"But in the meantime there are less celebrated American directors, people like Kevin Newbury, Thaddeus Strassberger, Matthew Ozawa and Elkhanah Pulitzer, who create smart, interesting productions on tight budgets and short timelines all over the place - except the Met. Why not give them a chance?"
- New York Times (Observer Culture - James Jorden)
Ozawa's performing arts company, MOZAWA, was recently featured in Crain's Business Magazine (click link for full article)
"New eye-filling production with a smart cast, thoughtfully staged by Matthew Ozawa. [...] Ozawa adds subtle touches. [....] Our Romeo and Juliet, dressed in contemporary garb, walk downstage and are then put into period costumes, revealing the opera's central conflict - enmity and warfare between families, to say nothing of nations - continues up to the present day. [...] First-rate production."
- Star Tribune (Michael Anthony)
"A sparkling and stylish reimagining of Romeo et Juliette. [...] The captivating visuals offer a fresh take on this well-told tale. [...] Under the stage direction of Matthew Ozawa, the opposing forces in the action are replicated visually onstage, underlining the conflict between the idealism of young love and the reality of worldly violence. [...] Vibrant, well executed, and breathes new life into an old classic."
- Twin Cities Arts Reader (Lydia Lunning)
"Opera companies devote a lot of energy to thinking about how to make the art form relevant to a contemporary audience. Wolf Trap Opera offered an answer. [...] When a show is supposed to be funny, it can make a critic seek out the flat with special focus. Frankly, though, i was laughing too hard to be very bothered. [...] This sounds like the stuff of cliche, but the stage director, Matthew Ozawa, had so much fun creating the individual characters (allegedly modeled on actual people he has worked with) that one was too amused to notice. [...] Since I often complain that opera takes itself too seriously, it is delightful to see young artists having fun onstage. [...] It sure is fun - and if you call yourself an opera fan, you will be glad you went."
- Washington Post (Anne Midgette)
"Wolf Trap's production of this 1769 opera you would never see otherwise is amazingly, genuinely, stand-on-its own hilarious. [...] But some spoofs are timeless, and director Matthew Ozawa updates others. Even the audience isn't spared. [...] I'd venture to say it's nearly perfect. [...] This may be the most you'll laugh at any opera, definitely one that you've never seen before and will likely never see again. And if opera's not your thing, this might make it your thing. Ozawa, and Wolf Trap, took a risk and got it exactly right."
- Washington City Paper (Mike Paarlberg)
"Just when you think Wolf Trap Opera can't keep churning out imaginative and surprising productions, darned if it doesn't happen again. [...] Delicious costumes. [...] Inventive; finely detailed set design. [...] Inhabiting that world was a young cast that demonstrated remarkably polished comic timing and thorough immersion into character. These singers actually made comedy look easy. [...] Irresistible performance."
- Opera News (Tim Smith)
"Five Stars! An absolute romp, thoroughly captivating from beginning to end. The decision to juxtapose a contemporary opera house setting with an 18th-century style opera-within-an-opera was a brilliant manifestation of a plus ca change logic by director Matthew Ozawa. [...] The comic high-point of the whole evening, the hilarious dolphin and fish song, where everyone laughed so loud as to rival the music. [...] The stage business was quite outstandingly choreographed, an abundance of finely-observed details. The tapestry of minutiae was rich, absorbing and terribly funny. [...] I haven't heard an audience laugh more at an opera ever. Period."
- Bachtrack (Hillary Stroh)
"After the Storm was best when spare and haunting, which is why the set and props were so impactful. Over the stage hung the detritus of 1900 - this wreckage made historically remote damage concrete and evocative. A simple cord strung around metal posts enabled a rising water line. [...] Director Matthew Ozawa used such elements to great effect. At one moment, the voices of 1900 shoved these wheeled chairs to one another frantically as the tension of the scene mounts. [...] Complex and layered."
- Houston Chronicle (Joseph Campana)
"Lyric Opera's 'Nabucco' delivers brilliance on all front. [...] In all, this was one of the most cohesive, exciting Verdi productions Lyric has mounted in years, filled with one crowd-pleasing moment after another. [...] Director Matthew Ozawa maintained an orderly traffic flow of more than 120 singers, choristers and extras, taking the opera Verdi wrote seriously, in a straightforward, essentially traditional production with modern design touches in sets, costumes and projections."
- Chicago Tribune (John von Rhein)
"Lyric's Nabucco is a vivid demonstration of what opera is all about. [..] Director Matthew Ozawa ably marshaled a cast of more than 120 people and distinguished characters by contrasting essentially naturalistic movement of the Hebrews with an angular, militaristic style for the Babylonians."
- Opera News (Mark Thomas Ketterson)
"Verdi's Nabucco has all the makings of grand opera, and they are vividly realized in a visually rich, vocally compelling Lyric Opera of Chicago production. [...] It is a new staging by Matthew Ozawa, who in his directorial debut with the company did a good job of defining the story, shaping the characters and arranging the immense forces arrayed onstage. [...] The return of 'Nabucco' to Lyric's stage is worth the nearly 20-year wait."
- Chicago Sun-Times (Kyle MacMillan)
"A lustrous production that dazzled the eye. [...] Lyric debutant Matthew Ozawa directed this modern production, which both respected the source material and draped it in a modern, stylish garment, seeking contrast in primary colors through a sleek set design and vivid vestments. [...] Exquisite dialogue between lighting and projections. [...] Visual splendor."
- Medill Reports Chicago (Frances Van de Vel)
"One could hardly conceive a better way to heat up the bleak Chicago midwinter than with some blood-and-thunder Verdi. [...] Tatiana Serjan was electrifying vocally and dramatically. [...] The stage direction by Matthew Ozawa in his Lyric debut was worthy. There was a certain retro charm in Ozawa's old-fashioned approach."
- Chicago Classical Review (Lawrence A Johnson)
"All of these considerations form a context for Lyric’s massive and magnificent staging of Nabucco.[...] As has gratefully become its custom, Lyric Opera employs production values for Nabucco that are second to none. [...] Lyric’s Nabucco is a flight of the spirit, from the grandeur of its design to a perfectly moving performance of the iconic “Va, pensiero” chorus, it is stunning in every detail."
- Chicago Stage Review (Lori Dana)
"Fresh approach by Matthew Ozawa in his Lyric directorial debut [...] Ozawa’s conceptual approach seemed not only lucid but timeless."
- Nancy Malitz (Chicago On The Aisle)
"An exhilarating performance. The overall work had a narrative thrust and a structural arc. The distinctions among the pieces were somewhat blurred, intentionally so. Hand Eye was presented as a quasi-theatrical work, directed by Matthew Ozawa, with a set and live projections by Deborah Johnson."
- New York Times (Anthony Tommasini)
"Three hours of pure entertainment [...] It was spectacular theater of the bizarre. [...] At the end of the night, you felt like you had experienced something so familial that you wanted to slip into the Congress Street hotel and try to match the set to the spot in hotel that inspired it; or glance up at the early evening sky to see those hues of red swallow the sun."
- Arizona Daily Star (Cathalena Burch)
"Arizona Opera's production is smartly directed by Matthew Ozawa with inviting vaudevillian scenic design by Mark Halpin."
- Arizona Central (Kerry Lengel)
"Simply the sight of the set was enough to draw applause. [...] Endearing bit of nostalgia at play in Arizona Lady - Vaudevillian elements such as a rope of lights framing much of the stage lent a charming old-time feel."
- Phoenix New Times (Lynn Trimble)
"Effective production that drove home its ecological message with a light touch. The temptation to go all Disney on us is, thankfully, avoided. The show is full of whimsical touches, including a colorful painted set design of zoo animals and foliage. Matthew Ozawa's staging made the audience of kids and adults part of the action within the intimate performance space, a handsome, brick-clad room on the café's second floor that has leaded glass windows and an atrium skylight."
- Chicago Tribune (John von Rhein)
"More than anything, I so appreciated that Tsuru contained one idea, expertly and elegantly executed, and all within an hour’s time. Director Matthew Ozawa seamlessly balanced and blended dance, music, light and set to create a delightful chamber ballet, spare in scope, but so satisfying from beginning to end. How rare to see a piece that does not require editing!"
- Arts + Culture Houston (Nancy Wozney)
"This could easily come off today as quaintly academic, if not for Matthew Ozawa's primary directorial experience lying in classical music theater. Under his deft physical orchestration, the didactic textual elements are presented with crisp efficiency on a set designed to invoke a shabby latrine covered in broken and discolored—you guessed it—porcelain tiles, swiftly moving to the intimate dynamics surrounding the crime of passion. By the time the action reaches its climax with the revelation of Lee's obsessive manufacture of the delicate artificial birds, the sheer romance is all but overwhelming. Bring your hankies."
- Windy City Times (Mary Shen Barnidge)
"An extraordinarily passionate yet nuanced performance by Scott Shimizu drives Prologue Theatre Company's impressive production of Chay Yew's "voice play," set (and first produced) in London in the early 1990s. The result is more like a dramatic cantata than a traditional play in Matthew Ozawa's minimalist staging, inventively lit by Eric Watkins. "
-Chicago Reader (Albert Williams)
"On a small stage, boasting a minimalist cast of five, Chay Yew's 1992 work comes to colorful, violent, visceral life [...] Shimizu's performance is at once utterly sympathetic, unhinged and desperate. [...] These elements are woven into a beautiful but inevitably painful tapestry that unravels in tandem with John's opportunity to assimilate. [...] It's a chilling, thought-provoking piece worth placing on your early summer calendar."
- Edge Media Network (Becky Sarwate)
"Director Matthew Ozawa's staging keeps the action fluid. [...] The "Voices," as the four men who play all the non-John roles are identified, provide cunning and sometimes poignant interlaced choral commentary. [...] And the filthy broken-tile walls of William Boles' set, married to Eric Watkins' sometimes garish, sometimes noirish lighting design, suggest John's emotional and psychic hell — a place of confusion, fragility and pain that no one can ever make whole."
- Chicago Tribune (Kerry Reid)
"Snow Dragon roars across the stage with passion and elegance. - Now, THIS is what live theater is all about. […] Powerful and insightful. […] It’s an evening that grabs hold of your heart and your head […] Imaginative and daring don’t come close to capturing the web woven by this production. […] It is through the music and story that we are so moved. It was as if the world had stopped, surely the desired result for Matthew Ozawa the stage director."
- ON Milwaukee (Dave Begel)
“New opera is impressively staged and sung. Anyone who cares about contemporary opera needs to see this production. […] William Bole’s generally spare scenic design is full of quirky and beguiling touches. The production was well served by Matthew Ozawa’s intelligent stage direction.”
- Shepherd Express (Rick Walters)
“Snow Dragon succeeds at illuminating uncomfortable subject. The sets and lighting of the production greatly compliment this complex story. The world of reality is lit in harsh tones, ranging from the TV in Billy’s living room to the fluorescent light in Dora’s office. The sets are almost claustrophobically small, reflecting the lack of places where Billy can hide. When the action move to the Fallen Country, however, the atmosphere is much more expansive. The entire stage is used for these scenes. At one point, a beautiful collection of snow shards flutters from above. Other objects appear in the sky, such as a distant castle.
- Wisconsin Gazette (Anne Siegel)
"Snow Dragon Casts Contemporary, Fantastical Spell. Striking simplicity and stunning stage design, which reveals the startling world of child abuse […] Multiple worlds and wounds shatter under the emotional and physical pain. […] The simplicity of William Boles’ scenic design draws on Asian traditions and Japanese theater techniques in contemporary, minimalist splendor. A glorious transcendent snow dragon appears to float on stage. […] Each designer and technician contributes to total suspension of disbelief transporting the audience between the two worlds. All under the stage direction and vision of Matthew Ozawa. […] This compelling although challenging production transports the audience to a story, a subject, most composers and theater companies hesitate to travel to. Only through supreme confidence can the theater, as art form, go to emotional places where no one else dares, and in the journey soar to outstanding heights. […] Power to cast a magical, redemptive spell on these and any other real life tragedies.”
- Broadway World (Peggy Sue Dunigan)
"A winning burst of spookiness and surrealism. [...] Director Matthew Ozawa ensured persistent tension as the short work (Le Pauvre Matelot) unfolded. [...] The main prop in the Milhaud production, a large blow-up of a moody portrait of a woman's face, carried over into the Poulence opera, suitably altered a la Duchamp. Costume designer, Amanda Seymour, who kept things understated in the Milhaud work, let loose a vibrant assortment of mid-’40s couture, with plenty of gender-bending. Ozawa came up with brisk, amusing stage business to complement such visual playfulness as a flock of pink flamingo lawn ornaments, a giant rubber ducky and numerous cutouts of baby photos that underlined the opera’s be-fruitful-and-multiply mantra. [...] The double bill that shared a chic, minimalist set designed by William Boles and such exceptionally subtle illumination by Robert H. Grimes that the lighting became an extra character."
- Opera News (Tim Smith)
"The staging by Matthew Ozawa was minimal but caught the essence of each work, through simple means, like a white steel frame box that surrounded the sailor's wife in Le pauper matelot, setting her off in her loneliness, and the two little pink balloons that floated out of Asselin's dress when Therese began her transformation in Les mamelles."
- Ionarts (Charles T. Downey)
"A thoroughly diverting evening. [...] Good fun. [...] The staging involved plastic flamingos, zany costumes, and engagement from the whole company."
- Washinton Post (Anne Midgette)
"One of the most exciting and satisfying concerts by any set of players at Orchestra Hall this season. [...] Had you thinking you were at the Opera-Comique in Paris. A real accomplishment."
- Chicago Sun-Times (Andrew Patner)
"Matthew Ozawa steps into the director's shoes for this spectacular production. Ozawa grounds the characters and their motives in reality, not allowing the cast to get lost in the melodramatic aspects of the book. Instead, we feel as if we are watching real people deal with these complications. [...] All laughs are in place, ensuring that the audience swoons, chuckles, and guffaws throughout the evening. [...] This production of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is one of the best musical productions to grace Houston stages. Every element works together to deliver a magnificently picturesque and altogether extravagant presentation. Truly lovely and joyous evening of theatre."
- Broadway World (David Clarke)
"Stunning, breathtaking imagery [...] Direction by Matthew Ozawa pristinely captures every element of Marty Regan's score and Kenny Fries' libretto, bringing the opera to remarkably salient life. He directs his cast with masterful accuracy to guarantee that every moment resonates within the audience. [...] Moving, alluring, evocative, awe-inspiring."
- Broadway World
"Beautifully heart-wrenching. Matthew Ozawa's stage direction was effective, and particularly sensitive in the tender scenes."
- Times Argus
"Stunning production of Verdi's final opera Falstaff [...] Opera in the Heights responds to this spirited opera with its most assured production to date. Everything works, from the fresh direction of Matthew Ozawa, to Nick Bakaysa's Elizabethan-inspired timbered frame proscenium, to Dena Scheh's fanciful costumes. [...] Shakespeare sings."
- Houston Press
"A remarkable chamber opera in five scenes that was unlike any performance recently seen at Oberlin College. [..I]t was nothing short of mesmerizing. [...] Stage Director Matthew Ozawa's minimal set and enchanting, simplistic choreography created a graceful and poetic world. [...] Impressive and inspiring."
- Oberlin Review Vol. 133, No. 14
"Tales from Ovid (literally) rumbles audience members. [...] The potency, clarity, and truthfulness of director Matthew Ozawa's production of Ovid reminded me of the power of theater to, as Peter Brook suggests, 'make the invisible visible.' [...] Ozawa fully explores the notion that the beauty of a story lies in its telling. [...] I would go so far as to say that Tales from Ovid was the most powerful and fully formed theater piece I have seen on any Oberlin stage in my time here."
- Oberlin Review Vol. 133, No. 12
"Summer is Ozawa's directorial debut, which is quite a remarkable feat. It is honestly impossible to tell that the production is entirely student produced. Lights, set and action expertly interact to heighten dramatic moments. [...] The play is professionally constructed, and in the end blends as a coherent whole which skillfully supports the thought provoking text. A gripping and intense experience, Suddenly Last Summer is not to be overlooked."
- Oberlin Review Vol. 132, No.7