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The other day a Noh scholar asked me if I didn’t feel uncomfortable with Asian actors taking roles in opera productions. The question implied the fact that it is normal for the Japanese to be uncomfortable with non-Japanese taking roles in Noh theatre, and was supposed to merit a positive answer. My answer was simply ‘of course not’, as I didn’t really know where to start explaining why the answer could not be anything but ‘OF COURSE not’. When I am asked about foreigners in Noh I often use opera as a comparison, as I take for granted that most people accept that ‘European classical music’ is now an artistic patrimony of many countries in the world. I assume that no one is shocked to see a Korean soprano or a Japanese tenor singing arias written in 19th century Italy, for example. European classical music (I apologise for the awkward appellation) is part of the educational curricula of all Japanese schools. However, I realise that this should not be taken for granted, especially in environments as conservatives as that of Noh theatre. We really have a long way to go…

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