I Have My Mother’s Eyes: A Holocaust Memoir Across Generations

Panel Conversation: October 25, 7pm
Chamber Opera Premiere: November 18 & 19, 8pm
Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre | 950 W 41st Ave., Vancouver
Tickets $40 (includes panel conversation and opera) | Buy Now!

Powell Street Festival Society is proud to partner with Chutzpah! Festival to present I Have My Mother’s Eyes:
A Holocaust Memoir Across Generations world premiere and panel conversation.

Celebrated Japanese Canadian composer Rita Ueda premieres a remarkable new chamber opera, directed by Heather Pawsey, telling the compelling story of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese diplomat who risked his own life to issue visas to Jewish families during the Holocaust, including Vancouver’s Bluman Family, and brought thousands to safety.

Featuring international musicians from Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands, this moving true story illuminates intergenerational friendship and bravery.

Tickets include an invitation to join the composer, guest artists, and George Bluman for a facilitated conversation about the creation of the work and the Bluman Family’s story on October 25 at 7pm.

Learn more and purchase tickets on the Chutzpah! Festival website.

Cast and musicians:

  • Barbara Ebbeson, mezzo soprano (Canada): Zosia/Barbara/Danielle Bluman
  • Teiya Kasahara, soprano (Canada): Chiune/Yukiko/Hiroki/Madoka Sugihara
  • Naomi Sato, shō (Netherlands, Japan): spirit of Yukiko Sugihara
  • Reison Kuroda, shakuhachi (Japan): spirit of Chiune Sugihara
  • Megumi Masaki, piano/narrator (Canada)
  • Miyama McQueen-Tokita, koto (Australia, Japan)
  • Marc Destrubé, violin (Canada)
  • Sungyong Lim, cello (Canada)
  • Jennifer Tham, conductor
  • Heather Pawsey, director

Artist Bios

Rita Ueda (composer, producer) a Canadian composer based in the unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Applauded as a composer whose ‘poetic is often very delicate and introspective…’ (Guido Barbieri, Warner Classics), her works inspire contemplation and dialogue between cultures in flux. Notable recent works include as the first spring blossoms awaken through the snow (2021), let us not be the reason someone out there is praying for peace (2020), and Bloom (2010). Her 25-minute concerto for shō, sheng/suona, and orchestra, Birds Calling… From the Canada in You (2022) is described as “… fresh, thoroughly Canadian, and breathtakingly original.” (James Imam, Musical America Worldwide). 

Winner of the 2022 Jules Léger Prize for New Canadian Chamber Music, 2022 Azrieli Prize in Canadian Music, and the 2014 Penderecki International Composers’ Competition, Ms Ueda has premiered works with the Vienna RSO, Budapest MAV Symphony, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, l’Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra, and the BC Chinese Music Ensemble.  

Ms Ueda’s works are available on Stingray Classica and Warner Classics, and her chamber opera, I Have My Mother’s Eyes: a Holocaust Memoir Across Generations will premiere at the Chutzpah! Festival (Vancouver) in November 2023. 


Heather Pawsey (stage director): Acclaimed for her “stylistic versatility, clarity, range” (Halifax Chronicle Herald) and “gorgeous operatic power” (Vancouver Sun), soprano Heather Pawsey has performed across North America, Europe and Japan.  

A First Prize winner of the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, and named an Ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre (one of only 50 performers and conductors “who have played exceptional roles in shaping the Canadian music scene and raising the profile of Canadian music”), Heather has premiered over 50 new works. She has created roles in many Canadian operas and staged works, among them Farshid Samandari’s Kayoi Komachi / Komachi Visited (Tomoe Arts); Rita Ueda’s One Thousand White Paper Cranes for Japan (Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra; Prague Modern Orchestra, Czech Republic; UA Ensemble, Netherlands, and West Coast International New Music Festival, Japan); Neil Weisensel’s Stickboy (Vancouver Opera); and Leslie Uyeda’s Your Breath My Breath: Dialogue for a Mother and Daughter (Saskatchewan Festival of Words). 

As soloist, Heather has appeared with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Turning Point Ensemble, Aventa Ensemble, Vancouver Island Symphony, Allegra Chamber Orchestra, Land’s End Ensemble, Emily Carr String Quartet, Music on Main, Little Chamber Music, Indian Summer Music Festival, Sonic Boom Festival, Queer Arts Festival, Yarilo Ensemble, and CBC Radio, among others. 

The Founding Artistic Director and General Manager of Astrolabe Musik Theatre, Heather recently produced and performed the Canadian premiere of George Benjamin’s opera Into the Little Hill, and staged, co-produced and performed the North American premiere of Jocelyn Pook’s Hearing Voices as part of the Allegra Chamber Orchestra’s festivELLE celebration of women in music. Heather and John Bolton (Opus 59 Films) are the Producers of The Lake / nx̌aʔx̌aʔitkʷ, a feature-length documentary film examining the decolonisation and cross-cultural co-creation of the opera of the same name between Westbank First Nation, Astrolabe, and Turning Point Ensemble. The film had its world premiere in 2022 at Le FiFa International Festival of Films on Art (Montréal) and its BC premiere at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver. 

Barbara Ebbeson (mezzo soprano) began her musical life in opera with training and professional experience in standard repertoire and oratorio. She has performed with Pacific Opera Victoria, the Victoria Symphony and the Vancouver Symphony. She holds a Masters Degree in vocal performance from the University of Victoria School of Music and studied opera at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Now a Multidisciplinary Artist living with gratitude on the ancestral territory of the Snuneymuyx Nation –Gabriola Island- Barbara pursues many avenues of creative expression. She is a visual artist, printmaker and painter, a story teller and an actor, as well as a singer. Perhaps because of her beginnings in opera, she always sings from memory and loves to indulge a penchant for costume, quirky props and stage craft in her performances. She sings in many languages, including Hungarian and  Norwegian (her language of ancestry). A lieder specialist, her favourite repertoire includes the great cycles of Franz Schubert –Die Schöne Müllerin and Winterreise. Her collaborative pianists have included Harold Douglas Brown, Robert Holliston, Leslie Dala, Rachel Iwaasa and Alix Nishihara.  


She is committed to the performance of new music and collaborating with composers in the creation and performance of new works. Her lifelong friend and musical collaborator, composer Rodney Sharman, once wrote of her: “She lights up a stage’”. Starting in 1999 and continuing to present day, Sharman has written an extensive series of Cabaret Songs for her voice, some humorous, some risqué, some poignant. A gifted comedic actress she often performs as her elderly alter-ego “Augusta Symington”. She premiered many of these pieces with pianist Leslie Dala in “Cabaret Canada” as part of the Vancouver New Music Festival. This late night venue solo performance also showcased songs –some premieres- by other composers including Linda Catlin Smith, Christopher Butterfield, John Oliver, Sylvia Rickard and David Gordon Duke.  


 Barbara was recently Artist in Residence at the Canadian Music Centre, Vancouver Branch. Her ongoing projects include performing song recitals of varied repertoire (combined with projected imagery of her own visual art and sur-translations), recording and performing new works, and her newest passion- a return to opera as a mature performer.    

Nikkei-Canadian settler Teiya Kasahara (soprano, they/them) is a queer, trans/non-binary, multi and interdisciplinary creator-performer based in Tkarón:to (Toronto). Heralded as “a force of nature” (Toronto Star) and “an artist with extraordinary things to say” (The Globe and Mail) Teiya comes from a background of over a decade of singing both traditional and contemporary operatic roles across North America and Europe such as the Queen of the Night/THE MAGIC FLUTE (Essen, Vancouver, Edmonton), Fata Morgana/L’AMOUR DES TROIS ORANGES (Essen), and the title role in MADAMA BUTTERFLY (Windsor Symphony). Other highlights include their first video series 19 VIDEOS FOR COVID-19 which garnered Teiya the nickname, “the balcony soprano” (Toronto Star), and various digital offerings from the past season: S.O.S. SKETCH OPERA SINGERS (Tapestry Opera), ELECTRIC MESSIAH (Soundstreams), and SYMPHONIC PRIDE (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra). Locally, Teiya has performed with the Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Theatre Gargantua, Tapestry Opera, Soundstreams, among others. 


Teiya explores the intersections of gender, sexuality, and race using elements of opera, theatre, electronics, and taiko as both creator and performer, noted in their original works THE QUEEN IN ME (World Premiere June 2022), YORU (in development, Nightwood Theatre’s Write From The Hip Program), and the BUTTERFLY PROJECT (Confluence Concerts & Amplified Opera). For the 2021/22 season Teiya will join the Queer and Trans Research Lab as the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies Artist-in-Residence at the University of Toronto. 

Naomi Sato (shō) was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1975. She graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1998 studied the Sho (Japanese traditional mouth organ) with Ko Ishikawa at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. She is the sho player in Atlas Ensemble (Amsterdam, Netherlands) and gives workshops at the Atlas Academy. She has given chamber music concerts worldwide, with members of her chamber music grope Duo X Project, Japanese traditional instrument trio KODAMA (Sho+Shakuhachi+Koto) and Vlinder Vangers (sho + electronics). She has also presented lecture concerts about ‘Contemporary music scene in Amsterdam through Japanese traditional music’ in Conservatorium van Amsterdam (2000), Northeastern University (2005), UM Dartmouth (2005) UC Davis (2009) and Istanbul Bilgi University (2010).  

Reison Kuroda (shakuhachi) studied under Reibo Aoki (Shakuhachi player nationally designated as a Living National Treasure) and Shoji Aoki in Japan. Graduated from Waseda University School of Human Sciences in 2007, master’s course of Tokyo University of the Arts, Department Japanese Traditional Music in 2013. 

In 2016, he won the highest aword at Hidenori Tone Traditional Japanese instruments contest. (ensemble with Hiroyasu Nakajima), and he was featured by a TV program. (NHK Educational TV “Nippon No Geinoh”). 

He participated in Ars Musica modern music festival in Belgium in 2016, and performed Toru Takemitsu’s “November Steps”, Claude Ledoux’s latest shakuhachi concerto, and premier performance for Denis Levaillant’s piece for shakuhachi and chamber orchestra. 

In 2018, he won the highest aword at World Shakuhachi Competition in London. In 2019, he was appointed as a “Japan Cultural Envoy” and performed in 16 cities in 6 countries around the world. 

He also performs in Ensemble Nomad and Ensemble Muromachi (won the 13th Keizo Saji Prize) and Hogaku Quartet (appeared on NHK FM’s Hogaku no Toki , whose 1st CD “Teruyuki Noda Works for Japanese Instruments Works” was awarded a special mention in the December 2016 issue of “Record Geijutsu” and a recommended version in the January 2017 issue of “Ongaku Gendai”). 

He was appointed as a Japan Cultural Envoy by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in 2019. 

Miyama McQueen-Tokita (koto) is a koto and bass koto player and improviser. Constantly in search for her own style, she fuses ancient traditions with new ideas that are relevant to the music and people of the present day. She performs contemporary works, improvisation and original music, and as her free expressive style gained reputation, she began performing with artists visiting Japan from all around the globe.  She has been invited to perform in festivals such as the Powell Street Festival in Canada, Tokyo Jazz Festival, Melbourne International Arts Festival and Mapping Melbourne.  Ensembles she has performed with include the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra, Australian Art Orchestra and Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. In recent years she has been putting energy into collaborating with composers from various countries, to create music for the koto in styles that have never before been explored.  She took part in IMPULS Academy & Festival in Austria as a bass koto performer, where she performed improvisation, and premiered many new works written for bass koto.   


Miyama has been taught by Satsuki Odamura and Kazue Sawai.  She has a Masters in music from Tokyo University of the Arts, and is a 2018 grantee for the Asian Cultural Council New York Fellowship. https://www.miyamamcqueentokita.com/?lang=en 

Megumi Masaki (curator, pianist) is a pianist, multimedia performing artist, educator and curator. For over thirty years, she has established an international reputation as a leading interpreter of Canadian and new music, and as an innovator that reimagines the pianist, piano and performance space. Her work explores new models of interaction and integration of sound, image, text and movement in multimedia works through new technologies. As a Japanese-Canadian  artist, her work is also connected deeply to community, acting on Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, and how human rights and environmental issues can be communicated through music and multimedia performances to create narratives that speak truth to power. Hundreds of concerts have taken Megumi across Canada, as well as Japan, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Mexico, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, USA and the UK.  


Since 2006, Megumi has been the appointed artistic director of the annual Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition (E-Gré). Under her leadership, the E-Gré was awarded the 2019 Award of Excellence from the Canadian Music Centre Prairie Region. 


Megumi is a Professor of piano at Brandon University’s School of Music, director of the New Music Ensemble, and curator/founder of the annual BU New Music Festival. Recognizing a lack of Indigenous representation in music institutions, Megumi, together with local Knowledge Keepers, convened the annual Indigenous New Music Festival at Brandon University.

Marc Destrubé (violinist) is equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, concertmaster or director/conductor of orchestras and divides his time between performances of the standard repertoire on modern instruments, and performing baroque and classical music on period instruments. His teachers included Harry Cawood, David Zafer and Steven Staryk, the great Hungarian pedagogue and quartet leader Sandor Végh, and Norbert Brainin of the Amadeus Quartet. 


He is first violinist with the Axelrod String Quartet, quartet-in-residence at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., where the quartet plays on the museum’s exceptional collection of Stradivari and Amati instruments. He has also performed and recorded with L’Archibudelli (Vera Beths, Jurgen Küssmaul, Anner Bijlsma) and is a member of the Turning Point Ensemble in Vancouver, specializing in 20th century music and new music. He appears regularly in chamber music performances on the Early Music Vancouver series and summer festival. He is first violinist with the string quartet Microcosmos in Vancouver. 


He has appeared as soloist and guest director with symphony orchestras in Victoria, Windsor, Edmonton and Halifax as well as with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Portland Baroque Orchestra and Lyra Baroque Orchestra. He led the Belgian ensemble Anima Eterna in acclaimed recordings of the complete Mozart Piano Concertos with Jos van Immerseel. A founding member of the Tafelmusik Orchestra, he has appeared with many of the leading period-instrument orchestras in North America and Europe including as guest concertmaster of the Academy of Ancient Music and of the Hanover Band. 


As founding director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra he was responsible for commissioning works for the orchestra from a number of Vancouver-based composers, as well as instigating other innovative projects such as a program of French baroque and Indigenous dance and music. A highly respected teacher, he has been a visiting artist/faculty at the Paris, Moscow and Utrecht Conservatoires, Indiana University, Case Western University, Australian National University, Sydney Conservatorium, the MacPhail School, the Banff Centre and the University of Victoria, and has presented children’s concerts at the Cité de la Musique (Paris). He is on the faculty of the Berwick Academy at the Oregon Bach Festival. 

Sungyong Lim (cellist) graduated with honors from the renowned Yewon School and the Seoul School of the Arts before entering the Korea National University of Arts. During his university studies, he decided to advance his musical education in Europe. Accepted by the Detmold Musik Hochschule in Germany, he earned a VorDiplom, a Diplom (same as Bachelor,Master Degree),a konzertexamen’s (The “Konzertexmen” is highest degree available at music university in Germany) in cello performance. Sungyong graduated at the top of his class, with a comprehensive performance repertoire and with considerable teaching experience. 


Among his many musical achievements, Sungyong has received accolades from the DAAD (Deutdcher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) and from his performance at the German Chamber Music Competition. He continues to receive invitations for solo engagements from organizations such as the German Johannes-Brahms-Saal, and Detmold Konzert Hause, as well as from musical groups in Switzerland , France, Luxembourg, Germany and Korea. Sung Yong has also concertized as an outstanding artist in the French Flaine International Masterclass, the Courchevel Music Festival, the Swiss Lugano Music Festival and the Swiss Sion Music Festival. In addition, he performed, by invitation at music concerts with the Navara Music Festival, and had concerts under Kurt Masur. He also attended the Master classes of famous music professors, such as Lauren Lesser, Christoph Henkel, Xenia Jankovich, Yong Chang Cho and Praha Trio. 

His musical talents have been influenced by many recognized artists with whom he studied, including Marcio Carneiro, Johnes Goritzki, Alexander Gebert, Auryn Quartet, and Sung Won Yang. 


In whichever configuration of music, Sungyong delivers to the highest standards and has become the much applauded leader of Canada’s foremost String Quartet, based in Vancouver, BC. The Borealis String Quartet has achieved an international reputation for fiery performances, passion, coupled with a refined musical interpretative style. The quartet has toured in the USA and Canada, at major venues, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, Seattle, and also in Europe and Asia. Their broad repertoire includes the traditional masterworks as well as new works written especially for the Borealis by contemporary composers such as Imant Raminsh, Bramwell Tovey and Murray Schafer. 

Jennifer Tham (conductor) has been the artistic director of the award-winning SYC Ensemble Singers (Singapore) since 1986. For her role in shaping Singapore’s cultural landscape, she was awarded the Cultural Medallion, the nation’s highest arts accolade, by the President, Republic of Singapore.  


Jennifer was Artistic Director of the Young Musicians’ Society, the arts company responsible for the Asia South Pacific Symposium on Choral Music (2001) and its offshoots, the First Aid for Choirs and Conductors Workshop Series, and the Kodaly Seminar Asia for music pedagogues, the latter in collaboration with the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy of Music (Budapest, Hungary).  For the International Federation for Choral Music, Jennifer co-coordinates the Asia Pacific Working Committee and the Asia Pacific Youth Choir. She represents Singapore on the World Choir Council and has been on jury at the World Choir Games and other festivals in Asia, Europe and America since 2003. 

Victoria Bell (lighting, art design) is a Vancouver based scenographer (lighting, sound, set, and projection designer), technical director and Studio 58 graduate.  

She was born in Cheam, England, and immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, with her family as a child. She grew up in the east van arts scene and was a member of quite a few artistic collective in her teens.  

She sees her work as focusing on the depth in shadow and its necessity to show detail in the light. Working between vibrant colours and muted tones, while using Physical structure to fully infusing her designs in to the world of the piece. 

Allyson McGrane (production manager) is a successful producer, creator, and consultant. Since 2000, she has worked with hundreds of professional and community artists and arts organizations in Metro Vancouver and beyond. Having trained as a lawyer and been called to the Bar of British Columbia, she is currently a founding partner at digital agency Left Right Minds Initiatives. Her work includes grant-writing for individuals and organizations, with a focus on taking a strategic approach. In addition, she is currently a part-time instructor teaching financial management in the Arts & Entertainment Management program at Capilano University. She enjoys the task of creative producing from development to production for artists who work in theatre, dance and music. 

Rodney Robertson (librettist) is a poet, librettist, and Language Arts teacher. Raised and educated in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Rodney lived in Japan for several years before making Vancouver home. Currently, he is teaching English in Doha, Qatar. His life and work continue to be shaped by his travel experiences and the tension between his mono-cultural rural origins and his current urban, multi-cultural life in Vancouver and Doha. Influenced by the works of Margaret Atwood, Al Purdy, Ted Hughes, and Seamus Heaney, Rodney has written over four hundred poems and several libretti.