“Omar,” the opera by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, received its world premiere at Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston on May 27, 2022. In the days following the world premiere performance, the reviews have started to come in. We’re rounding them up here.

The New York Times
At the Spoleto Festival, Opera Is an Act of Liberation
May 30, 2022
Joshua Barone

“… sweeping achievement… Moving, joyous and in its final moments intensely spiritual, it should not have trouble winning over audiences…”

Of librettist and composer Rhiannon Giddens:

“Only a musician like Giddens could have created “Omar,” for which she wrote the libretto and composed in recorded drafts…”

Of Michael Abels’s and Rhiannon Giddens’s score:

“It’s an unforced ideal of American sound: expansive and ever-changing.”

Of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra and conductor John Kennedy:

“nimbly handled”

Of the Spoleto Festival USA Chorus:

“That ensemble — tireless members of the Spoleto Festival USA Chorus — carries this opera, in a way that inevitably recalls Gershwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess,'”

Of where “Omar” goes from here:

“Although “Porgy” is firmly in the repertory, “Omar” at least has the opportunity to stake a claim alongside it.”

Of Jamez McCorkle, who plays Omar:

“delicate lyricism in prayer and steely power in adversity”

Of Laquita Mitchell, who plays Julie:

“a smooth-voiced and soothing presence” performing the “opera’s finest aria”


The Post and Courier
‘Omar’ moves forward a crucial American story, and opera, too
May 28, 2022
Maura Hogan

“the clear and present power of “Omar” to heal a country whose stories are not yet fully told should make this a prominent part of the operatic canon.”

Of librettist and composer Rhiannon Giddens:

“Giddens’ transfixing, poetic pan-cultural libretto captures the essence of his words and those of the people he encounters, shifting with the changing terrain.”

Of Michael Abels’s and Rhiannon Giddens’s score:

“cohesive score, which so movingly, masterfully wrangles all that music into one man’s journey”

Of the Spoleto Festival USA Orchestra and conductor John Kennedy:

“performed exquisitely”

Of the Spoleto Festival USA Chorus:

“officially a standout”

Of Jamez McCorkle, who plays Omar:

“magnificently harnesses the character’s depth of feeling and deep reserves of faith”

Of Laquita Mitchell, who plays Julie:

“A pin-drop-quiet moment in Sottile was her heartbreakingly gorgeous appeal to Omar to write his story”

Of Cheryse McLeod Lewis, who play’s Omar’s Mother Fatima:

“captivating”