►In 2003, the Tokyo Opera Association and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Conservatory of Music co-produced an opera about Lord Takayama – “The Blessed Lord – Ukon Takayama” — to mark the 450th anniversary of the daimyo’s birth, along with the centennial of Japanese migration to the Philippines when Japan mobilized road construction laborers to work on the scenic Kennon Road linking Baguio City in northern Luzon with the lowlands in the first major wave of Japanese immigration to the Philippines.
Based on “Takayama Ukon,” a novel written by Otohiko Kaga, the two-act opera opens with the tale of Takayama’s banishment to Manila in November 1614, along with his family and followers. The story tells of Lord Ukon Takayama, former samurai-general and daimyo who, turning into a committed follower of Christ, gives up power, fame and fortune for his faith.
Exiled for His Faith
As Takayama defies traditional authority, he is exiled to far-off Manila where he continues his apostolate and evangelical mission but dies 40 days – (“40” days in the Biblical sense, but actually 44 days) — after his arrival. Filipino-Japanese relations are further strengthened with Takayama on his death bed, admonishing his countrymen “to live in harmony with Filipinos.”
The opera was the brainchild of Edward Tuazon Ishita (b. 1947), a Japanese-Filipino from Osaka who headed the Tokyo Opera Association. The Lord Takayama opera listed Dean Raul Sunico, Fr. Manuel P. Maramba, OSB, and Edward T. Ishita as executive producers. It showcased a variety of talents, featuring cast members from Japan and the Philippines. The libretto was primarily written in English, with some parts in Tagalog, Japanese and Spanish. The music was composed by Fr. Maramba.
The University of Santo Tomas contributed the services of the UST Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Herminigildo Ranera, augmented by the Rondalla under James Peter Namit. The chorus consisted of the UST Liturgikon Vocal Ensemble under Eugene de los Santos.
Premiere in Tokyo
The opera had its premiere on July 25. 2003 in Tokyo, at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Hall, with former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata leading the distinguished guests, and later in Takaoka, Kanazawa, Takatsuki and Osaka Cathedral. The Philippines presented the opera beginning August 25, 2003 in Davao and Cebu, with four performances in Manila. In all, the opera had 21 performances before audiences in both Japan and the Philippines. ◘
Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro