Bunraku/Poetry with Music

Bunraku is Poetry with Music at its Highest.
The singer is just about standing on his knees to groan, shriek and growl out the story from deep within his guts, his face growing redder with intensity.
The shamisen player adds just the right touches of bangs, strums and plings, working as much as staccato percussion as mood-evoking strings.
Then there are the puppets.
They add an unreal transcendental dimension as there’s no pretense at hiding the existence of the puppeteers _ mostly very old men who look nothing like the dashing samurai or lovely princesses they play _ in full view on stage.
The men look amazingly beautiful and impeccably in control, barely changing their solemn expressions as they delicately manipulate the puppets, making it look easy, breathing in life to the lifeless puppets with their artistry.
The interview I did with puppet master Minosuke Yoshida is one of the most memorable profile pieces I ever did as a reporter.
The stunning thing about Bunraku artists is that most start at 6 years old or so and have made the art the center of their lives.
No wonder they exude that almost mystical quality.
I took the day off to catch Yoshida at the National Theater in “The Miracle at Tsubosaka Kannon Temple,” first staged in 1879.
Yoshida plays a simple but selfless wife of a blind shamisen player, whose blindness is cured in their deaths because of the purity and sadness of their love.
Yoshida says the moment he loves is when a puppeteer picks up the puppet and it suddenly takes on life.
You’d have to be backstage as he was as an apprentice to catch that magical moment.
But if you’ve ever seen a puppet sitting on a stand, you’d know how boring and, well, doll-like the thing looks when it’s not on a master’s arm.