Following his appearance at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Texas on Sunday, Kanye West announced the forthcoming arrival of his first opera, Nebuchadnezzar. The show will be held at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on November 24.
Throughout 2019, Kanye has been on a spiritual journey. He launched his Sunday Service in January and has been touring the country performing at various churches and festivals. He dropped his gospel album, Jesus Is King in October, which helped Kanye make history as the first artist to dominate all 10 spots on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs and Hot Gospel Songs. The album also topped the Billboard 200, Top Christian Albums, and Top Gospel Albums charts.
So, as Ye ventures further into religious territory, how will his forthcoming opera fit into this? Here’s a breakdown of everything we know about Nebuchadnezzar and Kanye’s plans so far.
It will be held at the Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is an amphitheater located in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. Kanye performed at the Bowl for the first time in 2015 in support of his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak. While the theater is open to live shows from artists like Lady Gaga, Lauryn Hill, and Nas, it is also the official home of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the LA orchestra, Philharmonic. It’s also worth mentioning that the Hollywood Bowl is known for its distinctive arches and dome shape, which has also been a staple of Kanye’s work lately (possibly holding a larger meaning for him). His IMAX film, Jesus Is King, was shot in James Turrell’s Roden Crater in Arizona, which mimics celestial objects. Dome structures also popped up on Kanye’s 300-acre property in Calabasas but were later taken down due to noise complaints from neighbors. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, tickets for the opera are available here.
It’s based on Nebuchadnezzar
In case you weren’t paying attention in history class, Nebuchadnezzar was the longest-reigning monarch in Babylon, ruling the ancient land for more than 40 years. He is also represented in the Old Testament of The Bible, in the Book of Daniel, Book of Jeremiah, and Book of Ezekiel.
In the Book of Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar is known as the “destroyer of nations.” He becomes more important in the Book of Daniel’s first four chapters. In the first chapter, he is introduced as the king who conquered Babylon, depicted as vicious and instructing his people to interpret his many dreams. Daniel appears to be the only one who can successfully interpret his visions, which causes Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge Daniel and his God. After Daniel’s final interpretation, God speaks to Nebuchadnezzar and strips him of his crown and power. “At the end of that time, I Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes towards heaven, and my sanity was restored,” Daniel, Chapter 4 reads. “Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever... At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom.
The chapters about Nebuchadnezzar are supposed to teach readers of humility and redemption. While the king may have thought he was responsible for his own success, it wouldn’t have been possible without God. It’s only until he endures a period of insanity and lost his crown that he was able to respect and acknowledge God’s power.
The lesson of Nebuchadnezzar likely resonates with Kanye because of his own experience with humility. In an interview with Zane Lowe on his Beats 1 show, Kanye compared Nebuchadnezzar to himself, saying, “He looked at his entire kingdom and said, ‘I did this.’ And God said, ‘Oh for real? You did this?’” He continued, “Sounds kind of similar right? I’m standing on the tip of the mountain talking abut Yeezus, saying ‘I did this!’ That I’m a God. And I could talk to Jesus at the end of my show.” Kanye also notes that Nebuchadnezzar was diagnosed as bipolar, a disorder Kanye had spoken candidly about in past interviews: “Nebuchadnezzar was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and he was still king!”
While details of the opera have not been disclosed, fans will likely see a biographical narrative that shows parallels between the Babylonian monarch and Chicago rapper.
Directed by Vanessa Beecroft
According to the flyer shared by Kanye, Vanessa Beecroft has signed on to direct the opera. Beecroft is an Italian artist who has been working with Kanye since his 808s & Heartbreak days. The two worked on the debut of his album at the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles in 2008. Since then, Beecroft has led the creative direction for his Yeezy fashion presentations, including 2016’s Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden, and construction on concerts like Coachella.
Nick Knight designed the Nebuchadnezzar flyer
Nick Knight is the man behind the gold-plated Nebuchadnezzar flyer. The British photographer has been a key player in Kanye’s most recent artistic phase. He is the visionary behind the Jesus Is King aesthetic, which features royal blue and gold colorways and directed the accompanying film.
In an interview with SHOWStudio, Knight compared Kanye to Alexander McQueen, saying both are “extremely complex and extremely passionate about their lives.” He added, “Both extremely honest and sincere, both are often misunderstood by a media that wants an overly simple answer to the most complex questions.”
The Sunday Service choir and Peter Collins will perform
Kanye’s Sunday Service choir has been at the forefront of his new movement, so it’s only right that they will be making an appearance at the Hollywood Bowl. The group is expected to lead the musical performance. Roc Nation musician Peter Collins is also slated to make an appearance, alongside the choir and collective Infinity’s Song (the name appears to be written incorrectly on the poster). Collins recently performed with Kanye at his Sunday Services.