Opera Columbus to Present New Version of ‘Vanqui’

By Afton Wooten

In celebration of Opera Columbus’ 40th season, the company is presenting its “4o Days of Opera Festival.”

There will be two 90-minute performances taking place on May 22 at the Lincoln Theatre at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Leslie Savory Burr and John A. Williams’ “Vanqui” will be part of this series.

This production has been reimagined by Opera Columbus’ first Crane Directing Fellow, Luther Lewis III. In a press release, Lewis said “My production will honor the legacy of this magnificent and historic venue, and the jazz legends who performed there, from Etta James and Count Basie to Columbus native Nancy Wilson.” Lewis also noted that his hope for this opera is to reach more of the Columbus community.

“Vanqui” follows the characters Vanqui and Prince who are enslaved in 19th-century America. The couple is murdered, but their resurrected spirits search for each other and to find the Baobab tree. In their search, they cross paths with freedom fighters such as Henry “Box” Brown and Nat Turner. Vanqui and Prince are reunited at the end of the opera. Their story represents the victory of enslaved people over an inhumane system and the resilience of the human spirit.

Soprano Adia Evans plays the title role and Prince is sung by tenor Marcus Jefferson. They are joined by Hannah Marie Bullock, Artega Wright, Skye Marie Johnson, Jefferson Caldwell, Erin McKeever, Aryssa Leigh Burrs, and Justin T. Swain. Antoine T. Clarke conducts.