At the start of each year the New National Theatre Tokyo holds a media event at which the artistic directors of its three departments covering opera, drama and dance (ballet and contemporary) outline their aims and announce the upcoming programs. This time there was an unusual buzz in the air on Jan. 11, because two of the three directors will be new to their positions when the NNTT's 2018/19 season starts in autumn.

First off, the spotlight fell on the incoming head of opera, the renowned conductor and former musical director of several top European orchestras, Kazushi Ono. Despite being the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra's current musical director, Ono, 57, still appears to have the world in his sights, saying, "I would like to increase the NNTT's repertoire and create original new operas to launch into overseas markets."

Stating his intention to enlist rising young directors and singers from Japan and abroad, as well as foreign luminaries, Ono confirmed that the famed South African multimedia artist William Kentridge will direct his first program, Mozart's masterpiece "The Magic Flute." If all goes well — and the government bureaucrats who run the NNTT are amenable — Ono appears set on turning round the erstwhile safety-first approach of hiring expensive foreign singers to carry productions and sell tickets.