Japanese kabuki star Kanzaburo dies at 57

Japanese kabuki star Nakamura Kanzaburo, who brought feudal-period stage performances to New York and other world cities, has died of respiratory problems. He was 57.

Nakamura Kanzaburo (R) in the role of Hokaibo performs during a dress rehearsal in New York in 2007. Japanese kabuki star Kanzaburo, who brought feudal-period stage performances to New York and other world cities, has died of respiratory problems. He was 57.

Kanzaburo, the 18th actor to use the stage name in the Nakamura family, died at a Tokyo hospital early Wednesday, said an official at Shochiku Co. Ltd., the production company for kabuki dramas.

Kanzaburo drew crowds during a spell on the stage in New York in 2004, introducing audiences to the sometimes esoteric world of kabuki, a highly-stylised form of theatre that dates back hundreds of years.

"I came over bracing myself for a possible storm of booing... but I was glad to hear cheers which eventually turned into whistles," he told a television interview after the US performance.

He had operation for esophageal cancer in July but later suffered pneumonia and respiratory problems.

He died before the April 2013 opening of Tokyo's rebuilt "kabuki-za" theatre, where he and other actors gave "sayonara" performances before its demolition in 2010.

The Kanzaburo name is expected to be passed on to another actor. Kabuki families with long histories are usually unwilling to let the name die with an actor.

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