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Opera Seeks to Capture Experiences of Interned Japanese Americans

Baritone Suchan Kim and soprano Zen Wu portray a couple forcibly relocated during World War II.
Photo by Carlos Casteneda
Baritone Suchan Kim and soprano Zen Wu portray a couple forcibly relocated during World War II.

A Tempo this Saturday (2/18 at 7 pm) features a conversation with the creators of the chamber opera Both Eyes Open, which is based on the stories of Japanese Americans forced into concentration camps during World War II.

The experiences of Japanese Americans forcibly relocated and virtually imprisoned in internment camps during World War II have begun to make their way onto American stages, such as the 2015 Broadway musical Allegiance, inspired by the childhood experiences of actor George Takei. One of the latest such works is the opera Both Eyes Open by composer Max Duykers and librettist Philip Kan Gotanda. It premiered in 2022 in San Francisco and just had its New York premiere in January. The opera, which features tenor John Duykers, Max Duykers' father, in one of the roles, follows a man who loses his wife in the camp, struggles with questions about his loyalty to the U.S., and returns home to find his farm now belongs to someone else. It also weaves in the underlying role that anti-Asian sentiment played during this time, and poses questions about where we are now.

A Tempo host Rachel Katz met with Gotanda and Max Duykers before the New York performance and shares their conversation about the opera on this week's edition.

Tenor John Duykers (right) portrays a daruma doll, which is held by the couple at left portrayed in Both Eyes Open
Photo by Carlos Castaneda
Tenor John Duykers (right) portrays a daruma doll, which is held by the couple at left portrayed in Both Eyes Open

Rachel Katz is the host of A Tempo which airs Saturdays at 7 pm.