Washington National Opera Presents ‘The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me’

By Afton Wooten

The Washington National Opera will bring back its popular family opera tradition with “The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me,” a retelling of the nativity story.

The cast is led by Cafritz Young Artist (CYA) graduate and Marian Anderson Vocal Award winner Soloman Howard, reprising his role as the Lion. Howard is joined by CYA members Kresley Figueroa as The Unicorn, Justin Burgess in the role of The Donkey, Darryl Lillian Johnson and Aria Song as Angels, and the Washington National Opera children’s chorus. The opera is sung in English along with projected English titles.

This revival will be directed by Andrea Beasom and conducted by Stephanie Rhodes Russell. “The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me” was composed by Jeanine Tesori, with a libretto by the late J.D. McClatchy and based on the book by Jeanette Winterson. When the opera premiered in 2013, Tesori was the first female composer commissioned by Washington National Opera.

Francesca Zambello Washington National Opera’s Artistic Director who commissioned the opera and directed the original production, describes the story as “the wonder of creation.” In this version, she says”the unexpected becomes great; the ordinary becomes extraordinary. It is not just as a story for kids, but for everyone. It is a story that reaches outside any religion and celebrates the things we least expect.”

The revival runs Dec. 8–10 at the Terrace Theater. The matinée performance on Dec. 9 will be a sensory-friendly performance, which is “designed to create a welcoming and comfortable arts experience for people with autism, sensory sensitivities, or other social, learning or cognitive disabilities.”