“It’s a great privilege to bring Omar to San Francisco.” And so notes Matthew Shilvock, General Director of the San Francisco Opera, on the eve of the opera company’s November 5, 2023 performance of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Michael Abels – and fellow Pulitzer Prize-winning co-composer/librettist Rhiannon Giddens’ – opera, Omar. The work was commissioned by Spoleto Festival USA, along with the Los Angeles Opera and the Boston Lyric Opera. Its spring 2022 world premiere at Spoleto was critically acclaimed and well-received by audiences. Omar was quickly mounted again in fall 2022 for the LA Opera’s West Coast premiere. In spring 2023, Omar received its third production at the Boston Lyric Opera, who presented the New England premiere – a few days before the Pulitzer Prize Committee awarded the opera the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music. For San Francisco Opera’s production, directorKaneza Schaal and conductor John Kennedy (who both presented the premiere at Spoleto) return for the six-performance run. Tenor Jamez McCorkle reprises the title role that he created at the premiere.
Shilvock continues. “From the first time I learned of Omar ibn Said’s story and how Rhiannon and Michael were conceiving it for the stage, it was clear that this was a story that needed to be shared as widely as possible. The opera has an extraordinary impact on audiences, bringing the horrors of slavery into stark relief but also extending into a prayer of hope, of faith, of unity. In music that connects us through deep lineages of American and African traditions, Rhiannon and Michael have created a work as profound in its historical significance as in its contemporary resonance.”
Abels shares some thoughts about the upcoming fourth(!) production of Omar in two seasons. “It’s very rare that composers get to see multiple productions of their opera. It’s a literal dream come true — except that I don’t think I even had the audacity to dream past a premiere! It is gratifying, reassuring and inspiring to me to see this work reach audiences in diverse communities across the country. It is wonderful to see the mastery and nuance that the cast members who have had the chance to perform in more than one production bring to their roles — particularly the lead, Jamez McCorkle, who continues to astound. The San Francisco Opera production is on track to raise the bar even higher in every measure of artistry. If you possibly can, I urge you to see it!”
For more performance details, visit the San Francisco Opera here.