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Echoes in the Void: Shibuya Keiichiro’s Android Opera Music Beyond Humanity

2024.7.11

#MUSIC

©︎ATAK Photo by Kenji Agata

On June 18, at Ebisu Garden Hall in Tokyo, Keiichiro Shibuya’s android opera was performed in Japan for the first time in six years. Two works, including the Japan premiere of “MIRROR,” were staged, and tickets quickly sold out. We bring you a report of this rare, one-night-only triumphant return performance with text by writer Yuki Jinbo and official photos.

Excerpts from “Super Angels” and “MIRROR”: A Two-Part Performance

On June 18, at Ebisu Garden Hall, the android opera “Android Opera TOKYO – MIRROR/Super Angels excerpts,” composed and produced by Keiichiro Shibuya, was held.

©︎ATAK Photo by Kenshu Shintsubo

“MIRROR” is a large-scale theatrical work featuring the singing voice of the android “Alter 4,” an orchestra, monks chanting Buddhist music and shomyo with a 1200-year history, Shibuya himself on piano, electronic music, visuals, and lighting. It was unveiled at the Dubai Expo in 2022 and re-created as a 70-minute piece in 2023. After its premiere at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, this performance marks its Japan premiere. The concert involves a total of 180 performers and staff members, making it a grand production.

This was not the first performance of an android opera; it dates back to “Scary Beauty,” which had its prototype unveiled in Australia in 2017 and was presented at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan) in 2018. At that time, the android was named “Alter 2.” This series of endeavors has been a collaborative effort with roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro (Professor at Osaka University) and artificial life researcher Takashi Ikegami (Professor at the University of Tokyo), continuously refining the android and its programming through performances and productions around the world. In “Scary Beauty,” Alter 2 conducted the orchestra, but now, with Alter 4, there is no conductor. Keiichiro Shibuya gives detailed cues, allowing Alter 4 to focus almost entirely on being a singer and performer.

©︎ATAK Photo by Kenshu Shintsubo

The performance was divided into two parts. In addition to the staging of “MIRROR” in the second part, the first part featured a new song suddenly created as the performance date approached, titled “Whose Music is This?” by Shibuya, the orchestra, and Alter 4. Additionally, two songs from the opera “Super Angels” were performed in collaboration with the White Hand Chorus NIPPON, a choir primarily composed of children that includes participants regardless of disabilities.

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