LA Opera to Present West Coast Premiere of OMAR by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels in October

Omar will be conducted by Kazem Abdullah, a former member of LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program who now makes his company debut.

By: Sep. 26, 2022
LA Opera to Present West Coast Premiere of OMAR by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels in October
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LA Opera to Present West Coast Premiere of OMAR by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels in October

LA Opera is continuing its 2022/23 season with the West Coast premiere of Omar, a new opera by composers Rhiannon Giddens (who also wrote the libretto) and Michael Abels. Performances will take place from October 22 through November 13, 2022, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Omar will be conducted by Kazem Abdullah, a former member of LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program who now makes his company debut. Stage director Kaneza Schaal also makes her LA Opera debut with this production.

"This stunning opera follows the compelling journey of Omar Ibn Said, whose 1831 autobiography is the only known American slavery narrative written in Arabic," said Christopher Koelsch, LA Opera's president and CEO. "The extraordinary cast and creative team we've assembled, many of whom are making their first appearances with the company, will bring to our stage a truly imaginative artistic vision for this powerful and important new work."

LA Opera's production of Omar would not be possible without underwriting support from generous donors including Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo, whose support for the company dates back to its earliest years, and The Lenore S. and Bernard A. Greenberg Opera Fund, founding members of LA Opera.

On October 20, 600 students from across Los Angeles County will receive free admission and transportation to attend Omar's final dress rehearsal as well as pre-performance career workshops with the work's creative and artistic team. Teachers will also participate in a day-long workshop to incorporate Omar's lessons on musicology, history, and African American studies into their curriculum.

"Omar is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be immersed in one enslaved man's authentic experience through the moving artistic expression of opera," said Stender Sweeney, Wells Fargo Southern California Commercial Banking division executive. "Most importantly, our sponsorship helps bring Omar Ibn Said's autobiography off the pages and into the hearts and minds of L.A.-area students. We commend LA Opera for opening its doors to those from all communities and its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion."

About the Opera

In 1807, a 37-year-old scholar living in West Africa was captured and forced aboard a ship bound for South Carolina. Omar Ibn Said's life and Muslim faith are remembered and retold in this inspirational opera inspired by his remarkable 1831 autobiography, written in Arabic while he was enslaved.

Set in the shifting darkness of memory and imagination, Omar traces his path from a peaceful life in his homeland to enslavement in a violent, foreign world. Lost in the wilderness of his thoughts and his stolen life, he's haunted by memories of his family and the people he encounters along the way. Through it all, he somehow remains true to himself and his faith, against all odds.

The world premiere of Omar took place on May 27, 2022, at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina.

Learn more at

The Performers

The cast is led by tenor Jamez McCorkle in his LA Opera debut as Omar, a role he created at the opera's world premiere. Mezzo-soprano Amanda Lynn Bottoms makes her mainstage company debut as Fatima, Omar's Mother, after previously performing as the soloist in the company's 2021 Digital Short Death. Bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch returns to LA Opera for the first time since 2010 in the double role of the enslavers Johnson and Owen. Soprano Jacqueline Echols performs the role of Julie, her first appearance with the company since her 2015 debut as Pip in Moby-Dick. Tenor Barry Banks, who created the role of Hades in LA Opera's 2020 world premiere of Eurydice, performs the double role of the Auctioneer and Taylor. Baritone Norman Garrett makes his company debut as Abdul, Omar's Brother.

The cast includes two members of LA Opera's Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program, both making their first appearances with the company: mezzo-soprano Deepa Johnny as Eliza, Owen's Daughter, and bass-baritone Alan Williams as Abe. Other soloists include soprano Briana Hunter as Katie Ellen, tenor Ashley Faatoalia as Amadou, bass-baritone Cedric Berry as Olefumi and bass-baritone Patrick Blackwell as Suleiman.

The Creative Team

Making their LA Opera debuts, stage director Kaneza Schaal and production designer Christopher Myers create an unforgettable theatrical world inspired by Omar Ibn Said's handwritten manuscripts. The scenery is designed by Amy Rubin, with costumes designed by April M. Hickman and Micheline Russell-Brown, lighting designed by Pablo Santiago and projections designed by Joshua Higgason. The LA Opera Chorus is led by Jeremy Frank and the choreographer is Kiara Benn.

Performance Dates, Times and Address

There will be six performances of Omar at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, located at 135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012:

  • Saturday, October 22, 2022, at 7:30pm
  • Sunday, October 30, 2022, at 2pm
  • Wednesday, November 2, 2022, at 7:30pm
  • Saturday, November 5, 2022, at 7:30pm
  • Wednesday , November 9, 2022, at 7:30pm
  • Sunday, November 13, 2022, at 2pm


Tickets for Omar begin at $15 and are on sale now. Masks are required indoors; please see additional information below.

Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 213.972.8001, or in person at the LA Opera box office at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90012). For disability access, call 213.972.0777 or email

Masks are required at all times for all patrons and visitors in all indoor spaces at LA Opera, except while eating and drinking in designated areas. LA Opera's mask policy, along with a state-of-the-art air filtration system and enhanced cleaning protocols, remains in place to ensure the safest possible experience for audiences, the company's top priority.

Photo credit: Leigh Webber