Yemandja: A Story of Africa
West Coast Premiere
A Cal Performances Co-commission
One of Time magazine’s
“100 Most Influential People of 2021”
“To be able to witness Angélique Kidjo in her element is a gift. When we were collaborating…it felt both magical and natural—like we were sisters in the studio. Her ability to blend cultures, creating a soulful sound that is out of this world, makes working with her and listening to her so special.
“It doesn’t matter where you are—you hear her, and you become alive. She electrifies people…. The grace she exudes toward her fellow creators, and to humankind, is a reflection of her vibrancy, kindness, and generosity. Angélique is as real as they come.”
Starring Angélique Kidjo
Conceived by Angélique Kidjo, Jean Hebrail, and Naïma Hebrail Kidjo
Book and Lyrics by Naïma Hebrail Kidjo
Music by Angélique Kidjo and Jean Hebrail
Developed with and Directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce
Kerry James Marshall, production designer
Darryl Archibald, music director
Kathy Perkins, lighting designer
Rasean Davonte Johnson, projections designer
Mary Jane Marcasiano, costume designer
Beatrice Capote, choreographer
In her first foray into musical theater, Cal Performances’ 2021–22 season artist-in-residence Angélique Kidjo explores themes of love, betrayal, honor, and revenge against the backdrop of slavery in 19th-century West Africa.
Yemandja, named for a Yoruban deity, is a panoramic work of magical realism, a parable about gods and humans that illuminates through song what can happen when people are robbed of their culture. Kidjo sings her transfixing music backed by a live band and a chorus of dancer-singers, in a fully staged production directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce and featuring stage design by the revered Black American visual artist Kerry James Marshall; the libretto is by Kidjo’s daughter, Naïma Hebrail Kidjo.
Last year, Kidjo was honored as one of the BBC’s 100 most inspiring and influential women from around the world, where she was recognized as “one of the greatest artists in international music today.”Yemandja is co-commissioned by Arts Emerson, The Broad Stage at Santa Monica College, Cal Performances, Ruth and Stephen Hendel, The Kennedy Center, and Mass MoCA.
Produced by THE OFFICE performing arts + film.
An Illuminations:”Place and Displacement” event.