Sunday, April 15, 2012

A night with Emiko

There’s been an incident. There was confusion as to what time our security was to be on hand. Emiko and her cast were there at 4:30 for final run throughs. She’s been told the head of security was Raphael. A man was sitting there.Are you Ralph? she asked. He nodded. Are you head of security? He nodded again. How long you work here? she asked. Four years, he replied. When their backs were turned, he went through their stuff, stole a wallet and cash and disappeared. The police were called, arrived, took interviews. 
When Raphael arrived, he was quite upset. He takes great pride in keeping this place safe. Did not want anyone thinking he had fallen down on the job. Emiko realized that this was the  real Ralph. 
Her benefit was to coincide with the one year anniversary of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan. She drew a bigger crowd than her last benefit. Easily over 250. My neighibor and friend Ric opened with his double flute solo and his new song Pray for me. Japanese pop icon Setsuko Hata followed with a Whitney Houston flavored set followed by hip hop dance artist Toshihiko Nakazawa, fresh from amateur night at the Apollo.
Our friend Chzuru dances a solo to another pop song then a series of Broadway show song and dance medleys from The King and I to Flower Drum Song to West Side Story follow.  
I’m impressed that Chizuru now sings as well as dances. To see both Jets and Sharks performed by Japanese performers a bit startling though Natsuko Hayashi’s dancing as Anita could be in any production. Chizuru as Rosalia singing Puerto America gave me a smile.
At intermission, I find Antonia, heavily made up, on the steps, holding up a sign, begging. I tell her not the time or place. She’ll have to go and come back later.
Noh Mai Toshinori Hamada
The second half began with a traditonal Japanese Noh Mai featuring Noh artist Toshinori Hamada. And I remembered Leslie in high school who inside her majorette had a passion for Ferlinghetti and Japanese Noh. 
The rest was all opera with the ten o’clock show stopper being Takaoki Onishi’s largo al factorum from Il Barbiere di Siviglia. I notice that Rafael has eased into the sanctuary, taking it all in. And for a moment, I remember the great opera moments in this place, all those years of Lauren and Comfort Ye, the warmth of the memories, the profound sadness of loss. 
Emiko herself sings an aria from Madame Butterfly and then Met legend Lucine Amara, now 87, closes the show. Still singing, wise enough to know what she can do and then do everything with what she has. I am pleased that her spirit has joined the house 
Emiko, Takaoki Inishi, Lucine Amara
Emiko is an intriguing woman. Clearly a professional in planning and shaping a gala, hiring the right choreographer and director, light and sound staff to realize her vision. A taskmaster with her eye on every detail, passionate about opera, her own people and culture and the next generation. Ric and I both impressed with her ability to attract, use and nurture  young artists in their twenties. Her presence, our space, an exchange of gifts.
At the  reception, I hear one of Dona Amara’s entourage say ..seen better days...about the I walk over and share our story. 
Ric and I say our goodbyes. I thank Rafael. Ric and I head home together. 
Bob, Chizuru, Ric

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