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Sacajawea’s Opera Boasts Native American Sign Language and Oral Language
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Sunday, June 16, 2024


“Nu Nah-Hup.” That’s the name of a new opera telling Sacajawea’s story.

It’s a work in progress and on Saturday, June 22, a familial descendant of the young Shoshone woman who helped facilitate Lewis and Clark’s exploratory expedition will come to Ketchum to tell about it.

Rose Ann Abrahamson, who hails from the Salmon area of Idaho, her Shoshone-Bannock compatriot Hovia Edwards and Justin Ralls will tell about the work, which breaks new ground in telling Sacajawea’s story from an indigenous perspective, at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at Ketchum’s Community library.

The opera, written by Abrahamson and composed by Edwards and Ralls, is infused with Native American language, oral history, music and culture. It draws on verismo, bel canto and American folk traditions and uses the Agai’dika/Lemhi-Shoshone language and Native American sign language to preserve and celebrate endangered languages.

The opera has been performed at the Hinckley Studio Theatre and the Hampton Opera Center in Portland, Ore., and it has been previewed at the hillside club in Berkeley, Calif., and the Taube Atrium Theater in San Francisco, Calif.

“Abrahamson is a powerful storyteller, and Edwards is a beautiful musician, and they are creating something incredibly original to tell a story that has been a big part of the history of the American West,” said Jenny Emery Davidson, the executive director of The Community Library. “They are giving us a special opportunity to see and hear glimpses of portions of the opera they have performed in San Francisco and Portland, and to hear them discuss the development of it.”

Rose Ann Abrahamson is a recognized authority of the Agai’dika/Lemhi-Shoshone Cultural History and Language and is a familial descendant of Sacajawea. She has won awards for her teaching and advocacy, and served as a consultant on numerous films, documentaries, and projects with HBO, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and more, including the U.S. Mint design of the Sacajawea Golden Dollar.

Hovia Edwards (pronounced hoo-vee-ya) is of Shoshone-Navajo-Okanogan heritage and is an accomplished flutist, composer, and cultural leader. She has grown up performing and recording all around the world.

Justin Ralls, PhD, is an award-winning composer and conductor working in opera, film, concert, and multimedia. His work has been presented at the Hydansaal, Austria; Lucca International Youth Orchestra Festival in Albano Terme, Italy; Oregon Bach Festival; Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival; Britt Festival, the Newman Scoring Stage in Los Angeles and more.

The program is presented by The Community Library’s Jeanne Rodger Lane Center for Regional History and supported by the Idaho Humanities Council’s Gem State Grant. Registration to see the program in person can be made at https://thecommunitylibrary.libcal.com/event/12379586. The event also will be livestreamed and available to see at https://vimeo.com/event/4385934.


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