Danny Kaye and Luciano Pavarotti kiss Montserrat Caballe in a dressing room at the San Francisco Opera House. Pavarotti, as Mario Cavaradossi and Caballe, as Floria Tosca are performing Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca.
Seragaki Aoba is a brand new stage director for the Midorijima Opera Company, whose vision and creativity with the New National Theatre in Tokyo has helped him make a name for himself, as he has achieved critical acclaim for many of his productions. He is the grandson of Seragaki Tae, a former soprano with the company, and the son of Seragaki Naine and Haruka, a famous tenor and soprano couple. Aoba has worked with many of the popular singers of the Midorijima Opera Company, and they all love working with him. The most popular singers are Koujaku, Noiz, Mink, Clear, and Ren.
Koujaku isa spinto tenor. He is the star of the MOC and is sought out for productions from opera companies worldwide, especially after his critically-acclaimed performance as Mario Cavaradossi from Puccini’s Tosca with Teatro alla Scala in Italy. The lyric-tenor-sweetness of his voice allows him to give spinto tenor roles a warm and gentle side, making them truly enjoyable to watch, and is what earned him his popularity. Offstage, Koujaku is still a complete sweetheart and is very kind towards his fellow singers, always ready to give advice to aspiring singers as well. He has great respect for all his singers and truly enjoys learning from them, and he especially enjoys performing alongside baritone Ren. The both of them are noted to have more chemistry and sexual tension together, more than the chemistry between Koujaku and any soprano. His signature role is Radamès from Verdi’s Aida. Here is what his voice sounds like. (Aria: “Celeste Aida” from Verdi’s Aida, tenor: Franco Corelli)
Noiz is a buffo tenor. Not only can he create distinct voices for smaller comic roles, but he is incredibly skilled in acting. He rose to popularity after his performance of Spoletta from Puccini’s Tosca with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and has worked with numerous German opera companies before arriving at the MOC. While he appears cold onstage, Noiz is quite kind offstage, and interviewing him is always a pleasure. He and Koujaku used to be rivals, but have since warmed up to one another and enjoy working together. According to Koujaku, “Noiz is someone with great talent and a truly wonderful voice, and I find it a pleasure to work with him”. Noiz has also said that “Koujaku is quite the hero onstage, and his passion is something I admire a lot”. His signature role is Don Basilio from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Here’s what his voice sounds like. (Aria: “In quegli anni” from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, tenor buffo: Luigi Alva)
Mink is a bass-baritone. With his rich and deep voice, he is the go-to for all the low-voiced bass roles. He achieved great popularity after his performance of Sparafucile from Verdi’s Rigoletto with the Met Opera, after working with several North American opera companies. Onstage, Mink appears sinister, intimidating, and serious in his roles, which are usually that of either villains, fathers, uncles, or wise old men. Despite that, he’s quite polite and friendly offstage, and is a real pleasure to work with. His portrayals of both murderous villains and wise old men are highly praised and many directors would give anything to work with him. He’s almost like the dad of the company, since many singers, Koujaku included, look up to him, and he’s always giving them advice. He and Koujaku have performed together in Verdi’s Aida several times. His signature role is Prince Gremin from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Here is what his voice sounds like. (Aria: “Lyubvi fse vozratï pokornï” from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, bass: Mikhail Petrenko)
Clear is a leggero tenor. He has a graceful and very light voice, so he’d also be playing the roles of love interests, especially in Rossini operas and any opera from earlier centuries. He first rose to fame with his performance as Count Almaviva from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville with Opera Australia, since many critics loved his cheerful nature and energy onstage. Clear is just as friendly and happy offstage as he is onstage, and he is viewed as the baby of MOC by the other singers. His charm and sweet nature make him a delight to work with, and his willingness to try new things earns him great favour with conductors and directors. Both Koujaku and Mink look out for him a lot, and they help him with any serious roles when he needs practice. His signature role is Tonio from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment. Here is what his voice sounds like. (Aria: “Ah mes amis, quel jour de fête!” from Donizetti’s La fille du régiment, tenor: Lawrence Brownlee)
Ren is a lyric baritone. His warm and gentle voice allows him to be cast in many good guy roles. He achieved great popularity after his performance of Marcello from Puccini’s La bohème with the Opéra de Montréal, as many critics enjoyed his sincere, gentle voice. Even though Ren appears charismatic onstage, he is incredibly shy and sweet offstage. His kind nature and his talent make him a joy to work with, and many opera singers and directors would give anything to work with him. Koujaku and Ren have performed together quite frequently, their most famous performance being Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles, with Koujaku as Nadir and Ren as Zurga. This particular performance is especially famous for the homoerotic subtext between Nadir and Zurga in their duet “Au fond de temple saint”, and for having more chemistry and apparent sexual tension between Koujaku and Ren more than between Koujaku and the soprano. His signature role is Zurga from Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles. Here is what his voice sounds like. (Aria: “L’orage s’est calmé” from Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles, baritone: Luca Grassi)
Meanwhile, the male chorus members are made up of Benishigure, Ruff Rabbit, and Scratch. Two of the members, Kou and Hagima, are incredibly supportive of Koujaku and love working with him.
Other members of the company include:
Seragaki Tae, who is a former opera singer with the company. She was the most famous singer during her younger days, and she retired shortly before her daugher Haruka got married. She is now a vocal coach and mentor for the singers, and occasionally does master classes.
Theo, who is Noiz’s brother and a conductor for the company. He has worked with famous opera companies around the world, most notably in Germany. He is very sweet and helpful, and a joy to have around. He’s also incredibly supportive of his brother.
Mizuki, who is a stage manager. He and his crew, Dry Juice, often help out with the technical aspects of opera productions such as the lighting, set design, etc. He often likes to hang out with the singers after practices and before performances.
Sei, who is in charge of costumes and makeup. He is the supervisor, and often helps buy and design the costumes, making sure they coordinate with the sets.
Virus, who creates the supertitles for various productions. He is incredibly fluent in Italian, French, German, Russian, and Czech, so he is able to expertly translate the libretti into Japanese and make them creative in his own way.
Trip, who is the head carpenter and head of sound for the company. He helps construct the sets and take them down after a production is finished. He also is in charge of making sure the speakers work and that nothing goes wrong with sound.
With some sly maneuvering, I managed to sneak a recording of my favorite aria. Here is Marcello Giordani as Mario Cavaradossi.
E lucevan le stelle, ed olezzava la terra stridea l'uscio dell'orto ed un passo sfiorava la rena. Entrava ella fragrante, mi cadea tra le braccia.
O dolci baci, o languide carezze, mentr'io fremente le belle forme disciogliea dai veli! Svanì per sempre il sogno mio d'amore. L'ora è fuggita, e muoio disperato! E non ho amato mai tanto la vita!
Translation in English
How the stars used to shine there, How sweet the earth smelled, The orchard gate would creak, And a footstep would lightly crease the sand. She’d come in, fragrant as a flower, And she’d fall into my arms.
Oh! sweet kisses, oh! lingering caresses, Trembling, I’d slowly uncover her dazzling beauty. Now, my dream of love has vanished forever. My last hour has flown, and I die, hopeless! And never have I loved life more!