The minimalist lyrics gave the impression of great Matsuo Basho haiku poems, which, in resonance with Fujikura's music, left an unforgettable image of an alien but strangely familiar dystopia.
Kazushi Ono, who is also the artistic director of the New National Theater Tokyo, showed his maestro skills with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, who achieved the difficult task of putting this complexly rich contemporary music into reality.
The singers did their jobs superbly well. The character of Johnson sung by Seth Carico left a particularly persuasive effect.
The production was simply beautiful, creative talents led by Lydia Steier successfully made this world premier of A Dream of Armageddon into a historic event.
There would be two more performances of this masterpiece.