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‘Soldier’s Tale’ to hit Japan

by Nobuko Tanaka

Tokyo audiences have an opportunity this weekend to see a stage gem performed only 12 times before — and always in its birthplace of the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden, home of the fabled Royal Ballet.

Created by leading English choreographer Will Tuckett, who is also the ROH’s principal guest artist, this adaptation of “The Soldier’s Tale” premiered to astonishing public and critical acclaim in the ROH’s rebuilt 400-seat Linbury Studio in 2004.

The piece is a 1918 theatrical work by Swiss writer C.F. Ramuz set to dramatic music by Igor Stravinsky and intended, they declared, to be “read, played and danced.”

With its cast featuring top Royal Ballet alumni Adam Cooper, Matthew Hart, Zenaida Yanowsky and Will Kemp (as dancer/narrator) — along with a seven-piece musical ensemble — that weeklong first run at the Linbury created such an instantaneous worldwide sensation that some theater lovers even flew in from Japan to get tickets.

In staging this emotive Faustian fable of a poor soldier (Cooper) who trades his fiddle (but loses himself, his true love and, almost, his sanity) in exchange for a magic book the Devil (Hart) says will bring him untold riches, Tuckett creates a bizarre kind of carnival both on stage and off (cast members mingle among the audience), with Hart’s devilish acting and dancing certainly among its standouts.

Already a theater legend after the short 2004 Linbury run, this production was again staged over four days at the Linbury the following year. No less than The Guardian’s renowned dance critic, Judith Mackrell, declared of the 2005 run: “These performers can act as well as they can dance, and as they flip from steps to words, they do as much as humanly possible to add verve and color to the text.”

Theater lovers beware: Both Cooper and Kemp are stars of Matthew Bourne’s monumental, all-male contemporary- dance version of “Swan Lake,” which earlier took Japan by storm — so tickets for the upcoming shows will be hard to get.

“The Soldier’s Tale” (with Japanese subtitles) runs Sept. 11-16 at Tokyo’s New National Theatre, a 2-min. walk from Hatsudai Station on the Keio New Line. It will be staged in Osaka on Sept. 20 and 21 at the Koseinenkin Kaikan Geijutsu Hall. For more information, call Sun Rise Promotion at (0570) 00-0777 or visit www.heishi.jp