A 25th anniversary as the New National Theatre, Tokyo unveils its new season


The 2022-23 season announced by artistic directors Kazushi Ono (Opera) and Miyako Yoshida (Ballet and Dance) marks the 25th anniversary of the New National Theatre, Tokyo. The after-effects of the pandemic are still being felt and the new season includes productions that were cancelled in 2020 along with invitations to many of the singers who were prevented from travelling to Japan. If not quite “business as normal” – only three new opera productions are scheduled rather than the usual four – there is certainly the sense of a company reinvigorated, ready to enjoy its 25th birthday celebrations.  

One of the operas that should have played in 2020 was Laurent Pelly’s staging of Handel’s Giulio Cesare in Egitto, which would have been the first work in NNTT’s Baroque Opera Series. That honour has since fallen to Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (scheduled for May 2022) but it’s great to see Pelly’s “Night in the Museum” Giulio Cesare production, well known from its appearances in Paris, finally making it to the Tokyo Opera Palace stage. Rinaldo Alessandrini brings his impeccable period instrument credentials to the pit and the cast is led by Marianne Neate Kielland as the Roman general, while soprano Mari Moriya tackles the challenging role – eight arias if performed in full – of Cleopatra. Japanese mezzo-soprano Mika Kaneko sings Sesto, out to avenge the death of his father. 

Giulio Cesare in Egitto

© Agathe Poupeney | Opéra national de Paris

Mariusz Treliński’s production of Boris Godunov is the season’s second new staging, a co-production with Polish National Opera where the planned premiere was cancelled in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In Mussorgsky’s opera, one of the central “characters” is arguably the chorus, beaten into acclaiming their new tsar and suffering under his rule. Treliński stages the opera as a contemporary psychological drama “about our fear of our own existence, inferiority complex, and loneliness”, with only the chronicler monk Pimen in classic period costume. The production is conducted by Ono, who has worked with Treliński before on Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel in an acclaimed production at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 2018. Boris, being seen for the first time at the NNTT, should be one of the season’s hot tickets. Evgeny Nikitin sings the troubled tsar. 

The third new production will be Emilio Sagi’s staging of Rigoletto, already seen at the Bilbao Opera and Palau de les Arts in Valencia, in which lighting plays a key role. Baritone George Petean sings the title role, while Hasmik Torosyan is Gilda and Peruvian tenor Iván Ayón-Rivas is the licentious Duke of Mantua. Maurizio Benini conducts, his first return to NNTT since his 1998 debut. 

Among the seven revivals next season, there are international singers scheduled, now that travel quarantine is easing. Eleonora Buratto and Serena Malfi add Italian class to the cast for Don Giovanni, while Stephen Gould is an experienced Tannhäuser. Serena Farnocchia leads the cast of Verdi’s Aida (in Franco Zeffirelli’s classic setting), and Alex Penda should prove a strong Salome in a revival of August Everding’s production. Conductor-wise, Alejo Pérez is in the pit for the revival of Hans-Peter Lehmann’s Tannhäuser, Corrado Rovaris leads Falstaff and Carlo Rizzi, a great Verdian, conducts Aida. As well as the new Boris Godunov, Ono conducts the revival of La bohème in June. 

Swan Lake

© Takashi Shikama

Yoshida’s third season as Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Japan includes bringing in four new productions. Yoshida herself and Alastair Marriot present a new staging of Giselle, the classic Romantic ballet. A Million Kisses to my Skin, originally scheduled for 2021, is given a company premiere, with choreographer David Dawson rehearsing. It will be performed alongside a Balanchine classic, the uplifting Symphony in C

Another company premiere – Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Dream – was planned for January 2022, where it fell foul to a further Covid lockdown. But rescheduled, it finds itself alongside a completely new work, also based on Shakespeare. Will Tuckett choreographs Macbeth to a score by Geraldine Mucha for a work exclusively created for the NBJ. This Shakespearean double bill  premieres in April 2023. 

Among the other works in Yoshida’s season are the Christmas favourite The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and Swan Lake, along with Roland Petit’s Coppélia, while new choreographers are nurtured in the company’s Dance to the Future project. 

With such a wide range of work across both companies, there’s sure to be plenty to appeal to audiences in Tokyo next season. 

Click here to view the full 2022-23 season at the New National Theatre, Tokyo

This preview was sponsored  by the New National Theatre, Tokyo


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