About Spring Festival in Tokyo

“Spring Festival in Tokyo” is the largest classical music festival in Japan, celebrating the arrival of spring in the cherry blossom adorned Ueno area.
With the end of the long winter and the approaching cherry blossom front in mid-March, the city soon becomes doused in shades of pink, followed by falling petals and then fresh green leaves. Since 2005, the festival has continued to celebrate the lifting of spirits brought on by the picturesque transformation of the city with classical music.
From operas, orchestras, chamber music to casually enjoyable music on street corners, performed by leading artists from Japan and abroad, the festival decorates the arrival of spring in Tokyo with colorful tones.


In 2023, the 19th year of the Festival, almost all planned performances were realized, including concerts of various sizes featuring top artists from Japan and abroad, museum concerts, and the Concerts in Harmony with Cherry Blossoms, which was revived for the first time in three years. The venues were filled with smiles and cheers, and the performances on stage responded in kind. The Festival returned to its original form, but at the same time, it took a powerful step forward, leading to the 20th spring.


The year 2022 opened with a performance by Riccardo Muti & the Tokyo-HARUSAI Festival Orchestra and saw the number of paid performances recover to 66 as the effects of COVID-19 were gradually alleviated. After two consecutive years of cancellations, the Tokyo-HARUSAI Puccini Series began, and Marek Janowski appeared for the first time in three years to conduct “Lohengrin” in the Tokyo-HARUSAI Wagner Series, making it the year in which the light at the end of long tunnel began to appear.


Despite a very difficult spring in 2021 with entry restrictions imposed due to COVID-19, a total of 60 performances were held. Riccardo Muti presented “Macbeth” at the Italian Opera Academy and gave an enthusiastic performance of Mozart with the Tokyo-HARUSAI Festival Orchestra. These series of performances were hailed as the best concerts of the year. Furthermore, Katharina Wagner remotely directed “Wagner ‘Parsifal’ for the Children” from Bayreuth, and live-streamed all performances, highlighting the Tokyo-HARUSAI Festival's continuing evolution even under difficult circumstances.


The year 2020 began under a new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The events continued to operate to the extent possible amid restrictions on foreign artists coming to Japan and a mood of self-restraint in society as a whole, but a state of emergency was declared at the end of March and all subsequent performances were canceled. As a result, only nine paid performances and two free performances were held, but the utmost efforts were extended to provide live streaming and free on-demand delivery without audience participation. Also canceled was the Spring Festival in Tokyo Special Performance by the Berlin Philharmonic in Tokyo 2020 scheduled for June as part of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics cultural events.


In 2019, the 15th anniversary year, two major projects were launched: “Italian Opera Academy in Tokyo” by Riccardo Muti and “Wagner for the Children” in partnership with the Bayreuth Festival. In addition to the above, “The 15th Anniversary Gala Concert”, “La Femme C'est Moi" featuring Elisabeth Kulman, the Tokyo-HARUSAI Wagner Series “The Flying Dutchman,” and a performance commemorating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Hungary were held, a perfect way to mark the anniversary year./p>


"Lohengrin" as part of the Wagner Series was scheduled to be performed in 2011, but was cancelled due to the earthquake. Fourteen years after the Music Festival began and seven years after the earthquake, the total number of performances finally exceeded 200 (207 in total). In addition, many other meaningful performances were held, including a major project in honor of Rossini on the 150th anniversary of his death and “Schubert-Zyklus” featuring Elisabeth Leonskaja.


Closing with “Götterdämmerung”, Der Ring des Nibelungen left a strong impact on the Japanese music scene, along with the heroic performance of master musician Janowski. The fourth installment of the Tokyo-HARUSAI Choral Works series featured Schubert's “Mass No. 6” (conductor: Ulf Schirmer). In addition to the new series “The World of Benjamin Britten,” a total of 159 performances were held, including the "Special Gala Concert" and the marathon concert “Romanticism - Artists in the Modern Age.”


Riccardo Muti conducted a combined orchestra of Japanese and Italian performers (venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre) to open the festival. In the summer, the same lineup also performed a concert in Italy. Janowski conducted “Siegfried,” the third production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. Tokyo-HARUSAI Choral Works series presented Durufle’s “Requiem” (conductor: Leo Hussainin). A total of 164 concerts were held.


To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sviatoslav Richter, one of the most famous pianists of the 20th century, the festival held a series of performances dedicated to Richter, as well as speaking events, documentary film presentations, and photo exhibitions. In its second year, Der Ring des Nibelungen presented “Die Walküre” (conductor: Marek Janowski), and the Tokyo-HARUSAI Choral Works Series presented Berlioz's “Requiem” under the baton of Kazushi Ono. The total number of performances was 161.


This year the festival celebrated its 10th anniversary. Marek Janowski appeared in the Wagner Series, and the four-year-long Der Ring des Nibelungen Zyklus opened with "The Rhine Gold.” A marathon concert commemorating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss was streamed live on the Internet. This was also the year that the “Tokyo-HARUSAI Choral Works Series” and “Tokyo-HARUSAI Discovery Series” with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra began.


In this bicentennial year of the births of Wagner and Verdi, the Wagner Series presented “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” (conductor: Sebastian Weigle). The marathon concert was themed “Wagner and Verdi.” The same year also marked the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Stravinsky's “The Rite of Spring,” a masterpiece choreographed by Maurice Béjart. In the fall, Riccardo Muti visited Japan to conduct a special concert to mark the “Year of Verdi.”


The third installment of the Wagner Series “Tannhäuser” (conductor: Adam Fischer) and the second marathon concert “Debussy and His Time,” were joined by new lineups such as “Tokyo-HARUSAI Stravinsky” and “Tokyo-HARUSAI Chamber Orchestra,” bringing the total number of performances to over 100 in the festival's eight years.


While many events in the Tokyo metropolitan area were cancelled because of the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred just before the opening of the Festival, the Spring Festival in Tokyo believed in the power of music and staged 41 performances, starting with "Nihon no Uta" at the Sogakudo Concert Hall (85 performances were originally scheduled). Zubin Mehta made an abrupt appearance to perform Beethoven's Ninth as a charity concert, wielding his baton with all his might.


As the first piece in the Tokyo-HARUSAI Wagner Series, “Parsifal" (conductor: Ulf Schirmer/NHK Symphony Orchestra) was performed in concert format, attracting great attention. Making his third appearance, Riccardo Muti conducted “Carmina Burana.” The signature series of the Spring Festival in Tokyo began, including the “Tokyo-HARUSAI Marathon Concert”, “Song Series”, “Nihon no Uta,” and “Concerts in Harmony with Cherry Blossoms.” The series still continues to this day. The total number of performances was 54.


In 2009, the fifth year of the event, the name was changed to the “Spring Festival in Tokyo - Tokyo Opera Nomori” and a new start was made. The orchestral performances featured the NHK Symphony Orchestra performing “The Creation” (conductor: Leopold Hager) to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Haydn's death. The museum concert series, including “Bach at the Tokyo National Museum,” was expanded and enhanced.


Under the theme of “Tchaikovsky and His Time,” programs such as the opera “Eugene Onegin” (conducted by Seiji Ozawa and co-produced with the Vienna State Opera) and Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique” (conducted by Michael Boder) were featured. Also, the NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra gave concerts that year. A total of 39 performances were held.


The opera performances included Wagner's opera “Tannhäuser” (conductor: Seiji Ozawa), co-produced by the Opéra National de Paris and the Gran Teatro del Liceu. For the second year in a row, Riccardo Muti appeared in the orchestral performance of Rossini's Stabat Mater. More performances were held at art galleries and museums, for a total of 32 performances.


The theme for the second year was “Verdi and His Time.” The opera performances featured “Otello,” a co-production with the Vienna State Opera (Philippe Auguin conducted in place of Seiji Ozawa, who stepped down because of health problems). The orchestral performances featured Riccardo Muti in “Requiem.” In addition, various concerts and related events were held at a museum in Ueno Park.


The “Tokyo Opera Nomori” (music director: Seiji Ozawa) was founded with the aim of presenting new art and culture from Tokyo to the world. With Richard Strauss as the theme, a total of eight performances were held, including the newly produced opera “Elektra” (conductor: Seiji Ozawa) co-produced with Teatro Comunale di Firenze, orchestral performances (“An Alpine Symphony” and others), and chamber music performances (Mitsuko Shirai and Hartmut Höll).

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