There's nothing like a comeback story. This summer, Japan saw a return to the stage by Seiji Ozawa, one of the country's most celebrated musicians.

On Aug. 23, the 78-year-old maestro took up his baton at the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, the event he founded and directs. It was his first appearance on the podium in Matsumoto for two years after a string of cancellations due to poor health. The night Ozawa returned, though, had a particularly special atmosphere with both Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in attendance at the Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre in Nagano Prefecture. An audience of around 1,500 gave him a warm round of applause as he conducted Maurice Ravel's fantastic short opera "The Child and the Spells." He conducted the same opera three times on Aug. 25, 28 and 31 — without a hitch.

"We had planned this program of Ravel operas four or five years ago and are glad that Ozawa's comeback coincided with its staging," said Atsushi Moriyasu, who has been in charge of opera productions at Saito Kinen since its inauguration. "Ozawa worked hard to bring himself back to full strength and I believe he should be proud of this accomplishment."