Red Earth. Hunger​​​

Both Eyes Open is an experimental chamber opera currently in development by Brooklyn-based composer Max Giteck Duykers and Bay Area playwright Philip Kan Gotanda. This work explores the scarring that Japanese-Americans experienced during World War II and suggests paths toward healing. Combining contemporary music and singing, interactive audio and video, and narrative-based movement, Both Eyes Open revisits a pivotal moment in U.S. history and ethnic tensions that still resonate today.


Set in Stockton, California, the story focuses on a Japanese American landowner named Jinzo Matsumoto, who, with his wife Catherine, are interned in a camp in Rohwer, Arkansas in 1942. Before leaving their farm, they bury a “Daruma Doll” on their land. According to tradition, these papier-mâché idols are given to people when they embark on a challenging endeavor or make a serious promise. At that time, only one eye is painted on the doll's face to symbolize the person's initial commitment to the challenge. If success comes, then the doll receives its second eye and is burned ceremonially to release its spirit.

Both Eyes Open has been awarded numerous grants including the JFunds Commission, New Music USA, the Brooklyn Arts Council, The New York State Council on the Arts, the National Parks Service's Japanese-American Confinement Sites Program, and California Humanities, and will be premiered along the West Coast in 2021-22 in communities affected by the internment.

Librettist’s Statement:


I have been investigating the subject of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans for over 40 years.  In theater, in music, in film. For myself, I needed to make the presentation of the material fresh again, crack it open, partner with brave, exciting artists, growing how we engage the story.


Both Eyes Open is a mash-up of styles, forms and techniques.  It takes unexpected turns, makes abrupt shifts, flits back and forth in time, has characters that live inside of, outside of, and in overlapping worlds and dimensions.  Hopefully, in the process, allowing ourselves to experience this moment in America's history with new eyes.  We reach, asking much of ourselves as artists and much of our audience.  

A 5-minute excerpt of BOTH EYES OPEN, produced by First Look Sonoma and The Paul Dresher Ensemble, Oakland, CA, Fall 2019

Act I music only workshop with Ensemble Ipse in Brooklyn, NY, Fall 2019

Music:            Max Giteck Duykers

Librettist:        Philip Kan Gotanda


Jinzo Matsumoto - Kelvin Chan, baritone

Catherine Matsumoto - Kalean Ung, soprano

Daruma Doll - John Duykers, tenor

The Paul Dresher Ensemble

Marja Mutru, piano

Joel Davel, Marimba Lumina

+Violin and Clarinet


Movement: Katie Faulkner

Video Design: Kwame Braun, Matt E. Jones

Costume Design: Maria Christoff

Directed by Melissa Weaver


Produced by the Paul Dresher Ensemble

and First Look Sonoma