Giovanni Vittorio Rosi (1867-?) was one of the most important figures in introducing western opera to Japan. He trained at La Scala and enjoyed a successful career as a mime and choreographer in London’s major musical halls before arriving in Japan following an invitation from the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo.
This lecture will investigate, analyse and contextualise Rosi’ work and Japan’s early encounter with western musical theatre. Rosi conveyed to Japanese audiences truncated and flexibly adapted versions of western art works, which reflected the approach he had developed for the London music halls − a marriage of the artful and the accessible. As a consequence his work also provided the foundations of a western-style popular music in Japan. However, Rosi’s dream was ultimately thwarted by the Japanese authorities’ political and cultural agendas. It will be argued that those operatic products shown in Japan at the beginning of the 20th century were not a shabby reflection of a grander western tradition, but a viable attempt at syncultural construction. This view not only casts new light on our perceptions concerning cross-cultural encounters, but poses new questions regarding the ‘meanings’ of western opera itself.
Dr Naomi MATSUMOTO is a Lecturer in Music at the Music Department, Goldsmiths. She has received several awards including the Overseas Research Scholarship, the British Federation of Women Graduate National Award, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation British Award, and the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Award, the JSPS Symposium Scheme Award. She is working on 17th- and 19th-century Italian opera.