Scenery & Costume : Nuno Corte-Real
Among the existent performing arts possible to be seen in the 20th century those of Japan, the Noh, the Kabuki and the Bunraku are the oldest. The Kabuki, a unique phenomenon among the performing arts, came into being during the 17th century and developed widely in the 18th century. Today it remains for us working in the theatre a beacon and an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
"Chushingura", the tale of the 47 Ronins, is one of the theatrical masterpieces, not only of Japan, but of the entire world.
───Creating a ballet based on this narrative enables us to perceive that throughout the ages the unchanging quality of human truth.
In this piece the ballet, a symbolic art, embraces the Kabuki, an art form supreme a ritual where myth immerses itself in the everyday life, thus transcending it, subliming it and thereby freeing us of our existential anxiety through the medium of the actor.
Time no longer exists; we are all Ronins, orphans of time. I realised on coming to terms with this magnificent tale the necessity of under standing the sacred and religious aspects of the piece; moreover, the final ceremony of "Seppuku" of the Samurais was an incantation to the emperor, a hymn to the Buddha and the great Nothingness.
In modern Tokyo, scenes from a TV program are being projected on the screen. A group of expressionless youngsters dance to the heavy metal rock music.
A young man in a black jacket who is the leader of the group finds an old Japanese sword. The moment he holds it in his hand, the singing of the Gidayu is suddenly heard, and the TV screens as well as the youngsters disappear into the past.
LADY KAOYO INDENTIFIES A WARRIOR'S HELMET
The young man finds himself standing in front of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine in Kamakura.
In order to celebrate the completion of the shrine, Lord Ashikaga Tadayoshi, a younger brother of the shogun Ashikaga Takauji, has journeyed to Kamakura from the capital in Kyoto to serve as Takauji's deputy.
The deputy is accompanied by the governor of Kamakura, Ko no Morono, and Enya Hangan Takasada, the lord of the castle Hoki, who is charged with entertaining the deputy. They have come to dedicate in the treasury of the shrine the helmet which Nitta Yoshisada wore in the battle, when he was killed by Ashikaga Takauji. The helmet was bestowed on Yoshisada by the emperor.
Presently Lady Kaoyo, the wife of Enya, is summoned who was one of the maids of honor in the palace in charge of the armory. She is asked to identify the authentic helmet.
Morono, a great fancier of women, makes advances to Kaoyo but is refused, and becomes indignant.
OKARU AND KAMPEI
On the day of the banquet, outside the front gate of the Lord Ashikaga Tadayoshi's mansion young lovers Hayano Kampei, the retainer of Enya Hangan, and Okaru, Lady Kaoyo's maid, are enjoying a brief moment together.
Sagisaka Bannai, a retainer of Ko no Morono, gets in the way.
IN PINE TREE CHAMBER AT THE PALACE
In the Pine Tree Chamber at the palace of Ashikaga Tadayoshi, Morono insults Hangan because his advances towards his wife, Lady Kaoyo, were refused. Hangan can control his rage no longer and he whips out his sword and slashes Morono, Morono tries to escape, Hangan is restrained by the lords.
There is uproar within the walls of the mansion. When Hayano Kampei learns what has happened inside the palace, he feels dishonored because he wasn't inside with his lord. Okaru and Kampei go into hiding at her parents' home in the mountains.
The young man is watching.
HANGAN COMMITS SEPPUKU
Enya Hangan is ordered to commit seppuku for the crime of having attacked Lord Morono. Hangan anxiously waits for the arrival of Oboshi Yuranosuke, his chief retainer. Hangan takes up the dagger and plunges it into his left side. Then he asks the young man from the future who he believes is Yuranosuke to take revenge and he dies.
With blood on his hands, the young man has made up his mind to take action. Hence forth the characters of Yuranosuke and the young man are intertwined and the latter enters the world of Bushido (the way of the samurai).
ENYA CLAN LEAVES THEIR PALACE
Sagisaka Bannai is pleased with the death of Enya Hangan and the destruction of his clan.
At the mansion of the late Enya Hangan ladies-in-waiting are amusing themselves without knowing of the great tragedy which has occurred. Lady Kaoyo, the mistress of the house, leaves the mansion in sadness.
Oboshi Yuranosuke, the chief retainer of the late Enya Hangan, discusses with other aides on what plan of action to take. A written oath of revenge is taken by all.
Lord Morono afraid of being assassinated by the retainers of the late Enya Hangan, sends out Sagisaka Bannai to spy of them.
Hayano Kampei lives a secluded life of a ronin with his wife Okaru and her parents in the mountains, and makes his living by hunting. He wishes to be permitted to join the league in taking revenge, thereby having the chance to restore his honor as a samurai.
Okaru's father Yoichibei was told that it was necessary to raise funds for Lord Enya Hangan's monument and sold his daughter Okaru into prostitution, without the permission of his son-in-law.
On his way home on the Yamazaki Highway with a borrowed wallet which contains fifty-ryo in gold (half the money for selling of his daughter), he was robbed and murdered by Ono Sadakuro who was a former retainer of Enya and is now a bandit.
Kampei, supposing he had killed a boar, finds that he has shot Sadakuro by mistake. Kampei removes a wallet in the darkness from the corpse and returns to his home, thanking the Gods.
Meanwhile, Okaru is waiting for her husband's return with her mother Okaya. Presently Osai, the mistress of Ichimonjiya, comes from Gion to pay the balance and takes Okaru with her.
The corpse of Yoichibei is being brought before Kampei who has just bid his wife good-by. When Okaya sees that her son-in-law is carrying a wallet with identical pattern as the one which Ichimonjiya has left, containing the fifty-ryo, she blames him for his impiety and the murder of his father-in-law. Thinking that he has killed his father-in-law Yoichibei instead of Sadakuro, the bandit, Kampei, being unable to explain what has happened, commits seppuku.
Yuranosuke, who has witnessed everything, takes pity on Kampei and adds him to the league. Yuranosuke renews his resolution of revenge in thinking about his master Enya Hangan who was forced to commit seppuku, the hardships the former retainers of Enya are going through, and the tragic death of Kampei.
Yuranosuke has been drinking steadily at the chaya in Gion called Ichiriki in order to deceive the enemy.
Rikiya, Yuranosuke's son, arrives with a secret letter from Lady Kaoyo. Standing under the light of lantern hanging from the eaves, Yuranosuke reads the letter from Lady Kaoyo describing the enemy's situation.
Okaru who has been sold into prostitution and is working at the teahouse, reads the letter from upstairs by holding out her mirror to reflect the writing. Yuranosuke feels pity for poor Okaru and is concerned for her welfare.
Bannai the Lord Morono's spy also reads the letter. Yuranosuke drives the sword through the mats and wounds Bannai who is hiding beneath the floor.
FAREWELL IN SNOW
A snowy night. Sorrowful cries of spirits which cannot rest in peace echo in the night sky.
Yuranosuke pays his last visit to Lady Kaoyo, his master's wife, now living in seclusion. She cannot hide her disappointment because Yuranosuke will not readily reveal his real intentions.
Enya Hangan's ghost appears and leads Yuranosuke to take revenge for his master's death.
Oboshi Yuranosuke, the former chief retainer of Enya Hangan Takasada, and his forty-six ronins gather outside the Lord Morono's mansion.
With Yuranosuke signaling the attack by beating a drum, they break into the grounds and search for Morono. Morono is finally found in his place of hiding and is captured and his head is out off.
Suddenly the ghost of Enya Hangan appears before them and accepts Morono's head from Yuranosuke and disappears.
A first ray of morning light begins to glimmer. The loyal retainers, having successfully avenged their master, commit seppuku and die together under the brilliant sun shining on the pure white snow.
The Tokyo Ballet Premiere： 16 April 1986, Tokyo Bunka Kaikan