Set in the year 2119: Cincinnati Opera to showcase Black experience through Afrofuturism



Cincinnati Opera’s The Black Opera Project, a series devoted to new works created by Black artists about the Black experience, will debut on Juneteenth 2025 with “Lalovavi.”

Anticipated to be the first grand opera set on an Afrofuturist theme, “Lalovavi” features music by Kevin Day, libretto by Tifara Brown and stage direction and dramaturgy by Kimille Howard. It is a large-scale work in three acts for soloists, chorus and orchestra.

The synopsis: “Set in the year 2119, the opera follows the journey of Persephone, the youngest teenage daughter of the Primus of Atlas, formerly the city of Atlanta. Currency and status in Atlas are determined based on the presence of Syndicus, a rare gene that promotes vitality and longevity. When Persephone is found to possess this gene, she is betrayed by her family and must run for her life. She is thrust into an epic adventure, uncovering a hidden past that leads her to discover love’s true meaning and the power to determine her own destiny.”



Written primarily in English, “Lalovavi” will also be the first opera to incorporate songs and poetry written in Tut, a language that is indigenous to Black Americans and passed down from their enslaved ancestors, who developed Tut as a mechanism for learning how to read and write when it was illegal for them to do so. The title of the opera, “lalovavi,” is the Tut word for “love.”

“I’m grateful to Cincinnati Opera for believing so fully in this work and giving Tifara and me the space to be our authentic selves,” said Day, in a press release. “Black voices need more positive representation in the arts. My wish for ‘Lalovavi’ is that it offers a fresh perspective on what Black opera represents and that it inspires both the young and old to dream, envisioning their own stories and what’s possible in the future of Black art.”

“‘Lalovavi’ is the culmination of a lifetime of people, poems, and stories that have influenced the woman and writer I am today,” Brown added. “My joy in this project is our ability to imagine what is possible, not only for the Black community but for our world as a whole. This project truly has been a labor of love as we’ve created a family show that promotes healing, hope, and joy for all who see it. Often the way Black people are depicted in stories can leave us feeling depressed and pessimistic about the future. We have worked together to show our community the way we see them: triumphant, powerful people who do have hope for what’s to come.”

“Lalovavi” is the first of three fully staged, full-length operas The Black Opera Project, which is notably supported through funding from the Mellon Foundation. Organizers say Cincinnati Opera’s financial commitment toward The Black Opera Project is anticipated to be approximately $5 million.

“We’re thankful for the visionary artists and supporters who challenged us to think differently about the types of narratives we present onstage,” said Evans Mirageas, Cincinnati Opera’s Harry T. Wilks Artistic Director. “The Black Opera Project marks an important next step in our longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we can’t wait to share these inspiring and uplifting stories about the Black community with the world.”



Morris Robinson, world-renowned bass and Cincinnati Opera artistic advisor, is also eager to see The Black Opera Project come into fruition from an artistic and pop culture standpoint.

“While I was singing the title role in ‘Porgy and Bess’ in 2019, Cincinnati Opera leaders invited my fellow cast members and me into a conversation about opera’s future,” Robinson explained. “My colleagues and I expressed concern that there were no operas that truly represented the African American culture in a positive, modern, realistic and contemporaneously relatable way. I asked, ‘When is there going to be an opera that has the same impact on the operatic stage that the movie ‘Black Panther’ had on the big screen?’ We knew there was a critical need to create and develop works that represented the vastness and beauty of the African American experience. We also felt that these new works needed to be composed, written, directed and conducted by Black people. Cincinnati Opera bought into this vision, fully dedicating themselves to bringing The Black Opera Project to life. I’m excited about what this initiative means both for people of color and for opera fans everywhere who’ll get a chance to see what Black joy looks like on the opera stage. We’re making history and changing our art form for the better.”

“Lalovavi” will run for two performances on June 19 and 21, 2025, at Cincinnati Music Hall, 1241 Elm Street, Cincinnati. The production will feature scenic design by Lawrence E. Moten III, costume design by Kara Harmon, and lighting design by Thomas C. Hase, with Kevin Miller conducting the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

The second opera in The Black Opera Project will receive its world premiere during Cincinnati Opera’s 2026 Summer Festival and will be based on the life of Congressman John Lewis, featuring music by Maria Thompson Corley, libretto by Diana Solomon Glover, and stage direction by Timothy Douglas, who helmed an outstanding production of “Clyde’s” for Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park last fall. Full details about the John Lewis opera, along with the third work in The Black Opera Project, will be announced at a later date.

For more information about The Black Opera Project and “Lalovavi,” visit

About the Author