Rhiannon Giddens & Ara Guzelimian Announce the 77th Edition of Ojai Music Festival Program

By Chris Ruel

The Ojai Music Festival, its Music Director, two-time Grammy Award-winner Rhiannon Giddens, and Festival Artistic and Executive Director Ara Guzelimian have shared the initial programming highlights for the upcoming Festival, which will include over 18 music events featuring a wide range of contemporary classical vocal and operatic works. The 77th edition of the Festival will be held from June 8-11, 2023, in the magnificent Ojai Valley, north of Los Angeles.

“I am so excited to get to work with the Ojai Music Festival as Music Director for 2023. With Ojai, I am able to sit at the crossroads of all that I am artistically and feel fully supported by the Festival team and by Ojai’s audiences. With the artists that we’re bringing out next June, the future is in celebration of how we come together as humans – despite boxes, boundaries, and borders thrown up with the intent to keep us apart,” said Giddens in an official press statement.

Here’s what the 2023 Festival has in store for audiences. For this article, only vocal performances are listed.

The Festival kicks off with Gabriela Ortiz’s “Liquid Borders,” performed by red fish blue fish and conducted by Steven Schick. The program’s second half features the Attacca Quartet performing a playlist tailored for Ojai audiences. Giddens is the lead singer. Schick, besides his role as conductor, is also the percussionist for the concert.

Performance Date: June 8, 2023

The following afternoon, a new staging of Tan Dun’s “Ghost Opera” for pipa features the Attacca Quartet. It evokes the spirit of Bach and Shakespeare while standing with the ancient folk traditions of traditional shamanistic Chinese music. Wu Man plays the pipa, a traditional, plucked Chinese musical instrument.

Performance Date: June 9-10, 2023

On the evening of June 9th, Giddens and Francesco Turrisi will present an intimate acoustic concert featuring baroque music, ballads of the Appalachians, and traditional Black American songs.

Performance Date: June 10, 2023

The Festival presents the world premiere of “The Journey of Omar,” based on the opera “Omar” by Giddens and Michael Abels. This Ojai commissioned work for voices and chamber ensemble pairs “Omar” with the musical traditions of Senegal and the Carolinas. Giddens, the lead singer/instrumentalist, plays alongside violinist Justin Robinson and instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi.

Performance Date: June 10, 2023

Closing out the Festival will be the finale, “Strings Attached.” The concert features Giddens as singer and instrumentalist; Kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor; Rodney Prada on viola de gamba; Justin Robinson plays the fiddle, and Wu Man returns on the pipa. Turrisi will also join in as a multi-instrumentalist. “Strings Attached” is a musical summit and jam session featuring solos and collaborations among the bowed and plucked string instruments from cultures in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Performance Date: June 11, 2023