The Gift to Urashima Taro

Composed By Jay Reise. Performed by Ensemble Epomeo and James Nyoraku Schlefer, May 8, 2016. The Gift to Urashima Tarō, a dance piece with music and libretto by Jay Reise, was commissioned by the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival and premiered…

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Composed By Jay Reise. Performed by Ensemble Epomeo and James Nyoraku Schlefer, May 8, 2016.
The Gift to Urashima Tarō, a dance piece with music and libretto by Jay Reise, was commissioned by the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival and premiered with Exit Dance in August 2015. The story recounts a Jap- anese folk tale about Urashima Taro, a fisherman who rescues a turtle, which in turn transports him to the underwater kingdom of the Princess of the Sea. Urashima stays with the princess for a time and upon his return to his village finds himself many years in the future. The music is scored for shakuhachi and string trio.
The name Urashima Tarō first appears in the 15th century in illustrated popular fiction; however, the story itself seems to be much older, dating back as early as the 8th century. It bears a similarity to those of other cul- tures such as Pandora’s Box, Rip Van Winkle, and Alice in Wonderland. Like Faust, it has been told, retold, altered and amended to the point where it is difficult to assign a definitive or original version. In my version, rather than dying, Urashima undergoes a transformation into what the libretto describes as the Princess of the Sea’s gift of ‘oblivion’. It suggests some- thing beyond conscious life but short of death, a fantastic state we cannot say does not exist, and a place from where the princess may possibly bring Urashima back into her timeless and eternal domain – the sea.

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