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Faculty of Music


Dr Amanda Hsieh (Durham University)

Staging Hänsel und Gretel in Japan, 1913

I examine in this talk the 1913 staging of Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel at the Tokyo Imperial Theatre, which opened in 1911 as Japan’s first Western-style theatre. The Theatre’s operatic venture, among the earliest for the Japanese public, has normally been credited to the Italian ballet master Giovanni Vittorio Rosi, who the theatre had hired to lead its opera department from 1912 to 1916 (Facius, 2021; Matsumoto 2017; Yamada 2015). However, by studying the theatre programmes, production photos, and relevant commentaries in newspapers and magazines, I argue that the 1913 Hänsel, a post-Wagnerian fairy-tale opera, represented an occasion on which the Japanese actively assuaged its fervent Wagnerism before they could undertake Wagner’s monumental works (Takenaka 2021; McCorkle Okazaki 2018). Instead of an instance where Rosi enchanted the Japanese audience with his European expertise, the 1913 translated and abridged version of Hänsel was to a large extent the collective effort of the translator-playwright Shōyō Matsui (Masui 2003); members of the Imperial Theatre’s affiliated arts school, which began as the actress Sada Yacco’s Imperial Actress Training School (Ito 2009); and supporters such as industrialist Ichizō Kobayashi and playwright Kaoru Osanai, for promoting the acceptance of actresses on stage (Yamanashi 2012). I foreground Japanese involvement – their agency and creativity – in a hitherto Eurocentric interpretation of the history of Japan’s Hänsel, challenging the received wisdom depicting Japan as merely imitative in its pursuits of Western modernity.

Dr Amanda Hsieh is Assistant Professor in Musicology at Durham University and the 2020 winner of the Royal Musical Association’s Jerome Roche Prize (for a distinguished article by an early-career scholar). Her current monograph project adopts a transnational approach to investigate how Germany and Japan, as young and ambitious empires, articulated their domestic and international aspirations through opera. She has published in the Cambridge Opera Journal, Music and Letters, and the Journal of the Royal Musical Association (JRMA). As an editor, she is responsible for the review sections of the JRMA and the RMA Research Chronicle, and she serves as part of the editorial team of the American Musicological Society’s Musicology Now. Amanda is invested in building equitable and geographically diverse scholarly networks; presently, she co-organises an Asian-German Studies in Music Working Group (

Wednesday, 3 May, 2023 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
Recital Room, Faculty of Music