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         Opera Magazine

A Story of Love and Slavery

Imoinda: A Story of Love and Slavery is an opera that looks at slavery through the eyes of two lovers. The story begins in 16th Century Africa where Prince Oko and Princess Imoinda meet and fall in love. Because Imoinda has been promised to someone else and the lovers defy the King, they are sent into slavery. They endure the horrors of the slave ship not knowing if the other is also there. They arrive in Cuba where the lovers meet again in a sugar plantation and their love reaches a dramatic conclusion. Loosely based on Oroonoko: or, the Royal Slave(1688), a novel written by arguably first published English female writer, Aphra Behn, the libretto was written by award-winning poet, intellectual, and academic Joan Anim-Addo with music composed by the renowned award-winning Cuban American composer, Odaline de la Martinez.

Length: 1 h 40 min

Imoinda looks at slavery through the eyes of two lovers Prince Oko and Princess Imoinda.  

ACT I: Imoinda

In the African kingdom of Guinea, the King throws a grand ball for the Chief of a rival tribe as a gesture of peace after many years of fighting. He promises that any woman there can be the Chief’s next wife. But the Chief, having previously witnessed Prince Oko, the King’s heir, pledge his love to Princess Imoinda chooses her, knowing it will force his old rival, the King, into an unbearable dilemma. Oko, refusing to accept the Chief’s choice, sneaks into Imoinda’s quarters. The Chief, drunk, disturbs them. A fight follows, which is broken up by the King, who having to choose between his honor and his son, banishes Oko and Imoinda to slavery in the Americas.

Act II: The Crossing

The Crossing is the Middle Way. The dangerous and deadly trip suffered by the enslaved people as they crossed the Atlantic. Oko and Imoinda are in the same boat, but neither knows the other is there. 

Act III: Plantation

Oko and Imoinda arrive in Cuba and find each other. Imoinda is a house slave and Oko a plantation slave. As it opens Imoinda is pregnant and about to give birth to her master’s baby. She gives birth rejecting the baby at first, but soon realises this is her future and proclaims that the baby represents a new life - the beginning of a new Afro-Cuban culture.

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'The audience

at the London premiere was mesmerised'

Anne Manson

Director, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra

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The Specs & Arrangement

  • Vocal Forces:

    • Princess Imoinda: Lyric soprano 

    • Prince Oko: Lyric Tenor

    • The King: Tenor 

    • The Chief: Baritone

    • Imoinda’s Maid and Santera: Mezzo soprano 

    • Baku, Oko’s Servant: Spoken role

    • Vocal Ensemble: 8-12 singers: Sopranos, Altos, Tenors, Basses 

    • Choir in The Crossing: Can be the vocal ensemble or a larger choir

  • Minimal Instrumental Forces: 

    • 1st vln, 2nd vln, viola, cello, double bass, electric piano with volume pedal, 

    • 4 percussionists: Percussion breakdown: Perc. 1 – Claves, Cuban Cencerro (Agogo), 2 Tam Tams (medium & low) Perc. 2 – Conga (medium), Timbales (x 2 sets, high to low) Perc. 3 – Bongos (x 2 sets, different sizes), Tom Tom, Samba Whistle Perc. 4 – Bass Drum (lying flat), Tom tom (shared with Perc. 3, higher in pitch than B.D.) Bongos (2 sets, shared with Perc. 3, higher in pitch than Tom Tom) 

Joan Anim-Addo is a Professor of Caribbean Literature and Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is Director of the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies. Her publications include the libretto, Imoinda, the poetry collections: Haunted by History, and Janie Cricketing Lady; as well as the literary history, Touching the Body: History, Language and African-Caribbean Women’s Writing. In 2016 she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for “invaluable contributions to literature and to literary and cultural studies” by the leading US literary quarterly journal, Callaloo.

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  • History of Slavery

  • Afro Caribbean Music & History

  • Multidimensional

  • Modern

  • African Dance

  • African, Afro Caribbean & Afro Cuban Music

Unique Propositions

  • Fusion of Afro-Cuban music and western european opera

  • A rare opera about slavery

  • Loosely based on Oroonoko: or, the Royal Slave(1688), a novel written by arguably first published English female writer,  Aphra Behn.

  • First opera ever about the beginning of Afro-Caribbean culture.

Watch Selected Scenes

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