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Interview with Yusuke Kitazawa, Supervisor for the Shiki Theatre Company Production of The Phantom of the Opera

For about five months starting March 25 2017 the leaders of Japan’s musical industry, the Shiki Theatre Company, will perform their famous rendition of The Phantom of the Opera in Yokohama. It will be the debut performance for the location, the KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theatre. It will be the first performance by Shiki in Yokohama since Cats about four years ago, so there are many fans waiting with bated breath!
Magcul wanted to examine the greatness of The Phantom of the Opera, so we approached Yusuke Kitajima, who formerly played Viscount Raoul de Chagny, the rival of the phantom, in previous productions, and who acts as supervisor for this production. We asked him about things to look for in this production, and his enthusiasm for the Yokohama production.

Interview&Text: Mika Abe
Photo: Hajime Kato

- The Phantom of the Opera is a hit musical worldwide. In Japan as well, since its first production in 1988, it is third in number of performances behind Lion King and Cats, making it a famous production for Shiki Theatre Company. I have heard that your first performance was also in The Phantom of the Opera.

Kitazawa:Yes, that is true. Furthermore, it was a performance of The Phantom of the Opera that I saw as university student that awakened in me an interest in musicals and made me want to join Shiki.

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- So it was a turning point in your life?

Kitazawa:Yes. At that point I was studying classical singing, and felt that musicals were something completely different. But watching The Phantom of the Opera, I realized that first of all, the music was wonderful. Since the setting is the Paris opera house, there are scenes of opera being performed that resonated with me, and different from opera, there were many catchy songs that were enjoyable. I immediately bought the soundtrack CD and listened to it every day. The story was also emotional, and I was surprised and felt “musicals are wonderful, and Shiki is amazing!”

- The story of The Phantom of the Opera that you enjoyed so much is that of a mysterious and ugly phantom who lives in the basement of the Paris opera house and lovingly raises and trains a singer, Christine, and Christine’s fateful reunion with Viscount Raoul de Chagny, who falls in love with Christine.

Kitazawa:Yes. The Phantom is an extremely talented genius, but he gets called ugly and horrible by everyone, and so shuts himself up below the opera house. He then sees Christine for the first time, feels love for her, and begins teaching her in secret. She improves steadily, and after the leading soprano of the opera quits, she is suddenly thrust into the main role. However, Christine then falls in love with Raoul, and the Phantom becomes jealous. That is the main plot of the story.

- It is a very mysterious and dramatic love story. What aspect of the story do you find most interesting?

Kitazawa:I think it would have to be the Phantom’s sad existence. He loves Christine from the bottom of his heart, but it is a cruel, one-way love. I performed as Raoul, but I actually felt the most empathy with the Phantom. I cried at the Phantom’s last, sorrowful scene.

- It seems that the majority of fans of musicals are women, but men can also be affected.

Kitazawa:Everybody shares the experience of not getting attention from the person you like. The Phantom of the Opera does a very good job of expressing those very real emotions. I think especially in the last scene, everybody is asking themselves what love really means. The cast of course thinks this way, but as the supervisor involved with this production, I tell the performers to be sure to treat the emotion of the last scene very preciously.

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- In addition to the drama, the music, which you said moved you, is also a wonderful point of the musical. The songwriter, Andrew Lloyd Webber, also worked on Cats and Jesus Christ Superstar, and has been called the modern-day Mozart.

Kitazawa:Andrew Lloyd Webber also has a deep knowledge of classical music, so the music in The Phantom of the Opera really is wonderful. It is full of numbers that require a high level of musical technique, and are great both to sing and listen to. The Phantom’s solo number “The Music of the Night”, the “Overture” title roll that everyone has heard, the duet with Raoul and Christine from the end of the first act “All I ask of You”, and the opening song of the second act “Maswuerade”, are all wonderful songs. As the setting is the opera house, there are also situations and music similar to famous operas, making it a production that true lovers of music will really enjoy.

- To the point that you even memorized the soundtrack!

Kitazawa:(Laughing) That’s right. Other musicals have songs that you immediately think of when you think of the show, but The Phantom of the Opera is just full of famous songs. There are many major songs that absolutely everyone has heard before. Another key aspect is how smoothly the action is wound through the music. The lines are also spoken through the melodies, making a legitimately grand musical.

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- The set that is beautifully decorated to bring the Paris opera house to life is also a point of interest.

Kitazawa:Upon first entering the theatre, I think your eyes are first drawn to the proscenium arch framing the stage. The gold sculptures are exquisite, and the large chandeliers are wonderful. A scene not inferior to the actual opera hall is laid out before you, to the point that even I sometimes think “Where am I? Is this really Japan?” (laughing). The drapes and costumes are also made from opulent fabrics and designs, and have been painstakingly maintained since being used in the first performance. I think attendees can also feel the weight of The Phantom of the Opera in this way.

- The apparel representing 19th century Europe is also wonderful.

Kitazawa:Yes, it really is. As an actor, costumes are very important to help get in to character. In The Phantom of the Opera, there is a need to change costumes very quickly, which can be quite tough, and they are heavy, but that gives them a profound sense of realism, on which there is no compromising. For those of us wearing the costumes as well, they help us to feel like the real thing, and perform that way.

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- What is your favorite scene in The Phantom of the Opera?

Kitazawa:First of all, the beginning. When the prologue is finished, the scene changes to a rehearsal of the opera Hannibal, where the prima donna Carlotta is singing the cadenza. Audiences are surprised and think “what, is this an opera?” That scene is worth seeing.

- What other scenes are you impressed by?

Kitazawa:Personally, the scene in the director’s office stays with me. Christine is taken by the Phantom, and a threatening letter arrives. The feelings of director, Carlotta, Raoul and others are mixed, and the septet “Prima Donna” is sung. The song is very technical, and in the end the audience can feel very strong emotion. This song is what really got me into The Phantom of the Opera when watching as a part of the audience.

- How do you feel about Raoul, the character that you played?

Kitazawa:Raoul has power, money and popularity, and has lived to this point without any complexes. He is a person who is trying to lead Christine towards a good life. I think that Christine gets a feeling of hope and is attracted to him. Throughout the first and second acts, his attitude towards Christine changes, and I think it is important to note how her feelings towards him change. It becomes a love triangle, and I think imagining how the feelings of all three characters change allows us to more deeply appreciate the story.

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- Being able to talk to you has made me look forward even more to the performances starting next March.

Kitazawa:There is also a sense of excitement within the company. The venue is KAAT, Kanagawa Arts Theatre, which is in an area with a lot of concerts and theatre, so we are all very happy to be able to perform in such a place. We have heard how wonderful of a theatre KAAT, Kanagawa Arts Theatre is, and the city of Yokohama has long had a cultured air to it, and the patrons have a refined view. Shiki Theatre Company is also headquartered in Yokohama (Azamino, Aoba District), so we have a fondness for this neighborhood. We cannot put forth an embarrassing performance in front of the people of this area, so everyone in the company is working very hard right now (laughing). In order to provide the most enjoyable rendition of The Phantom of the Opera for five months to August, everyone at the company is working hard in rehearsals now. Please look forward to the performances!

劇団四季オペラ座の怪人


Information about the Shiki Theatre Company’s Yokohama performance of the musical “The Phantom of the Opera”
◇Perform dates: Saturday March 25, 2017 to August

◇Venue:
 KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theatre (Hall)
 (281 Yamashitachou, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa)

◇First Ticket Sales:
 (For Saturday March 25 – Friday June 30 performanes)
 Starting Sunday November 20, 10am
 ( “Shiki no kai” members can reserve from Saturday November 12)

◇Pricing:
 S:10,000 yen (10,800 yen with tax) /S Side: 10,000 yen (10,800 yen with tax)
 A: 8,000 yen (8,640 yen with tax) / A Side: 8,000 yen(8,640 yen with tax)
 B: 6,000 yen (6,480 yen with tax) / B Side: 6,000 yen (6,480 yen with tax)
 C: 3,000 yen (3,240 yen with tax)
 Standing at Side with seat:3,000 yen(3,240 yen with tax)
 ※ “Shiki no Kai” Pricing:
  S:9,000 yen(9,720 yen with tax)/ S Side:9,000 yen(9,720 yen with tax)

◇How to Purchase:
 ・Internet SHIKI ON-LINE TICKET  http://489444.com
 (Available 24 hours a day, but from 10am on first day of sales)
 ・ Phone: Shiki Theatre Company Ticket Center: 0120-489444 (10am-6pm)
 ・ Direct: From all Shiki Theatre Company theatres (besides Jiyuu Theatre)
 Ticket Pia, Ticket Kanagawa,etc

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