Omar and Unholy Wars
Omar and Unholy Wars, two new operas premiering at the upcoming 46th season of Spoleto Festival USA, expand the traditional opera canon. Omar, full-length opera by Grammy-award-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens and US composer Michael Abels, traces the spiritual journey of Omar ibn Said from Senegal in West Africa where, as a member of the Fula ethnic group, in 1807 he was captured and enslaved in the Carolinas. Much of what we know about Ibn Said comes from his 1831 autobiography, which he penned in Arabic. The year after his arrival, the US banned the importation of people captured to be sold as slaves, and up to that date, a total of more than 100,000 West Africans were taken through Charleston, South Carolina. Today more than 60 percent of African Americans can trace their descent to people who were among that historical group. Grammy-award-winning tenor Karim Sulayman's Unholy Wars interweaves Baroque period pieces about the Crusades, sung from a contemporary Arab American perspective and examining the Western opera canon's relationship to the Middle East.