The Quad City Symphony Orchestra (QCSO) is excited to announce the presentation of Omar’s Journey, a one-hour concert opera based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Omar by Grammy-Award-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens and composer Michael Abels. This extraordinary event will take place on February 1 & 2, 2025, marking a significant highlight in the QCSO’s 110th Masterworks Season.

Omar’s Journey is a shortened adaptation of Omar, recognized by the Pulitzer Prize committee for its outstanding composition. This version, commissioned and premiered by the Ojai Music Festival in California, will now grace the stages of the Quad Cities, offering audiences a second-ever glimpse of this remarkable work.



Saturday, February 1, 2025, at 7:30 pm
Adler Theatre, Davenport, Iowa

Sunday, February 2, 2025, at 2:00 pm
Centennial Hall, Rock Island, Illinois



Omar’s Journey traces the life of Omar Ibn Said, a scholar from West Africa, who was enslaved and transported to South Carolina in 1807. His unique narrative, written in Arabic, is a rare and insightful document of American history. The opera narrates his journey from a peaceful life in his homeland to the challenges of enslavement in a foreign land. Collaboratively composed by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, the score beautifully intertwines West African musical elements with traditional opera.



QCSO’s presentation of Omar’s Journey will feature an impressive lineup of accomplished, world-class artists, each bringing a wealth of experience to their roles:

  • Soprano (Julie) – Brittany Renee: Renowned for her performance in the same role during the San Francisco Opera’s presentation of the full opera Omar.
  • Soprano (Fatima) – To be announced.
  • Tenor (Omar) – To be announced.
  • Bass-Baritone (Owen/Johnson) – Andy Papas: Papas delivered an impassioned performance of this role in the world premiere of Omar’s Journey at Ojai Music Festival.
  • Bass-Baritone (Abdul/Abe) – Norman Garrett: Garrett’s experience includes performing this role in both the San Francisco Opera and LA Opera’s presentations of the full opera, adding a rich perspective to his character.

“In bringing ‘Omar’s Journey’ to the stage, we’re not just performing an opera; we’re sharing a masterpiece that bridges cultures and epochs through its compelling music and narrative,” said QCSO Music Director and Conductor, Mark Russell Smith. “The dedication and talent of our soloists and musicians will ensure that this story resonates deeply with our audience. The music, rich with emotional depth and cultural significance, showcases the exceptional skills of Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels in creating a score that is as innovative as it is moving. It’s a privilege to lead such a remarkable ensemble in a performance that celebrates the enduring power of music to tell stories that matter.”

“I am proud of our commitment to perform this powerful work with the QCSO,” said QCSO Executive Director, Brian Baxter. “Omar’s Journey lifts an important largely untold story from American history and connects us to the humanity of those who came before us. I look forward to the myriad ways it will start and continue conversations in our Quad Cities community.”



Omar’s Journey joins a notable list of operas recently presented by the QCSO, including Karkinos by Quad Cities composer Jacob Bancks (February 2022), Two Remain: Out of Darkness by Jake Heggie (October 2023), and Richard Wagner’s “Die Walküre” (December 2019), further showcasing the orchestra’s commitment to diverse and powerful storytelling.



The QCSO’s collaboration with Michael Abels transcends mere artistic partnership; it is rooted in a lifelong friendship and shared journey in music. Mark Russell Smith, QCSO’s Music Director and Conductor, and Abels have been friends since their grade school days in Phoenix, Arizona. This enduring bond has significantly influenced the musical landscape of the QCSO.

Abels, is not only known for his concert works but also for his impactful scores in the film industry. He gained widespread recognition for his scores for Jordan Peele’s films, including the Oscar-winning Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), with the latter earning him multiple awards and nominations. His score for Us was named “Score of the Decade” by The Wrap, and he continued his collaboration with Peele in the 2022 film Nope.

Abels’ partnership with Rhiannon Giddens on the opera Omar is a testament to his versatility as a composer. This collaboration, sparked by Giddens’ admiration for his work in Get Out, marks both artists’ first foray into opera composition.

The QCSO has been a significant advocate of Abels’ work. They have performed a range of his compositions, including the lush musical illustration of Frederick’s Fables (November 2021), Delights and Dances (April 2021), and his orchestral work Liquify (November 2017), which was commissioned by the QCSO. The orchestra also co-commissioned his guitar concerto Borders, performed with guitarist Mak Grgić (December 2022). These performances highlight the QCSO’s commitment to presenting contemporary works that resonate with both local and global themes.

This past weekend, the QCSO performed Liquify on Masterworks IV: The Stars Above and Sands Below, accompanied by a premiere film by KV 265, which illustrated the power of water with a stunning video of Iceland Landscapes.



Pre-sales for subscribers begin on April 3, 2024, at 9:00 am, with public sales starting on May 15, 2024. For ticket purchases and more information, please visit



The Quad City Symphony Orchestra, based in Davenport, IA, is dedicated to enriching the cultural life of the Quad Cities region by performing high-quality, live symphonic music that engages and entertains audiences. With a rich history dating back over a century, the QCSO continues to be a pillar of the arts in the community, showcasing world-class talent and fostering a love for classical music.


Funding for the QCSO website provided by the Scott County Regional Authority