Egypt’s conductor Nayer Nagui, soprano Dina Iskander perform with Japan's Kappabashi Opera

Ati Metwaly , Saturday 27 Jan 2024

Egyptian conductor Nayer Nagui and soprano Dina Iskander perform with the Kappabashi Opera Company's Orpheus and Eurydice (Orfeo ed Euridice) by Gluck, staged at the Sogakudo Concert Hall of the Former Tokyo Music School.



In Saturday’s performance, Nagui conducts the orchestra, soloists, and choir, while soprano Iskander sings the leading role of Euridice. They will also participate in a special gala concert linked to the performance.

This is not the first time for the pair to work with the Kappabashi Opera Company.

The founder of the Japanese company, mezzo-soprano Itsuki Mikiko, spent several years in Egypt in the 1990s studying under tenor Sobhi Bidair.

"Mikiko's dream was to have a private opera company," Nagui reveals, adding that "she kept saying that once she does establish her own company, she'd invite us. Who would have thought that more than 15 years later Mikiko would make her dream come true and reach back to us?"

In 2018, Bidair, Nagui, and Iskander were invited by Mikiko to Japan, where they participated in the gala concert and two performances of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera staged by the Kappabashi company.

And again, five years later, Mikiko's company works on Orpheus and Eurydice, hosting Nagui and Iskander.

"I always enjoyed collaboration with the Japanese artists. The efficiency of work is very impressive. The spirit of work between the musicians is the best," Nagui comments about his experience working with the Kappabashi company as well as numerous other Japanese musicians on several stages.

"During the time I've spent as the artistic director of the Cairo Opera Orchestra, there were years that saw more than eight Japanese musicians working with the orchestra. They have always been very efficient, and classical music needs this quality. The accuracy that bears great artistic fruit is within the Japanese culture, I learned," Nagui said.

The choice of Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice (Orfeo ed Euridice) is not accidental. It is this opera that marked the entry of Western operatic performances to Japan in the early 20th century, and in the exactly same location.

"During the Meiji period, many operettas and musical dramas were performed by itinerant performers and foreign amateurs staying in Yokohama and other foreign settlements. In 1903, students graduating from the Tokyo Music School (now Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music) famously premiered Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice on stage," according to academic sources. 

This event marked the first significant staging of the until-then little-known Western operatic format.

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