We are SO excited to bring you this special episode! Through the help of some friends of the podcast, we were able to interview former Takarazuka Revue member (Flower Troupe: 1981-1990) and current singer and vocal teacher Mitsuya Nao. Mitsuya-san graciously met with Caroline in Tokyo at the end of June to do the interview, which was conducted in Japanese. We were stumped for a little while: What would be the best way to present this for a podcast? Translate every line after it was spoken? Dub over it? We finally settled on subtitles, which is why this podcast is in mp4 video format.
Mitsuya Nao will be visiting New York City and performing a concert on July 24th at the Duplex Cabaret Theater. For more details, or to pre-order tickets, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/j6pyzyd
Note: To save on server space, we are moving our video podcasts to YouTube. Unfortunately, this means they will no longer show up in the podcast feed.
Recorded 21st June 2016
- Mitsuya Nao @TakaWiki
- Kaji Issei @TakaWiki
- Maya Miki @TakaWiki
- Maya Miki’s morning show: White Heat Live Vivit
- The Rose of Versailles (1990)
English Language Transcript:
Caroline: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Takarazuka Fan Podcast. This is Caroline, and I’m here to introduce you to a fairly special episode. We were recently given the amazing opportunity to interview former Takarazuka otokoyaku Mitsuya Nao. Yay! In an animated talk, she shares stories covering a variety of topics, ranging from her time as an otokoyaku, her OG career, and her work as a music instructor at the Takarazuka Revue and at Seitoku Graduate University. Mitsuya-san also spoke warmly of her expectations for her upcoming New York concert on July 24th. It will be her first concert abroad, so if you’re in the area, check it out!
A special shout-out to Yuki who provided incredible help as a special collaborator in this episode. Yuki, thank you so much, we couldn’t have done it without you.
To all our listeners, we are always thrilled to hear from you, so please let us know what you think in the comments. And, I really hope you enjoy this interview as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you. Thank you!
Caroline: Mitsuya-san, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for us.
Mitsuya Nao: Hello. It’s nice to meet you.
Let’s get started.
Yes, let’s get started.
Well then, let’s start with a self-introduction.
All right. Hello, everyone, I am Mitsuya Nao.
I graduated from the Takarazuka Revue with the role of Girodelle in “The Rose of Versailles,” and now I’m a singer.I also teach singing at both the Takarazuka Revue and Seitoku University.
Could you tell us the meaning behind your stage name, “Mitsuya Nao?”
Yes. Let’s see, when I was deciding on my stage name, I made a list of about 100. There are many rules, such as being careful not to overlap with any Takarazuka upperclassmen.
There were Chinese characters that I wasn’t supposed to use. Amongst my choices, the name “Mitsuya” [Note: “Three Arrows”] conveys the legend of the three arrows, the three arrows which cannot break, and “Nao” [Note: “straight” and “life”] has a meaning of honesty, straightforwardness, of living straightforwardly. And the name Mitsuya Nao is the one I took.
It’s a wonderful name. Well then, what was it that inspired you to take the Takarazuka Revue entrance exam? Did you always intend to be an otokoyaku [male role player]?
Yes, let’s see. My mother liked Takarazuka, but from the time I was four I said I wanted to enter Takarazuka. My mother let me sing, mm, let’s see, yes, from the very beginning I certainly admired the otokoyaku, so I wanted to become an otokoyaku.
And what performances or roles from that time left the biggest impression on you?
Let’s see, I believe it must have been Girodelle from my farewell performance “The Rose of Versailles,” which I believe was really the most splendid of all the performances and roles I did. It was the one I most loved, and because I was able to perform that role, I was able to leave Takarazuka with a feeling of satisfaction. Mm, Girodelle is the ultimate handsome lover role of Takarazuka, so that is the role I most loved.
What was it about Girodelle that you loved?
Let me see, hm, that it was an attractive role where the man stood aside for the sake of his beloved.
Thank you. Could you share with us an amusing story from your time in the Revue?
Let me see, at that time Maya Miki, the same Maya Miki who appears on morning television now, and Kaji Issei and I, we three otokoyaku were a trouble-making trio who were always getting into mischief. There was the time that we took the top star’s bathrobe, which she used for quick changes (although this was after the performance was over) and we tied the sleeves together as a prank so that she couldn’t change into it. We also stuck double-sided tape in on the bottom of the slippers used in the dorms and dressing rooms so that people couldn’t walk. The upperclassmen were always scolding us: “You need to knock off your pranks!” Also, this isn’t really funny but during my last performance, my two classmates, there’s a makeup table in the dressing room, and they decorated the cover on the table, my dressing gown, everything, with white lace. It was beautiful, what they did to see me off, and I remember it well.
Thank you for those stories. Well then, after you retired from the Revue you continued to play several male roles, such as Prince Orlofsky from “Die Fledermaus” and Puck from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” How was that different from playing an otokoyaku?
Let’s see. Well, I think in Takarazuka, of course, among all the women the otokoyaku are quite large and seem like men, but then when you leave the men are usually different—large and loud! It was unexpected for me to realize that I was actually quite dainty! I think Takarazuka otokoyaku are something the world can be proud of, and there are occasions where you can say that they are the “ultimate marketing.” As a woman myself, I worked incredibly hard on the image of being the ideal and being cool, and otokoyaku seek to make themselves the coolest. I think they are more male than real men, and I think they are always kind… I think that is what makes Takarazuka otokoyaku so attractive.
What performance or role has left the biggest impression on you since you left Takarazuka?
Let me see, I think it must be Orlofsky from “Die Fledermaus,” who is more or less an otokoyaku role? I feel like Orlofsky’s gender is not specified, but the songs are really lovely, and just this month Takarazuka is putting it on as well. Prince Orlofsky is an otokoyaku role for an opera, and I think when I had the privilege of playing him, my approach was different from how others who were not Takarasienne might shape an otokoyaku role. I love this role, and I think it made the best use of my skills.
I think it’s a very difficult role.
It has many comedic elements…
That’s true. Really this kind of comedic humor … Takarazuka’s western musicals and western operettas, right now their sense of humor is the most difficult, and making someone laugh is harder than making them cry. Which is interesting, and furthermore it often has to be done with elegance, which I think is what makes it so difficult. For Takarazuka, that’s probably another thing which makes it so appealing.
Thank you. Well then, Mitsuya-san, you have sung various genres, including opera and musical numbers, and chansons. Out of all the genres you sing, what has been strikingly different, or what do you have to look out for while singing?
Yes, thank you, something that has been remarkably difficult, let’s see… Well, I think the start is always the foundation of speaking to the heart. I love Takarazuka, and my ten years as an otokoyaku, and after that my four years studying various things at the Tokyo University of the Arts, such as voice, acoustics, psychology, and composition… in the end, I believe that no matter which genre I sing, the important point is to understand how it speaks to the heart. And, yes, also, well, the vocalization is different, and the heart space is a little different, meaning when singing you have to hold the tone color in your heart, which is something that I often advise to the members of Takarazuka. In any case, I think it’s good when you sing that you are sharing your heart with your listeners, and everyone becomes intimately connected emotionally, and becomes close.
Thank you. Is there any indispensable routine that you have before going on stage?
Jinxes and things, well, sometimes, like my baritone teacher at Tokyo University of the Arts would tap the ground three times, knock, knock, knock, and ask the empty air to “watch over me,” that kind of situation where you’re really trying to win over the stage. Like the tension of a shinjin kouen in Takarazuka now, or of having large performances one after another. The lead actresses are all young ladies, even if they are cool otokoyaku, and they are all young ladies working as hard as they can, so of course when their hearts are pounding and they’re nervous, they’ll do things to ward off a jinx, that kind of thing. Also, let’s see, yes, when I have a concert, I’ll make my own libretto book with the song lyrics written down. In the past I used to make libretto books and sketch books. In the sketch book, I would take a phrase of song and while the troupe was rehearsing I would say it many times, so I would take my song phrases and one at a time I would illustrate them in the book. I think if you focus only on your own words and can’t see the bigger picture, you won’t see the entire landscape and your song won’t be its best.
Six years after you left the Revue, you entered the Music Department of the Tokyo University of the Arts to study vocal music, and at the same time you continued your activities on the stage. That must have been a hectic time.
That’s true. But I was having so much fun, although there were moments when I regretted it and thought I should have stopped working to focus on my studies. Of course the people studying with me were also active all over the world, which was tough, but of course being able to appear on stage while learning is such a wonderful thing, and I got to study linguistics and various teachers could observe me on stage and give me advice, which made it a truly happy period of time for me.
You spoke of this a little before, but what was your favorite course of study?
Well, as might be expected, my favorite class was the main class to focus on singing. It was taught by Hirano Tadahiko, who passed away the year before last. He played Warbucks in the “Annie” musical, and it was because I knew him that I took the entrance exam for the Tokyo University of Arts. He gave me a lot of diverse advice in many areas, that class was a lot of fun. Also, I was already 34 years old, in the same class as 18-year-olds, and we had proper PE classes, but I didn’t lose out to them, I gave those classes my all. Ahaha, it was fun.
In 2002, you released the book “The Theorem of Fulfilling Dreams – What Takarazuka Has Taught Me”. What kind of book is it?
“The Theorem of Fulfilling Dreams” is a rather formal title. To start with, I’ve always had this belief that the things I dreamt of would definitely come true. Passing the Takarazuka and the Tokyo University of the Arts exams, I accomplished small dreams and great dreams, and I wove the words of advice of the people who were by my side at those times into this book. I’ve often wished for the people in my life to be able to fulfill their dreams, and I wrote this book to convey this wish to them.
Alongside your career as a performer, you also work as a music instructor at the Takarazuka Revue. Could you tell us a little about your work? What led you to work as a music instructor?
Hm, I got into the Tokyo University of the Arts after graduating from Takarazuka, at 34 years old. A director called on me to work for the Revue when I was a fourth year student at university, and I’ve been working there since then. You see, since I used to be an otokoyaku in Takarazuka, I want to teach them different things than just a vocal trainer could. We discuss what kind of performer they want to become, how to get them in the right state of mind for a particular role… We shape their singing while talking about all these things. So, I tell them not to focus solely on things like how their voices sound better if they’ve built up some confidence, or how to improve their pitch, but I also train them to add an extra dimension to the song by experiencing it as their role.
How do you think the Takarazuka Revue has changed since you were an otokoyaku?
Well, I think it’s amazing how technical elements, like dancing techniques, have improved, but there are fewer ‘striking people’. Ah, I wonder how you’ll translate this phrase into English, it’s complicated. How should I put it, I don’t mean people who just have a strong character, but also are very expressive, and who are very tenacious in a good way, or who have the comedic sense I mentioned earlier, people who I guess have a certain craftsmanship and draw all these things together. Everyone used to be more striking back then. And also, nowadays, with internet and the like, it’s become harder to communicate with others, people don’t chat with the upperclassmen as much anymore. It’s a shame.
Thank you. You also lecture as a music instructor at Seitoku Graduate University. How does that differ from your work at the Takarazuka Revue?
The students in both places are girls of around the same age, and they always have upcoming performances, and that’s an immense joy. The number of shows they perform in is world-class, there are performances all year round, there’s always something to work towards, and as you can imagine, they rehearse knowing they’ll be on stage someday. That changes the approach. When I was studying at the Tokyo Arts University, I also experienced that drive that comes from knowing a performance is coming up.
I see. I believe that some listeners of our podcast enjoy singing Takarazuka songs. What is important when singing otokoyaku or musumeyaku [performer of female roles] songs?
Singing is a lot of fun, I also hold lectures about singing. Ah, it would be great if I could do a lecture for the podcast next time! (laughs). I do lectures about various aspects of singing, like enunciation or how to create a song. A song from, for example, “Die Fledermaus” or “Me and My Girl” … everyone has their own way of grasping the words or expressing themselves in the same song because they’ve lived their own, unique lives. I think that’s fascinating. This isn’t limited by whether it’s an otokoyaku song or a musumeyaku song; it depends on the person singing it. Everyone has a personal interpretation of the content of the song, and that’s what makes it charming. And there are many Takarazuka songs that are never sung again after the show run is finished. I want to preserve them, to spread them across the world. I feel that that’s my duty.
Next, I would like to talk about your New York concert. Why did you decide to perform there?
When I was around ken-3, I went to New York for classes. At that time, I went with a group of classmates I was close to, everyone was really energetic and loved New York, and we all stood together in the middle of Fifth Avenue in the rain, at dawn when there were no cars, and called out “One day I’ll have a concert in New York~!” I’ve really had my heart set on that dream ever since then; I wanted to have a concert in New York no matter what. Since then, I’ve been to university, I became a mother, a lot has happened, and I’m more than twice the age I was back then. I’m happy that my dream has become reality now, and I want to make the most of that opportunity.
I’m glad you could realize your dream.
Thank you very much.
Then, how will this concert differ from your performances in Japan?
This time, Oe Senri, a famous singer-songwriter in Japan, will play the piano for me. He said that he doesn’t sing anymore, but he’s had an amazing career, and he’s teaching jazz piano in New York. He will provide powerful support to my music. As for the songs, I want to sing musical songs, chanson songs that have a French background, and Japanese songs. I’m also thinking of debuting the English translation of a Takarazuka song, and there’s a famous scat song from ‘Nova Bossa Nova’ called “Sinner Man”… I want to surprise the New York audience by showing them the amazing songs Takarazuka has done. I’m excited, planning this mischief and preparing for the show.
Thank you. What are you most looking forward to?
I’m thrilled to have this audience in New York, this non-Japanese audience, listen to me sing. I can’t wait to see how they will react to me. I think that emotions and expressing yourself, these things are the same for everyone, and I’d like to sing songs that will warm their hearts.
Is this your first concert abroad?
Yes, it’s the first time.
If you have time to do sightseeing, for example, where would you like to go?
I love New York and visit it every once in awhile. Naturally, I would like to take classes while I’m there, there is a teacher who draws out a lot of mental facets in his singing lessons and I would love to go. Oh yes, also, this is the first time my son will be going with me, and I want to take him to Central Park, Grand Central, the Village… It’s not so much that I want to go to certain places, but that I want to show them to my son.
With this New York concert, you’ve accomplished yet another dream. What challenge would you like to take on next?
Well, I dream of world domination (laughs), or in any case, I want to sing songs that move the hearts of people around the world, so I would like to perform at many places. I don’t want to restrict myself, so it sounds a little vague, but I would like to try many things, sing many songs, communicate with many people.
Lastly, could you please give a message to our listeners?
I’m very happy to have been able to talk to you today. I’m happy that my voice will be broadcast around the world, I want to go meet the people listening to this, to sing for them, to hug them. I will go anywhere in the world that I can go to if you call me. And I would love to talk more about the great aspects of Takarazuka again. I can’t wait to meet you all. Thank you very much for today. And, next time, it would be fun if we could broadcast a singing lecture! (laughs) Thank you.