Omar, A World Premiere Opera in 2022

Omar: A New Opera by Grammy Award-Winner Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels Taps into a Largely Untold Story of Charleston and the American South

Spoleto Festival USA has commissioned of a new full-length opera by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, 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 in 2020, Omar will now premiere during the 2022 Festival. Dates, times, and ticket announcements will be announced on February 11.

Want to learn more? Exploring Omar, is a lively discussion series illuminating the historical and cultural significance of Omar. Featuring experts in the fields of religion, education, culture, and the arts, panelists connect elements from Omar Ibn Said’s life and autobiography to modern-day themes and ideas. Learn more here.

Music by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels
Libretto by Rhiannon Giddens
Directed by Kaneza Schaal
Conducted by John Kennedy

Read more about the opera in:

The Post and Courier
The New York Times

Learn about the process in our blog series, “Making an Opera:”

Who was Omar Ibn Said?
Meet Rhiannon Giddens
Meet Michael Abels
Meet a Producer, Nicole Taney


The opera is inspired by Dr. Ala Alryyes’s translation of Omar Ibn Said’s autobiography in his book, A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2011 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.


Generous support is provided by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art; the National Endowment for the Arts; Ford Foundation; Deborah Kennedy Kennard and William E. Kennard; OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation; The Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust; Post and Courier Foundation; Leslie K. Williams and James A. Attwood, Jr.; Mr. and Mrs. Richard DeScherer; Jan Serr and John Shannon; and Ms. Susan L. Baker and Mr. Michael R. Lynch.

Omar is co-produced by Spoleto Festival USA and Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Carolina Performing Arts’ participation in this project is made possible through the support of the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.