Bando Tamasaburo

Profile

In the traditional world of Japanese kabuki theatre, Bando Tamasaburo is already legendary - considered to be one of its most important leading onnagata actors. As with many other countries’ theatrical traditions, kabuki is performed by an all-male ensemble, with some actors specializing in playing the female roles; the onnagata. Bando is known and greatly admired for his overwhelming beauty and his ability to express the spirit of the role he is playing. In keeping with kabuki tradition, he made his stage debut using one name, Bando Kinoji in 1957, but becoming Bando Tamasaburo V in 1964; receiving the prestigious stage name from his adopted father, Morita Kan’ya XIV. At the age of 19, Bando won the role of Princess Shiranui in Yukio Mishima’s Chinsetsu Yumiharizuki. He had continued to play the most important female roles in kabuki such as the loyal nursemaid Masaoka in Meiboku Sendai Hagi (The Precious Incense and Autumn Flowers of Sendai) and the lovely courtesan Akoya in Dan no Ura Kabuto Gunki. Revealing a constantly inquiring creative mind, he has extended his scope to include international and non-kabuki pieces; performing in Okinawa’s Kumiodori, Chinese Kunqu opera, collaborating with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, dancer/choreographer Maurice Béjart and film director Andrzej Wajda.

Read more...

In the traditional world of Japanese kabuki theatre, Bando Tamasaburo is already legendary - considered to be one of its most important leading onnagata actors. As with many other countries’ theatrical traditions, kabuki is performed by an all-male ensemble, with some actors specializing in playing the female roles; the onnagata. Bando is known and greatly admired for his overwhelming ability to create female beauty and to express the spirit of the role he is playing.
In 1957, in keeping with kabuki tradition, he made his stage debut using one name, Bando Kinoji, but becoming Bando Tamasaburo V in 1964; receiving the prestigious stage name from his adopted father, the influential kabuki actor, Morita Kan’ya XIV. 
At the age of 19, Bando won the role of Princess Shiranui in Yukio Mishima’s adaptation of the heroic epic Chinsetsu Yumiharizuki
Over the years, Bando has played all leading onnagata roles; roles that embody the wonder and appeal of Kabuki. Roles such as the loyal nursemaid Masaoka in Meiboku Sendai Hagi (The Precious Incense and Autumn Flowers of Sendai), the lovely courtesan Akoya in Dan no Ura Kabuto Gunki (for a long time, Bando was the only actor who could play this role) and Yatsuhashi, a femme fatale role in Kagotsurube Sato no Eizame (The Haunted Sword). He is also famous for his performance of dance pieces - an integral part of the performance of a kabuki onnagata and is known for creating worlds of special beauty through dance in plays such as Kyoganoko Musume Dojoji (The Maiden at Dojoji Temple) and Sagi Musume (The Heron Maiden).
In Japan, the popularity of Bando Tamasaburo and his stage partners transcend the world of kabuki, particularly in the 1970s, when Bando had two particularly lasting and well-known stage partnerships; one with Ichikawa Danjuro XII - at that time known as Ichikawa Ebizo, the other with Kataoka Nizaemon - known at that time as Kataoka Takao.  Such was the popularity of these partnerships that they became known throughout Japan as either Ebi-Tama or Taka-Tama. Their vibrant and subtle performances on stage endeared them to the public, whether fans of kabuki or not.
Bando’s creativity is not limited to kabuki. From a young age, he played important heroines of stage other than kabuki, appearing as Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello and as Tomihime in Izumi Kyoka’s Japanese classic horror story Tenshu Monogatari.
Revealing a constantly inquiring creative mind, he has extended his scope to include international and non-kabuki work: performing in Okinawa’s Kumiodori and in Chinese Kunqu opera as an onnagata. Taking his interest in dance outside a kabuki setting, he collaborated with world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma, combining dance with the music of J.S. Bach’s Fifth Suite for Unaccompanied Cello. In 1994, he worked with the famous choreographer and dancer, Maurice Béjart in the premiere performance of King Lear and Death of Cordelia. He has also created dance collaborations with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jorge Donn.
The renowned Polish director Andrzej Wajda was so captivated by Bando’s performances that he cast him as both the leading male and female in the stage and film version of Dostoevsky’s Nastasja. He also acted as the artistic director for the internationally renowned Japanese drum ensemble, Kodo; producing Amaterasu and Yugen, performances featuring his dance combined with the traditional drumming of Japan.
Designated in 2012 a National Living Treasure by the Government of Japan- a title given to individuals certified as the holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property, Bando is understood to be a master of his art, an ambassador for Japanese culture and an enormous creative force.

Biography

  1950 Born in Tokyos
  1956 Apprentice to the Morita Kan’ya XIV
  1957 First appearance on stage as Bando Kinoji
  1964 Assumed the name Bando Tamasaburo V
  1970 New face award, Minister of Education Award for Fine Arts, Japan
  1971 Play award, Golden Arrow Award, Japan
  1976 Played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth
  1982 First foreign performances in 3 cities in United States
  1984 Performed “Sagi Musume” for the centennial anniversary of Metropolitan Opera House
  1986 Participated in the Grand Kabuki Tour in Paris
First direction of Romeo and Juliet (Theater)
  1988 Performed an original dance for Ravel’s Piano Trio, collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma
Participated in Gaîté Parisienne, etc., choreographed by Maurice Béjart
  1989 Starred in Nastasja directed by Andrzej Wajda (Theater)
Participated in the Grand Kabuki Tour for Europalia ’89
  1991 Participated in the Grand Kabuki Tour in London
  1992 Performed Yang Guifei at National Theater, Taipei
  1993 Directed Yearning, exhibited at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival (Film)
Starred in Nastasja directed by Andrzej Wajda in Warsaw (Theater)
  1994 Collaborated with Béjart in King Lear – Death of Cordelia (Ballet)
Starred in Nastasia directed by Andrzej Wajda (Film)
  1996 Starred in The Face Written, directed by Daniel Schmidt (Film)
Grand Prix of Dance Screen ‘96 in Lyon for Bach's Suite No. 5 for Unaccompanied Cello, collaborating with Yo-Yo Ma
  1997 Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award
  1998 Collaborated with Mikhail Baryshnikov
  2010 Officially invited to Shanghai EXPO with Kunqu opera The Peony Pavilion
  2011 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy
  2012 Designated as the holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure)
Artistic director of the Japanese traditional drum group Kodo
  2013 Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France
  2014 The Medal with Purple Ribbon, Japan
  2016 The Onshi Prize of the Japan Academy and the Japan Art Academy Prize
  2017 Special performance Yugen, collaborating with Kodo
  2019 Concert TAMASABURO sings the world