The Japanese Princess

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Despite last-minute cast injuries, the Australian premiere of Saint Saën’s The Japanese Princess has been a hit, seducing audiences with the opulence of Imperial Japan. Now in its final week at Chapel off Chapel, Milk Bar Mag was lucky enough to catch the show – and see real-life husband and wife, Robert and Kate Macfarlane, play the lead roles of on-stage couple, Kornelis and Lena.

The one-hour act opens with Korenlis pining for Ming, his Japanese princesse, who lives in a world of carpeted walls, jade cups and perfumed wine, neglecting his faithful yet increasingly suspicious fiance, Lena. Seeking to forget his mundane French world, he contemplates drinking an elixir – otherwise known as absinthe – in hopes of meeting his Ming, his Oriental woman of the night.

The opera comique was originally composed in 1862 and it is interesting to see how times have clearly changed yet how relevant the subject matter is. There are some questionable dialogue choices and plot points, which make the modern twenty-first century thespian squirm, while on the other hand, the plot explores relevant themes of relationship dissatisfaction and the age-old dilemma of seeking greener pastures.

The Japanese Princess explores our human nature at its very core, the idea that the grass is greener on the other side. Kornelis discovers, much like all of us, that this is not always the case’ says Director Miki Oikawa.

On the whole, the intimate setting of Chapel off Chapel, a cohesive orchestra, and an elegant yet simple stage setting perfectly captures the beauty of the story between lovers Kornelis and Lena, their struggles and ultimate triumph in their relationship.

The Japanese Princess 
Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Till Saturday, 18 March



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