Spoleto Festival USA announces the continuation of "Exploring Omar," a discussion series under the umbrella of Spoleto ETC (Engaging the Community)—the Festival’s education and community engagement arm that encourages artistic learning and aims to build audiences of the future. Illuminating the historical and cultural significance of Spoleto’s upcoming opera, Omar, the eight Exploring Omar talks feature international experts in the fields of religion, education, culture, and the arts who will connect elements from Omar Ibn Said’s life and autobiography (on which the opera is based) to modern-day themes and ideas.
Co-commissioned and co-produced by Spoleto Festival USA and Carolina Performing Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Omar the opera traces Ibn Said’s spiritual journey from Africa to his capture and enslavement in the Carolinas. Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens has written the libretto and score; co-composer Michael Abels has worked closely with Giddens to develop the score. Festival Resident Conductor and Director of Orchestral Activities John Kennedy will conduct; Charlotte Brathwaite will direct. The opera, originally set to open Spoleto’s 2020 season, will now receive its world premiere during the 2021 season of Spoleto Festival USA, held May 28 to June 13, in Charleston, South Carolina.
Exploring Omar discussions will take place via YouTube Live and will be free to attend. Registration for the first three events can be made online at spoletousa.org. Conversations will be available for on-demand viewing after each event. Discussions set for January, February, March, April, and May 2021 will be announced later this fall.
In December, Spoleto Festival USA will also partner with Charleston County Public Library for the first of three book discussions, also reflecting themes found in Omar. The first talk, December date TBA, will examine Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (2020, Random House). In this nonfiction work, Wilkerson, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who also penned The Warmth of Other Suns, examines the systemic oppression of Black people in America. The Charleston County Public Library will host the three talks. Information will be available at spoletousa.org.