Rhiannon Giddens, Michael Abels Win Pulitzer Prize in Music for 'Omar'

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Congratulations to Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, who have won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music for their opera Omar. Based on the life and autobiography of enslaved Muslim scholar Omar Ibn Said, who was forcefully brought to Charleston from Africa in 1807, Omar premiered at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston in May 2022 and has been performed by LA Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and Boston Lyric Opera; it will be performed by San Francisco Opera in November.

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Congratulations to Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, who have won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music for their opera Omar.

Omar, which made its long-awaited world premiere on May 27, 2022, in Charleston, SC, at the Spoleto Festival USA, is based on the life and autobiography of enslaved Muslim scholar Omar Ibn Said, who was forcefully brought to Charleston, SC from Africa in 1807. Giddens notes: “My work as a whole is about excavating and shining a light on pieces of history that not only need to be seen and heard, but that can also add to the conversation about what’s going on now. This is a story that hasn’t been represented in the operatic world—or in any world.”

Other major opera companies have performed Omar as well, including LA Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and, just last week, Boston Lyric Opera; it will be performed by San Francisco Opera in November. (Omar was previously scheduled to debut at Spoleto in 2020 but was postponed that year and again in 2021 due to the pandemic). Giddens worked on the score with composer Michael Abels, who is known for his work on Jordan Peele's films Get Out and Us. She also wrote the opera's libretto.

In the lead-up to this first performance, Giddens released her own recording of the song “Julie’s Aria," which is featured in the opera, on Nonesuch Records. The recording was made by Giddens with guitarist Bill Frisell and her frequent collaborator Francesco Turrisi. You can hear it here.

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Rhiannon Giddens, Michael Abels: 2023 Pulitzer Prize for 'Omar'
  • Monday, May 8, 2023
    Rhiannon Giddens, Michael Abels Win Pulitzer Prize in Music for 'Omar'

    Congratulations to Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, who have won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize in Music for their opera Omar.

    Omar, which made its long-awaited world premiere on May 27, 2022, in Charleston, SC, at the Spoleto Festival USA, is based on the life and autobiography of enslaved Muslim scholar Omar Ibn Said, who was forcefully brought to Charleston, SC from Africa in 1807. Giddens notes: “My work as a whole is about excavating and shining a light on pieces of history that not only need to be seen and heard, but that can also add to the conversation about what’s going on now. This is a story that hasn’t been represented in the operatic world—or in any world.”

    Other major opera companies have performed Omar as well, including LA Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and, just last week, Boston Lyric Opera; it will be performed by San Francisco Opera in November. (Omar was previously scheduled to debut at Spoleto in 2020 but was postponed that year and again in 2021 due to the pandemic). Giddens worked on the score with composer Michael Abels, who is known for his work on Jordan Peele's films Get Out and Us. She also wrote the opera's libretto.

    In the lead-up to this first performance, Giddens released her own recording of the song “Julie’s Aria," which is featured in the opera, on Nonesuch Records. The recording was made by Giddens with guitarist Bill Frisell and her frequent collaborator Francesco Turrisi. You can hear it here.

    Journal Articles:Artist News

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