The Other Reversed? Japan’s Assimilation of Carmen, 1885 to 1945

Matsumoto, Naomi. 2020. The Other Reversed? Japan’s Assimilation of Carmen, 1885 to 1945. In: Richard Langham Smith and Clair Rowden, eds. Carmen Abroad: Bizet's Opera on the Global Stage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 284-303. ISBN 9781108481618 [Book Section]

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Carmen is currently one of the most frequently performed Western operas in Japan where the character of Carmen has become widely known. This chapter explores the complex processes of assimilating and integrating a Western icon into the culture of a Far-Eastern country. It begins by establishing a chronology of performances and adaptations of Carmen in Japan between 1885 and 1945, and examines in detail: 1, the first performance of the opera by a Russian company in 1919; 2, the first all-Japanese-cast production in 1922; 3, the contribution of mixed-race singers such as Yoshiko Sato (1909−1982) and Yosie Fujiwara (1898−1976); and 4, Japan’s eventual role as a disseminator of occidental music to other Asian countries.

These encounters between Carmen and Japan raise fascinating issues of race, gender, class, hybridity and proto-globalisation. By embracing the ‘Otherness’ of Carmen, the Japanese were not asserting their distance from the West but rather attempting to access its mainstream. In this way, by striving to incorporate its Western ‘Other’, Japan embarked upon a shift towards a globalised world.

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Book Section

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opera, reception, Japan, East and West,

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14 May 2019Accepted
September 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

06 Sep 2019 11:24

Last Modified:

09 Mar 2021 11:50


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