Reviews – copy


Spoleto Festival USA: World Premiere

“A broadly American story…and a thoroughly American opera…[with] lush orchestrations” – NPR

Omar is an American masterpiece. Whatever forces that had brought about the tumultuous social and political changes in America during the past two Covid-pandemic years, they have also had a profound and lasting effect in the arts…Omar is a product of such an epochal sea change…The extraordinary story of [Omar Ibn Said] is vividly and powerfully presented on the operatic stage…The music, by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, has the old-school charm with modern sensibilities – nineteenth-century Negro spirituals and dances intermingle naturally with operatic ariosos, arias and sung recitatives…” – Classical Voice

“…[a] tonal, lushly orchestrated score…” Wall Street Journal

“…Only a musician like Rhiannon Giddens could have created Omar, for which she wrote the libretto and composed in recorded drafts – she sang and accompanied herself – that were then orchestrated by Michael Abels, with an ear for subtle connections and propulsive drama. Their score is a melting pot inspired by bluegrass, hymns, spirituals and more, with nods to traditions from Africa and Islam…[It’s] a sweeping achievement…an unforced ideal of American sound: expansive and ever-changing.” – New York Times

“A hit! Gripping and beautiful.” Atlanta Journal Constitution

“…Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels [created an] astonishingly moving new opera – Omar…The score — to which Giddens apparently contributed melodic lines, the structures of numbers, and the libretto, with Abels expanding the texture to operatic dimensions for a conventional pit orchestra — is also a mixture of things, and wonderfully so.” – San Francisco Classical Voice

“…co-composers Rhiannon Giddens, who also wrote the libretto, and Michael Abels left virtually no skeptics unconvinced, no eyes dry and nobody’s sense of wonder unstirred with [Omar, and created] a universal story about a man’s search for self-understanding and refusal to give in to hatred and despair.” – “Of Note,” WDAV Classical Public Radio

“…Omar is the most important new work to emerge from Spoleto, at least since the Menotti era. It is an important story, told in a way that is gripping and beautiful..the work has ‘good bones.’ It’s a hit.” – Arts ATL

“…Through this powerful, magnificent work of art, [Omar’s] resonant, real-life source material [is] the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said…In the opera, it is Omar’s journey that we take [and it] is based on his own account…The cohesive score, which so movingly, masterfully wrangles all that music into one man’s journey…And as Omar moves, so do the words and music….And for that reason and many more, 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…” – The Post and Courier

“Striking…stunning…imaginative…BLO’s Omar is a prayer answered!” – The Boston Globe

Omar, a new opera co-created by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, is not just in conversation with history. It brings the past to life…Omar [uses] inventive narrative devices, in the form of characters…but also metaphor, ghosts, and lyricism. The result is a story that is expansive in both scope and depth…It is complemented by an equally robust score, which seamlessly integrates musical influences from across geographic and temporal lines…Omar [is] active, purposeful, and dramaturgically satisfying.” – The New England Theatre Geek