Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ロミオ, ロミオ, wherefore art thou ロミオ

Attended a talk my friend H gave this evening which took me back. Once upon a time in Tokyo she got me tickets to all sorts of Japanese Shakespeare productions (she herself ran a Shakespearian company called Rhyming); I'd read the play in English in the afternoon and then think I was understanding every word in the evening production! Today the subject was "Romeo and Juliet" and I tried to follow along as the students read aloud a few scenes. Perhaps because the modern Japanese translation is in parts easier to understand than Shakespeare's English, I felt like I was following along. (At one point it seemed I would have to read "Romeo" so I noted the words I didn't know how to pronounce and tried to jot the pronunciations down as others' read them, until it was clear it was just too many.) My contribution to the evening was a presentation on the musical settings by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, with a nod also to Bernstein. I didn't exactly offer to give this presentation - speaking on something you don't know in a language you barely know any more isn't exactly fun - but she thought it would be interesting for the students, so how could I say no? Beyond contrasting the nearly silent start of Tchaikovsky's "Fantasy Overture" and the wailing, nearly howling, start of Prokofiev's ballet, I didn't have much to say - or the words to say it. Oh well, I suppose it had novelty value for a native English-speaker to stammer in Japanese about Shakespeare without words!

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