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Japanese sound designer Marihiko Hara on creating rich & unique soundscape for A Night At The Kabuki

Acclaimed Japanese sound designer Marihiko Hara tells us how he dug deeply into Queen’s studio recordings to create a rich and unique soundscape for A Night At The Kabuki by Japan’s premier theatre company Noda Map.


“I love to pay attention to the sounds themselves. I love to see the sound, and I love that every small phrase is a texture of the sound.”

Marihiko Hara explored the minutiae of each instrument on the 1970s studio recordings of Queen’s iconic album ‘A Night At The Opera’ to design the sound for ‘A Night At The Kabuki’, a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet created by celebrated Japanese theatre maker Hideki Noda OBE.

The stage show intertwines music, storytelling and Japanese stagecraft, as well as incorporating some of Queen’s most famous hits - but not necessarily in the way that you might think.

“In the ‘Death On Two Legs’ intro, the guitar parts sound like seagulls to me, so I asked Brian May to extract the guitar solo for me to use” Hara said. “This is one of over 90 elements that I found throughout the piece that I have incorporated into the show.”

Brian May has been enthusiastic about the cross-continental collaboration, saying: “How wonderful to be a part of Japanese culture after all these years!”. Hara’s sound design represents a new way of experiencing Queen’s music, collaborating with director Hideki Noda, who is well known for being bold with form and for subverting expectations. A Night at the Kabuki, though not technically a Kabuki play, plays with the notion of what Kabuki is - it has been described as being to kabuki what Queen’s ‘A Night At The Opera’ is to actual opera.


“In Noda-san’s play, in Kabuki, anything is possible. A chair will represent an airplane sometimes, or a battleship. So I tried to do the same thing in the sound. A guitar can represent a seagull, or at another point a deer, or sometimes just the music itself.”

Hara listened to ‘A Night At The Opera’ over and over in order to pick out the elements that he thought would best serve Noda’s narrative. “I’ve used drum effects elements that only a deep, deep [true/dedicated] fan would notice”, he said. He has previously described his method of working as “to compose serene silence in music and to pursue his own texture of sounds, through electric/acoustic sounds and field recordings”.

Hara also revealed the challenge of incorporating Queen’s music into a cohesive narrative led to one of his favourite moments in the show. “We use the vocal version of ‘Love Of My Life’ but kept only the sound of the wind so that the audience will know that the show is finished. No one has ever heard a live version of ‘Love Of My Life’ without lyrics. I like that moment.”

London audiences are in for a totally unique experience this September, this will be only time this production has been seen outside Asia, after a long sell out run in Tokyo this summer, and before they tour to Osaka and Taipei. Marihiko Hara has played a key role in creating a soundscape that combines classic rock and Japanese art to create a truly memorable culture clash. He’s particularly looking forward to seeing how UK audiences react.

“For the curtain call, we use ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ without vocals - I hope the London audience will sing!”

A Night At The Kabuki is at Sadlers Wells 22-24th September. https://anightatthekabuki.com/

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