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Cincinnati Opera Launches $5 Million Black Opera Project

The initiative will commission three new grand operas from Black creators — with the first, "Lalovavi," receiving its premiere in June 2025

 

The Cincinnati Opera has announced that it will introduce a brand-new $5 million commissioning initiative that will engage Black composers, librettists, and directors to create three new operas celebrating Black stories. Titled The Black Opera Project, the initiative is the first program of its kind.

The first new work commissioned by the project will be Lalovavi, with the creative team comprising composer Kevin Day and librettist Tifara Brown. Both will be working on an opera for the first time in their careers, and they will team up with the renowned dramaturg Kimille Howard.

Lalovavi is Afrofuturist in nature. Set in the year 2119, the work follows Persephone, a teenage political heiress who discovers she carries a rare gene that promotes vitality and longevity — but is betrayed by her family as a result.

The work will receive its premiere on Juneteenth (June 19) 2025, as part of Cincinnati Opera's Summer Festival.

The opera will incorporate texts written in Tut, a Black American language passed down from enslaved ancestors. It was originally used for these ancestors to learn how to read and write, despite it being illegal at that time.

"We’re thankful for the visionary artists and supporters who challenged us to think differently about the types of narratives we present onstage," said Evans Mirageas, Cincinnati Opera's Artistic Director. "The Black Opera Project marks an important next step in our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we can’t wait to share these inspiring and uplifting stories about the Black community with the world."

"I’m grateful to Cincinnati Opera for believing so fully in this work and giving Tifara and me the space to be our authentic selves," said Kevin Day. "Black voices need more positive representation in the arts."

"My wish for Lalovavi is that it offers a fresh perspective on what Black opera represents and that it inspires both the young and old to dream, envisioning their own stories and what’s possible in the future of Black art."

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