Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shinpan Utazaimon

Jigen-ji Temple
A Buddhist ceremony called Nozaki Mairi(野崎参り) is held at Jigen-ji Temple(慈眼寺) in Osaka Prefecture from May 1st to 8th. Sutras are recited to thank everything.The principal Buddhist image of the temmple is Nozaki Kannon(Mercy Goddess).

The ceremony dates back to the end of the 17th century. It draws many visitors during the period. Nozaki Mairi appears in some plays such as "Onnagoroshi Abura no Jigoku(Woman-Killer in Oil Hell)" by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, "Shinpan Utazaimon(新版歌祭文)" by Chikamatsu Hanji and others.

A merchant's daughter named Some(そめ) and one of her father's apprentices named Hisamatasu(久松) committed suicide together on the 6th day of the 1st month in the lunar calendar in 1710.

Kabuki and bunraku plays based on this incident were performanced in the same year.
"Somemoyo Imoseno kadomatsu(染模様妹背門松) " by Suga Sensuke is a remake of a 1710 bunraku play and was first performed in 1767.

Shinpan Uta-zaimona is also based on this incident and was premiered in 1780.
Originally, saimon(祭文) is an address to the gods in a religious ritual. It was deconsecrated by mountain priests and became an entertainment. Uta(歌) means a song. Utazaimon(歌祭文) is a ballad featuring sensational news such as love suicide with shamisen accompaniment. Shinpan means a new version, so Shinpan Uta-zaimona is a new version of the tragic love story between Osome and Hisamatsu.

Romances between masters' daughters and servants were banned in the merchant family, but Osome(お染) falls in love with Hisamatsu.
He is framed by an another apprentice and is sent his parents' home at Nozaki Village. His father attempts to marry him to his stepdaughter, Omitsu(お光). He can't tell his father about his lover. He is torn between love and duty. Osome follows him to the village while wedding preparations are under way.

Osome is an urbane rich girl and Omitsu is a strong-minded country girl. Both of them don't give in an inch.
How will the love triangle work out?

His father persuades Hisamatsu and Osome to give up on their love, and it seems to make it work for his father.  However, Omitsu makes a drastic move.

She appears in a bridal costume (white kimono) with bride's silk floss headdress, but a monk's stole and her short haircut are underneath the costume. Omitsu decides to prolong the death of Hisamatsu and Osome by becoming a nun and bowing out gracefully. She knows they will commit suicide together if this goes on.

When I wacthed this play with a friend of mine, we couldn't go along with her behavior. The two end up comitting suicide together in another scene. Only the scene of Nozaki Village is performed now.

Modern scripts consist of stage directions and dialogues, but bunraku scripts are close to novels. So bunraku without puppets, a storytelling called sujoruri(素浄瑠璃) by narrator(太夫, tayu) and shamisen player is occasionally performed.

At the scene of Nozaki Village, tayu need to perform the voices of several characters including two young women in the same generations.  I was greatly moved by the storytelling of a skilful tayu at the scene without puppets. This is the best play for young tayu to try his skill in storytelling.

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