Opera based on Octavia Butler novel makes New York City premiere

An opera based on Butler's 1993 novel, "Parable of the Sower," had been workshopped for years and made its New York City on Thursday at Lincoln Center.

“Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower,” an opera based on the hailed novel by the late Afrofuturist pioneer, had its New York City premiere on Thursday at Lincoln Center.

Toshi Reagon wrote the libretto of the opera, according to NBC News. The longtime singer-songwriter-musician-composer co-designed the piece with her mother, activist Bernice Johnson Reagon, an acclaimed musical artist in her own right. The two workshopped the opera in parts and performed evolving versions for years after the 2013 shutdown of the New York City Opera, where they began developing the piece five years prior.

Now, their entire “Parable of the Sower” opera has landed on the stage at Lincoln Center, one of American opera’s biggest production houses.

Marie Tatti Aqeel (center) performs between Toshi Reagon (left) and Bernice Johnson Reagon (right) in “Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower.” The opera premiered on Thursday at Lincoln Center in New York. (Photo: Ehud Lazin, provided by Lincoln Center)

Butler wrote her “Parable of the Sower” book in 1993, yet it takes place in 2024, when fascism is taking over the United States government and chaos is preceded by climate disasters. Reagon worked on adapting a libretto based on the novel for decades but says the COVID-19 pandemic gave her a new perspective.

“When Covid happened, I was like, this is an opportunity for us to really see our power,” Reagon told NBC. “People have said that you can’t stop pollution. But then the world shut down, and the sky was clear. We got to see our collaborative power globally.”

Reagon said that much of Butler’s work, notably her “Parable” book, was very prophetic when cross-referencing the subject in her novels to the perils of today’s real-life society.

“People are reading her books and seeing that somebody saw this 30 years ago, which means we, in some way, have been living it,” Reagon maintained. “In the back of our minds, a lot of us have been worried about where we are now.”

“Parable of the Sower” is the latest of Butler’s writings to get reinterpreted in a different discipline. FX and Hulu produced the 2022 time-travel drama series “Kindred,” based on Butler’s novel of the same name. In 2021, HBO ordered a pilot to be produced based on her vampire novel, “Fledgling.”

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!