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Past Events

Performance “Science Opera”

What’s a “Science Opera”?
It is an innovative way created by BRH to present science.
To learn more about it, please read on!

While the opening of Haydn's symphony The Clock was being played solemnly, Tokindo Okada, the director of BRH appeared on the stage, wearing an Agnes B T-shirt featuring a design of a newt. An image of a newt was projected onto a large amorphous, Gaudi-style object on the stage. The newt possesses the amazing ability of regeneration: if the lens is removed from the eye, a new lens can be formed from the pigment cells of the retina. Transdifferentiation was the theme of Okada's work as a developmental biologist. He is also an enthusiastic lover of music, with a particularly deep attachment for Haydn. A curious combination of a scientific story of the regenerating power of the newt and the music of Haydn. Thus the curtains rose on the BRH's first performance of a "science opera."

The date was April 5, 1995 and the location was Takatsuki Modern Theatre, Takatsuki City, and Osaka Pref. This day was to become a memorable one for the BRH. The theatre with 500 seats was almost full, and the opera began smoothly with Okada's attention-holding narrative of the history of regeneration. During the interludes of this first part, the dances of various creatures were skillfully performed by dancer, Heidi S. Durning. Part 1 concluded with Haydn's Drum-Roll.

After the intermission, the spotlight shifted to Keiko Nakamura, the deputy director of BRH, who recited a biohistory version of Peter and the Wolf. This well-known story by S. Prokofiev was newly adapted to tell the story of evolution, with the role of Peter substituted by Time, the wolf replaced by a dinosaur, and the grandfather by Darwin. The story began with, "Five hundred million years had passed since the creation of the earth. Time awakened...." Bacteria, Darwin, and the dinosaur were represented by flutes, bassoon, and horns, respectively. Time is played by a string ensemble. This new version of Peter and the Wolf received much applause and was praised as a "very unique and splendid story of evolution."

The concept of a "science opera" was first conceived by Kazuyuki Mogi, the former chief of the SICP (the Department of Science Communication and Production) division. Together with Keiko Nakamura, he remodeled the story of Peter and Wolf into a very artistic interpretation of evolution. Wagner created the concept of "music drama" as a new genre that unites music and drama. With "science opera." Mogi sought to unite science with art. His idea was to "reinstate inspiration" in science, as he believes that "Science will meet with rejection when it is transmitted as pure knowledge. Science should start with inspiration, as does music, art, literature."

The performance of the "science opera" was realized through the cooperative effort of all the staff of BRH. With a limited budget, the capable members of the SICP division efficiently carried out the many tasks required, from negotiations for stage settings and coordinating arrangements with the Kyoto Symphony Orchestra (under the baton of conductor Michiyoshi Inoue) to even dramatic presentation and stage management.

The BRH received a special award in 1995, at the "Tokyo Creation Grand Awards" sponsored by the Tokyo Fashion Association. The recognition was given for "biohistory," the concept created by Keiko Nakamura, and for BRH's ability to incorporate the efforts of its two divisions, laboratory research and SICP, to attain such a successful program. The production of this "science opera" no doubt contributed significantly towards the acquisition of the award. The performance was telecast nationwide by NHK satellite broadcasting on April 29,1995.

① Heidi Durning performs her creative dances.

② Keiko Nakamura's narration of Peter and the Wolf against a background projection of Darwin.

③ The stage setting designed by Junko Mada.

④ Kyoto Symphony Orchestra. Comments from many members were that "with the new story, the music sounds different."

⑤ Tokindo Okada discusses Haydn'smusic.

⑥ Heidi Durning performs her creative dances.

⑦ The finale. From the left, Junko Mada, conductor Michiyoshi Inoue, Okada, Nakamura and Heidi Durning.

(4,7: during rehearsal) Photo: Yoshiki Geka