Omar: A New Opera by Grammy Award-Winner Rhiannon Giddens Taps into a Largely Untold Story of Charleston and the American South
Spoleto Festival USA has commissioned of a new full-length opera by MacArthur Fellow and Grammy Award-winner Rhiannon Giddens, based on the life and autobiography of Omar Ibn Said—an enslaved Muslim-African man who was brought to Charleston in 1807.
Originally set to receive its world premiere May 22, 2020, before the 44th Festival season was ultimately cancelled, Omar will now premiere during the 2021 Festival. Dates, times, and ticket announcements will be forthcoming.
Want to learn more? Exploring Omar, a lively discussion series illuminating the historical and cultural significance of Omar begins October 13. Featuring experts in the fields of religion, education, culture, and the arts, panelists will connect elements from Omar Ibn Said’s life and autobiography to modern-day themes and ideas. Learn more here.
Composed by Rhiannon Giddens
Co-composed by Michael Abels
Libretto by Rhiannon Giddens
Conducted by John Kennedy
Directed by Charlotte Brathwaite
Choreographed by Ni’Ja Whitson
Featuring Jamez McCorkle as Omar Ibn Said
Read more about the opera in:
Learn about the process in our blog series, “Making an Opera:”
The opera takes some creative direction from Dr. Ala Alryyes’s scholarly translation of Omar Ibn Said’s autobiography in his book, A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said.
Co-commissioned and co-produced by Spoleto Festival USA and Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
This opera was commissioned with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, and OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. A forthcoming opera development workshop is made possible through the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Co-commissioner/co-producer Carolina Performing Arts’ participation in this project is made possible through the support of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.
The Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts is partnering on far-reaching education and outreach endeavors in order to connect Spoleto and this opera with Charleston schools and community organizations. A role created within the Festival’s full-time staff will ensure robust programming takes place in the region throughout the 2019 – 2020 school year. The material created by these education and outreach endeavors will subsequently be used by Carolina Performing Arts.