The musical story of Malcolm X will open Opera Omaha’s season this fall | Arts and theater

When Opera Omaha General Manager Roger Weitz heard about a new production of “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” by famed composer Anthony Davis, he knew what he had to do.

He contacted Detroit Opera, the company creating the new version of Davis’ 1986 work, and asked to join them in the new production.

“They were thrilled with this idea,” Weitz said.

The collaboration makes a lot of sense, he said. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha in 1925, and grew up in Lansing, Michigan, before becoming an iconic and controversial civil rights leader.

Malcolm X, the Omaha-born black Muslim leader, is pictured in New York on March 5, 1964. The opera ‘X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X’ will open Opera Omaha’s 2022-2023 season in November.


After Omaha joined, the two companies began receiving partnership requests from others, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Seattle Opera, which joined the list of co-presenters.

Then Lyric Opera of Chicago signed.

Now, the production will be the opening show for Opera Omaha’s 2022-2023 season, which was announced this week.

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The new “X” is significant for a number of reasons.

It was written by a famous musician and composer who won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize for his opera “The Central Park Five”. A professor at the University of California, San Diego, Davis also wrote “Wakonda’s Dream,” which had its world premiere at Opera Omaha in 2007.

And “X” will be directed by Robert O’Hara, who was nominated for a 2020 Tony Award for his work on the Broadway show “Slave Play.”

“Not only is it an important story about an important Omaha leader, but there’s also a very important cast and crew,” Weitz said. “The production will be something of the caliber of what someone would see at the Met. The budget for this far exceeds Opera Omaha’s usual budget.

The opera traces the life of Malcolm X, from his childhood to his assassination in 1965, with a contemporary score steeped in jazz.

It premieres in Detroit in May and arrives in Omaha on November 4 and 6 before appearing at the Met in 2023, Seattle in 2024 and Chicago at a date yet to be determined.

The Met is the nation’s largest opera company, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago is among the top three or four, Weitz said.

The season also includes:

“Suor Angelica”, opera in one act by Giacomo Puccini, February 24 and 26, 2023, the story of a woman forced by her aristocratic family to join a convent and abandon her child, born out of wedlock.

“The Marriage of Figaro”, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, March 31 and April 2, 2023, one of the most beloved and performed operas in the world. It’s a story of love, seduction and cunning propelled by confusions, mistaken identities and secrets.

Weitz also said that Opera Omaha “is planning a new incarnation of ONE Festival in the spring of 2023”. Details will be revealed later.

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