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The Washington National Opera is thrilled to bring back its popular family opera tradition with The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me. The cast is led by Cafritz Young Artist (CYA) graduate, Marian Anderson Vocal Award winner, and Washington, D.C. native Soloman Howard, reprising his role as the titular Lion.

Composed by Jeanine Tesori, with a libretto by the late J.D. McClatchy and based on the book by Jeanette Winterson, the original production of The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me “sustain[s] a lot of fresh energy and charm” (Washington Post). When the opera premiered in 2013, Tesori was the first female composer commissioned by WNO. In another “first,” Tesori has three operas staged by WNO in the same year (the other two are Blue and Grounded); a first for a contemporary composer. She also received her second Tony Award this year for Kimberly Akimbo.

The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me tells the familiar Nativity story from a fresh perspective—those of the barn animals. WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello, who commissioned the opera and directed the original production, said the story is about “the wonder of creation.” In this version, “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.”

This revival will be directed by Andrea Beasom and conducted by Stephanie Rhodes Russell, former CYA. The principal cast include Soloman Howard (The Lion), along with members of the CYA program Kresley Figueroa (The Unicorn), Justin Burgess (The Donkey), Darryl Lillian Johnson and Aria Song (Angels), and the Washington National Opera children’s chorus.  

The performance on December 9 at 2p.m. 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. Info here.

The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Libretto by J.D. McClatchy, based on the book by Jeanette Winterson
December 8–10, 2023 in the Terrace Theater
In English with Projected English Titles
WNO Revival 

Friday, December 8, 2023 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 9, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. (Sensory-friendly Performance)
Saturday, December 9, 2023 at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 10, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.


Darryl Lillian Johnson/Aria Song
Winona Martin**
Sahel Salam**
The Donkey
Justin Burgess**
The Unicorn/Weaver
Kresley Figueroa**
The Lion/Butcher 2
Soloman Howard†
The Flamingo/Brother 2/Horse/Silk Merchant 1
Tiffany Choe**
The Cat/Brother 1/Silk Merchant 2
Cecelia McKinley**
The Hippo/Holy Man/Dog/Water Seller
Jonathan Pierce Rhodes**
The Elk/Camel soloist/Butcher 1
Jonathan Patton**
The Innkeeper/Ox/Shepherd
Sergio Martinez**
Andrea Beasom
Stephanie Rhodes Russell*

* WNO mainstage debut
† Alumnus of the Cafritz Young Artist program
**Cafritz Young Artist 

Ticket Information
Tickets may be purchased online at kennedy-center.org, in-person at the Kennedy Center Box Office, or by calling (202) 467-4600.

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