A new Canadian opera spotlights the legacy of Chiune Sugihara, the ‘Japanese Schindler’

Teiya Kasahara (back) and Barbara Ebbeson star in 'I Have My Mother's Eyes'. (Photo by Flick Harrison)

The story of Chiune Sugihara has become relatively well known among the Jewish community. The Japanese diplomat, known as “Japan’s Schindler”, wrote transit visas for thousands of European Jews, helping them flee Nazi persecution and the concentration camps. Among the many families saved by Sugihara visas was the Bluman family, which wound up in Vancouver, B.C.—but the story didn’t end there. Even two generations later, the family’s trauma still lingered, just as Sugihara’s own children and grandchildren suffered from the aftermath of the Second World War.

Those cross-generational stories, and their empathetic parallels, form the spine of a new chamber opera, I Have My Mother’s Eyes, premiering Nov. 18 at the Chutzpah Festival in Vancouver. The improvised opera, composed by Rita Ueda, will explore the emotional core behind both the Japanese and Jewish families, which has created a unique bond filled with tragedy and hope. And as Ueda tells us on Culturally Jewish, The CJN’s arts and culture podcast, to tell an emotional story onstage, there’s no better medium than opera.

Ueda and George Bluman join to share how they transformed Bluman’s remarkable family history into an international opera show.


Culturally Jewish is hosted by Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Our producer is Michael Fraiman (reach him by email at [email protected]), and our theme music is by Sarah Segal-Lazar. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To support The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt, please consider a monthly donation by clicking here.