The Opera’s “Omar” is a masterpiece in the dramatic repertory

Commentary: Redemption, writ large, in L.A. Opera’s divine ‘Omar’

The Los Angeles Opera’s “Omar” (Theodoros Papadimitriou/David Yazbek) is a masterpiece in the dramatic repertory. A tragicomedy about the redemption of a man who has fallen into debauchery, “Omar” is one of operas that I’ve felt has an unspoken yet essential message.

“Omar” is a good example. When I first saw the opera, after being told I must hear it, I was worried that I might fail to absorb its message. But once I became involved with its characters I found that the opera itself embodied the message to me. “Omar” is a tale of redemption and salvation and, like the Bible, seems to present an unspoken yet essential message: “Every good soldier deserves a medal” (Ezekiel 45:1).

To understand the message I believe that we must first look at the opera itself. To get there we must understand the characters and their motivations. The opera’s narrative centers around four protagonists: Omar and his mother, Fatima, and the other members of a wealthy family. Omar wants to be with Fatima, but is forbidden to visit her in her house because of her infidelities. And of course, he is forbidden from marrying her, because she is a Christian.

In a scene that feels like an epilogue, Omar and Fatima sing together as she tells him “God loves me, God loves me, God loves me” (1:4). The opera ends with Omar kissing her, their heads touching and then the curtain descends upon this scene, with Omar’s mother, Fatima, looking into the mirror with her hand placed on her cheek and thinking how like a child her son is, as she looks at herself and smiles at the reflection of herself. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but you will probably not learn the ending in this review – at least, not with the information you are getting here.

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