Pulitzer Prize Winning Opera “Omar” Makes Its Boston Debut

Pulitzer Prize Winning Opera “Omar” Makes Its Boston Debut

“Omar,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera based on Dr. Ala Alryyes’ translation of the autobiography of enslaved scholar Omar Ibn Said, made its New England debut earlier this month at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, where it played three sold-out shows. 

The musical follows the story of Said, a Muslim scholar who was captured in West Africa in 1807 and enslaved in the United States, where he later wrote an autobiography of his experiences in Arabic.  “Through the shifting darkness of memories and imagination, Omar invites us to bear witness to one man’s journey in remaining true to himself, his people, and his faith – against all odds.

“Omar,” which was created by Grammy Award-winning folk musician Rhiannon Giddens and composer Michael Abels, mixes American, Arabic and West African influences to “create [a] radiant narrative of strength, resilience and conviction.” The New York Times’ Joshua Barone called it “an unforced ideal of American sound: expansive and ever-changing,” offering “fresher, more honest depictions of Black life on an operatic scale.” The Times also named the show to its list of the best classical music performances of 2022. And in 2023, “Omar” was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in music

Though Giddens and Abels are not Muslim themselves, they channeled their experiences as Black Americans to tell Said’s story. Abels told the New York Times, “[This project] shows the importance of telling all of our stories through our fine art, that people are waking up to the truth of that statement and the importance of our stories’ being part of our full artistic legacy.”

Next, “Omar” is headed cross-country to San Francisco, where it will play at the San Francisco Opera from November 5-21. 

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