News Release

  • No.sfa0041(2020/4/2)

“THE 鍵 KEY” announced winning performance of the 19th Keizo Saji Prize for 2019

©Shin Sumimoto

Francesca Le Lohé
©lemon yellow photography

The Suntory Foundation for the Arts (Directors General: Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi and Shingo Torii) has announced that the 19th (2019) Keizo Saji Prize, bestowed on candidates selected from among those who gave predominantly music-based public performances held in Japan during the year, with winners chosen based on a willingness to challenge and on superior performances that engender a strong reaction, has been awarded to “THE鍵KEY.”

▽ Selection process
A qualifying round was held on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at ANA InterContinental Tokyo to consider applicants who had given public performances in 2019. After careful consideration, “THE鍵KEY” was chosen as the recipient of the 19th (2019) Keizo Saji Prize, a decision that received the formal agreement of the Board of Directors of the Foundation on Tuesday, March 31, 2020.

▽Prize-money ¥2,000,000

▽The members of the selection committee
Atsuya Funaki, Nobuhiro Ito, Seiko Ito, Morihide Katayama, Mikako Mizuno, Yoshihiko Nonomura, Miyuki Shiraishi (In alphabetical order)

▽Reason for the award

This is an unusual opera based on the Junichiro Tanizaki novel “The Key.” It must be set not on a single stage of a theater, but in a house somewhere with multiple rooms. This requires a correspondingly large Western-style house or Japanese house. Singers, dancers and musicians are scattered through these rooms, and perform simultaneously. It is a so-called “multi-room opera.” Spectators and the audience can move freely through the rooms to appreciate the performance. In that sense it is a “promenade opera.”
The form of such a work is well suited to transferring the structure of the novel (“The Key”) to a musical drama. This is because “The Key” is a novel that is set mostly in a single house, with interlocking complications involving the desires of the various characters who live or appear there narrated in the first person, and the attendant conflicts diffusing and confusing the story itself. Although the characters inhabit the same time and space, they live in their own separate worlds, and never follow the same thread, or walk the same stage. That there are contradictions in people’s daily lives, in novels and on the stage is not at all surprising, but “The Key” is original in the manner in which it expresses this, and THE鍵KEY has discovered a superlative use of musical drama that fits it perfectly.
This work was premiered in 2018 at the Nakacho House in Senju, Tokyo. The recipient of this award is the repeat performance of 2019, held in sculptor Hirakushi Denchu’s former home in Yanaka, Tokyo, which was built in the Taisho era. The “multi-room” aspect was formed from the atelier and the living room on the first floor, as well as the tatami rooms on the second floor. This too was a tour de force. This quite luxurious space of one of Japan’s modern artists resonates with the literature of Tanizaki. Rather than promenading, spectators and audience wander shadow-like through the house, experiencing the thrill of a time and space worthy of “The Key.” Singers Takashi Matsudaira, Akane Kudo, Chieko Noda and dancer Shouzo Ayaka put in fine renditions of their individual roles, while the eight musicians playing a combination of Western and Japanese instruments add a fitting atmosphere. The Hirakushi residence provides a mysterious time and space through which bodies and echoes call out to each other, then fall away. The concepts of Francesca Le Lohé, who is responsible for both composition and direction, fit perfectly in the keyhole provided by “The Key.”
On the review panel, some were of the opinion that the looseness of the composition and its low musical density made one question its worth as a musical composition. However, if the music were to exert so much attractive force that spectators and audience were unable to move from one room for fear of missing even a single note, then this “promenade opera” could not become reality. Arguably the lightness and looseness of “THE鍵KEY” are part of its art. The five elements of original work, composition, direction, performance space and performers all come together with unusual results, and it is in recognition of this that the award has been made. (Morihide Katayama, Committee Member)


Date:19th May 2019, 6pm 25th May 2019, 2pm 26th May 2019, 2pm & 6pm
Venue:Denchu Hirakushi House and Atelier (Ueno-sakuragi, Taito-ku, Tokyo)
Composer/Director: Francesca Le Lohé

The Husband (baritone): Takashi Matsudaira
The Wife(soprano): Akane Kudo
The Daughter (mezzo-soprano): Chieko Noda
Kimura (dancer): Shouzo Ayaka
Shakuhachi: Kohei Matsumoto
Double bass: Yukiko Shiina
Sho: Atsumi Kojima
Cello: Yuri Kubota
Kotsuzumi and Shimedaiko: Mikako Ogawa
Violin: Kyouju Hayakawa
Biwa: Akiko Kubota
Clarinet: Hiroko Miyake

Choreography: Kae Ishimoto
Dramaturg: Alexandra Rutter (Whole Hog Theatre)
Lighting: Makoto Uemura
Flyer and programme design: Eri Yamashita
Producer: Naoya Yamashita

Staged by: Kagi Project Executive Committee

See here for more on the Keizo Saji Prize
See here about the Suntory Foundation for the Arts

Search by Lists
  • Management Finance
  • HR
  • Brand
  • Promotion CM
  • R&D, Production Market Report
  • Culture Sports
  • Others