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The End: Hatsune Miku Opera - OzAsia Festival

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by Jonathon Tonkin (subscribe)
I'm a 26 year old male Senior Reporter for Weekend Notes. I Graduated from A Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing and Communication) at UniSA in 2014. As well as writing for WN I have also done pieces for the Adelaide 36s and Mawson Lakes Living.
Event: -
The Digital Diva in her first opera
The End by composer Keiichiro Shibuya is unlike any other opera or musical performance you will ever see. It twists the boundaries of the genre and of musical expression in ways that I don't believe have been visited by any other composer. It is a show that is an assault on your senses as you take in light, sound and information in unconventional ways.
Hatsune Miku, Opera, Keiichiro Shibuya, OzAsia, J-Pop
The Digital Diva - Hatsune Miku

One of the main instruments used by Shibuya is a girl known as Hatsune Miku. Miku is a computer program known as a vocaloid who can synthesise Japanese words and notes to create songs and melodies. Despite being a computer program she has been given the persona of Hatsune Miku, a 16-year-old, teal-haired girl. Miku has become increasingly popular in Japan as a pop star with her songs and concerts rivalling her biggest flesh and blood counterparts. Her popularity has spread across the world, even opening for the likes of Lady Gaga.

Shibuya takes the program and persona of Hatsune Miku and presents a piece of art that we have not seen before. First of all, this is the first time that Miku has been used in an opera. Miku is mainly used for J-Pop like songs. With over 100,000 songs to her name, she has been tested in every single music genre there is but is still confined within the realms of traditional music. The End is not traditional in any sense of the word. It not only tests the way Hatsune Miku has been presented in the past but how opera has been presented in the past.
Hatsune Miku, Opera, Keiichiro Shibuya, OzAsia, J-Pop
Image provided by Kenshu Shintsubo and Adelaide Festival Centre

The End is a barrage of sound and light that tests the way you consume the media. The sounds you hear shift constantly, never letting you become comfortable to what you're hearing before a jarring tonal shift rips you into the next scene. Shibuya uses a combination of electronic and synthesised sounds to create a collection of tracks from soft, lilting melodies to intense, industrial jams. One thing that needs to be stressed is how The End is an experiment in sound, light and presentation. The performance is loud, fragmented and confronting. Your senses will be overwhelmed with the sound of static and light before shifting to something softer and shifting again to another tidal wave of stimulus. Shibuya himself states, "The composition of the opera is fragmentary and goes on like a dream. This unique and mysterious effect gives room for each audience member to interpret the work as they want."

To understand how The End is presented some explanation has to go into its unique stage set up and set design. The End has no human performers on stage. Instead, the story is presented through a series of projections. Images are projected onto three walls as well as a semi-transparent screen at the front of the stage that creates a hologram-like effect. It is through this that we are presented with Hatsune Miku as she lays out her inner thoughts to the audience. The production and combination of lighting effects is just another way Shibuya challenges modern opera presentation. Like his music, the constant abrupt changes of images and light complement his music. Again, like his music, there is a lot of information to take in and the story being presented to you will morph and fragment violently. The combination of projections, strobes, and bright lights keep you in suspense and demand your attention as you take it all in.
Hatsune Miku, Opera, Keiichiro Shibuya, OzAsia, J-Pop
Composer Keiichiro Shibuya and his colleagues pose with Miku fans.

The music and production of The End all come together to tell a story of life and death and what that exactly means to Hatsune Miku and the audience. Shibuya has based The End on his own very personal experiences after his wife had committed suicide. It asks many questions on what does it mean to be alive and the matter of death. The story follows Hatsune Miku as she comes to terms with the fact that she is artificial. She poses the question on whether or not she is alive and whether or not she can die. Many thoughts and comments on this subject are brought up throughout the performance about the topic of death as the audience witnesses Miku's struggles with what it is to be human while at the same time the audience contemplates death. The End is a powerful opera that will evoke a number of emotions from its viewers.

The performance's use audio-visuals and electroacoustics do more than just create a series of songs. The production and music are meshed together to bring about thoughts and feelings throughout the piece for the audience to consider and interpret.
Hatsune Miku, Opera, Keiichiro Shibuya, OzAsia, J-Pop
Image provided by Kenshu Shintsubo and Adelaide Festival Centre

The End was one of the highlight performances of the OzAsia festival, showing on the 3rd and 4th of October at the Dunstan Playhouse. Shibuya also showed off his latest piece, Scary Beauty, this time collaborating with one of the worlds most sophisticated androids, Skeleton. Shibuya advises that his show is next going to Spain, where I am sure it will captivate audiences. If you ever have a chance to attend this or any of Keiichiro Shibuya's performances, it is absolutely an experience to take part in.
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When: 3rd to the 4th of October
Where: Dunstan Playhouse
Cost: $44 for Adults $30 for Greenroom Members
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