Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
Better Gods, the latest commission from the Kennedy Center’s American Opera Initiative, takes the art form to a state Donald Trump does not consider part of the U.S. The opera is set in Honolulu, circa 1891, and recounts the life of Queen Liliuokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii, who was forced to abdicate her throne during the islands’ American annexation. Composer Luna Pearl Woolf’s narrative works tend to explore dark periods of history, both sonically and through their storylines. (An oratorio about Hurricane Katrina marked her Carnegie Hall debut.) For Better Gods, she wrote a score that incorporates native Hawaiian instruments, including the nose flute, Kala’au (warrior sticks made from strawberry guava trees), and `ili`ili (stone castanets), that performers play onstage. To pull the story, music, and imagery together, the Kennedy Center invited theater director Ethan McSweeny, a D.C. native who has directed a string of hits at Shakespeare Theatre, to take on opera. Multitasking soprano Caitlin Vincent wrote the libretto, which will be sung by members of the WNO’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program. Though the Hawaiian-born president is unlikely to attend, Better Gods is likely to be landmark work worth seeing for anyone interested in the island state. The opera runs Jan. 8 to Jan. 9 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. $45. (202) 467-4600. kennedy-center.org.