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Performing sold-out 3D concerts around the world, boasting over two and a half million Facebook friends and singing an incredible repertoire of more than 100,000 user-released songs, Hatsune Miku is possibly Japan’s greatest pop star. Now artist Keiichiro Shibuya features Hatsune Miku in his creation The End, the first Vocaloid opera – an opera without an orchestra or human vocalist, constructed from multi-screen 3D images and electronic sound. The only performers who appear are Hatsune Miku, an animal character (virtual as well), and – the only living human – Keiichiro Shibuya, a musician constantly pushing the frontiers of music. Miku begins her journey by asking herself: ‘will I die?’ For, in spite of the special Louis Vuitton designed outfits, she is not a real human being, but originates from voice synthesizer software by Japanese company Crypton Future Media. Travelling through a virtual world, accompanied by Shibuya’s score of minimal techno and EDM, modern and contemporary classical music and sound art, Miku goes in search of the paradox of her own existence.
Please note: during the performance of The End, strobe light will be used.
With over two and a half million Facebook friends and an incredible repertoire of more than 100,000 songs, Hatsune Miku is Japan's biggest pop star. Her concerts are huge events, with fans lighting up sold-out stadiums as they wave about their 'magic' wands. With her heart-shaped face, dominated by large eyes and framed by long turquoise hair down to her hips, you might think Hatsune Miku looks quite unreal. And you might be right, because Hatsune Miku has no beating heart. She is a virtual singer, and her voice is produced by singing voice synthesizer software developed by Crypton Future Media INC for YAHAMA's Vocaloid synthesizer. Still, that hasn't prevented Miku from taking the world by storm and now starring in the very first Vocaloid opera in history: The End.
Hatsune Miku's voice is produced using samples of a voice artist. By adding lyrics and melody into the synthesising programme, users can generate a vocal performance. To set her apart from the competition, i.e. other voices, Crypton decided to give Miku not only a voice but also an image. Created by manga artist Kei Garō, who has portrayed her as a 16-year old girl with big eyes and turquoise pigtails, this turned out to be a brilliant move. Hatsune Miku, whose name means 'first sound of the future', came to this world in 2007, the third in a series of 'Vocal Characters' developed by Crypton. After the release, Hatsune evolved into a phenomenon of a highly participatory internet culture with thousands of people creating and sharing Miku-related contents around the globe. At present, with more than 1,000,000 derivative artworks and 100,000 user-released songs, Hatsune Miku is not only the icon of this ever expanding creative community, but she is also successful in performing sold-out 3D concerts worldwide, appearing in TV commercials, and being featured in various artists’ works.
Miku’s whispered, breathy way of singing and her artificial tone colour might lack warmth and expression compared to a real singer, but in spite of that she rose to become the biggest pop phenomenon in Japan almost instantly. Although, people have also claimed it's actually because of her artificiality that she is so popular, linking her success with other examples of Japan's penchant for the unreal. Whatever the reasons may be, the fact remains that Hatsune Miku is hugely successful. Supported by four very human virtuoso musicians, she brings the house down in concert after concert.
Hatsune Miku's runaway success gave Keiichiro Shibuya, composer and frontman of the electronica collective Atak, the idea to write an opera for the Vocaloid star: The End.
Aiming to transform opera with the goal of a radically new space/time creation that is neither traditional nor avant-garde, The End is the first Vocaloid opera project ever, an opera without an orchestra or a single human vocalist, constructed from multi-screen 3D images and computer-controlled electronic sound. The only performers who appear on stage are Hatsune Miku, a cuddly rabbit-like creature called Animal, and Keiichiro Shibuya.
The set and the three characters are three-dimensional projections, the electronic music is controlled by Shibuya, who sits on stage behind his keyboard. The action is set in a virtual world.
Playing on the notions of mortality and being human, The End explores the paradox between what's real and what's unreal. The floating set combines manga-like forms with angular, geometrical shapes. Dominated by abstract computer animations, the show also features a giant lilac-coloured heart, suspended from fluorescent barrels. A massive coffin-like chest, suggesting death and burial, is the only permanent element to the set.
Composer Keiichiro Shibuya, a musician known for pushing the frontiers of music across pop, electronic sounds, experimental music and sound installations, has delivered a mix of J-pop ( the most popular music genre in Japan, rooted in traditional Japanese music fused with Western pop music), techno, trance and progressive club electro with some influences of minimal music. The music, tonal with some unusual modulations in places, is, apart from Miku's singing, dominated by heavy synths. Especially for this opera, Miku is dressed by Louis Vuitton’s artistic director Marc Jacobs and his team. The virtual costumes are all original designs, tailor-made for Hatsune Miku’s body-type and personality. The digitised images reveal both a fully contemporary and completely new Miku, as part of this unprecedented special collaboration.
Unlike traditional opera, The End lacks a detailed plot and is more focused on a flow of moods and metaphysical speculation. Asking herself the question whether she will die like us humans, Hatsune Miku embarks on a quest searching for the secret to her identity. When she is visited by the spectre of a woman with a mysterious odour, she learns of a a secret which gets her thinking. The secret remains shrouded in mystery, but the morning that the woman came, Miku realises later, was the morning the 'reason for her existence' was born.
Miku is also visited by a sweet-looking, cuddly rabbit-like creature called Animal. He seems to be guarding her, anxious for her not to leave. As Miku does not need to breathe, she can talk faster than humanly possible (as exemplified in her final aria), but if nobody feeds her any lines, she is speechless. This is the very paradox which constitutes her tragedy. In a sense, she exists, she talks and sings, but the question is: 'Who or what is she'?