Years ago, I saw film of a riotous Japanese jazz opera based on the traditional tale of Momotaro. The video disappeared for a while, but frequent Rifftides correspondent and prodigious blogger Bruno Leicht rediscovered it and sent an alert. To make sense of it, before you watch the video below it will help to know the story. It might also help to have a couple of shots of Ginjo sake.
ONCE upon a time there were an old man and his old wife living in the country in Japan. The old man was a woodcutter. He and his wife were very sad and lonely because they had no children. One day the old man went into the mountains to cut firewood and the old woman went to the river to wash some clothes.
No sooner had the old woman begun her washing than she was very surprised to see a big peach come floating down the river. It was the biggest peach she’d ever seen in all her life. She pulled the peach out of the river and decided to take it home and give it to the old man for his supper that night.
Late in the afternoon the old man came home, and the old woman said to him: “Look what a wonderful peach I found for your supper.” The old man said it was truly a beautiful peach. He was so hungry that he said: “Let’s divide it and eat it right away.”
So the old woman brought a big knife from the kitchen and was getting ready to cut the peach in half. But just then there was the sound of a human voice from inside the peach. “Wait! Don’t cut me!” said the voice. Suddenly the peach split open, and a beautiful baby boy jumped out.
Here’s the little I have learned about the opera. It’s from a 1980s TV variety show called What a Fantastic Night!the brainchild of the comedian known as Tomori. He plays the old woman, the big bird and, on “Blues March,” the trumpet.
Thanks to YouTube commenter Evan Murphy, here are the times at which each tune appears on the screen: “Now’s the Time” (0:00) | “Lotus Blossom” (0:17) | “Milestones” (0:44) | “Misterioso” (1:39) | “Blue Monk” (1:52) | “Sister Sadie” (2:02) | “Waltz For Debby” (2:16) | “(No Problem)” (3:37) | “Blues March” (4:27) | “Doxy” (4:57) | “Five Spot After Dark” (5:13) | “Cleopatra’s Dream” (5:51) | “Comin’ Home Baby” (6:27) | “Maiden Voyage” (6:50) | “Donna Lee” (7:31) | “Cherokee” (8:15) | “Fables of Faubus” (8:41) | “‘Round Midnight” (9:04) | “Moment’s Notice” (9:14) | “St. Thomas” (9:45)
To read the entire Momotaro legend, go here.