World Premiere

Omar praying

Winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Pulitzer Prize logo


Co-composed by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels

An Opera in Two Acts based on the 1831, posthumously published autobiographical essay “The Life of Omar Ibn Said,” written by historical figure Omar Ibn Said, a 37-year-old West African Islamic scholar (from present-day Senegal) who was imprisoned and sent to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was sold into slavery in 1807.


May 27, 2022; Spoleto Festival USA
Libretto: Rhiannon Giddens
Kaneza Schaal, stage director
John Kennedy, Spoleto Festival USA resident conductor
Sottile Theatre
College of Charleston
Charleston, SC

Commissioned by Spoleto Festival USA and Carolina Performing Arts; inspired by Dr. Ala Alryyes’s translation of Omar Ibin Said’s autobiography in his book, A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said

Used by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press

Composed: 2021

Duration: 125′


Jamez McCorkle – Omar               
Cheryse McLeod Lewis – Omar’s Mother, Fatima
Rebecca Jo Loeb – Owen’s Daughter, Eliza       
Catherine Ann Daniel – Katie Ellen/The Caller
Malcolm MacKenzie – Johnson/Owen           
Adam Klein – Auctioneer/Taylor
Laquita Mitchell – Julie                   
Michael Redding – Omar’s Brother Abdul/Man to Be Sold/Abe


Christopher Myers – Production Designer       
Lucrezia Briceno – Lighting Director
Amy Rubin – Set Designer               
April Hickman – Costume Designer
Micheline Russell-Brown – Costume Designer       
Joshua Higgason – Video Designer
Ian Andrew Askew – Assistant Director           
Kiara Benn – Assistant Director