TOKYO – Japan’s most beloved conductor Seiji Ozawa has only briefly appeared in public since being diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in 2010. But this week the maestro proclaimed he has been awarded extra time “given by god” and promised to use it to develop a new generation of talent.
In a week in which he also resumed conducting in Kyoto with a ten-minute rendition of Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture,” the 77-year-old announced plans to invite 24 string musicians from across Asia to attend his chamber music academy.
Meanwhile, in a flurry of new activity, Art Tower Mito, a contemporary arts center and hall in Ibaraki prefecture, confirmed that the conductor will become its new director general. Ozawa had previously served the Mito Chamber Orchestra, established with the opening of the center, since 1990.
Ozawa, best known as the former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and as principal conductor for the Vienna State Opera, plans a full comeback this summer. He will conduct Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” as part of the Ozawa International Chamber Music Academy Okushiga, opening on July 30 at Ishibashi Memorial Hall.
He will then lead Maurice Ravel “The Child and the Spells”, an opera set to begin in August at the Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto.
“I have been lucky. It was a serious illness,” said Ozawa at a Tokyo press conference on April 3. “I am gradually coming back to my main job of conducting after my illness, but I have no interest in cutting back on my teaching.”
Ozawa’s academy has already worked with young musicians from Switzerland, and will now invite up-and-coming talent from Singapore, China and Taiwan, with sessions in Nagano and Tokyo at the end of July.