First opera in Papiamentu: Katibu di Shon

Katibu di Shon 10

Our thanks to Peter Jordens for sending this post.

For the first time an opera in Papiamentu has been produced. The opera is called Katibu di Shon (Slave and Master) and is an initiative of Curaçaoan mezzo soprano Tania Kross who lives and works in the Netherlands. Upon her request, writer Carel De Haseth adapted his 1988 novel Katibu di Shon into a libretto, while Randal Corsen composed the music. The opera is directed by Dutch director and choreographer Monique Wagemakers. Katibu di Shon had its world premiere – and so far only staging – at the Amsterdam City Theatre on July 1, 2013, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Dutch Caribbean. The opera was made possible through collaboration with three organizations in the Netherlands: the National Travelling Opera, the Amsterdam City Theatre, and the Foundation for the 2013 Commemoration of the Slavery Past.

Katibu di Shon 2

Katibu di Shon revolves around the love triangle between a slave owner, a male slave and their love for a female slave, set against the background of the 1795 slave revolt in Curaçao. It is a story of love, friendship, distorted human relationships, power, frustration and freedom. The 70-minute opera is sung fully in Papiamentu, with Dutch and English textual translations projected on stage. The three main roles are performed by Dutch tenor Jeroen de Vaal, British baritone Peter Brathwaite, and Tania Kross.

Reviews in the Netherlands of Katibu di Shon have been positive on average. Some reviewers feel that the script needs more tension, that the characters lack depth, and that the music, though a beautiful combination of classical and Curaçaoan genres, adheres to too many artistic clichés. Based on Katibu di Shon, all reviewers conclude that Papiamentu is a language well-suited to opera and hope that more operas will be produced in this Caribbean language. Yet as for Katibu di Shon itself, some believe that it could be more successful as a musical than as an opera.

Katibu di Shon 4

Blogger Jairo Lobo writes that Katibu di Shon is “an unmistakable enrichment of our cultural heritage,” while Amigoe reviewer Otti Thomas calls it “above all a beautiful and moving performance through which Tania Kross, Randal Corsen and Carel De Haseth add new value to Papiamentu and Caribbean culture, music and history.”

Katibu di Shon 9

Reviews in Dutch:

Kasper Jansen (NRC Handelsblad) and Guido van Oorschot (Volkskrant),;

Oswin Schneeweisz (Theaterkrant),;

Basia Jaworski, Place de l’Opera;

Otti Thomas (Amigoe),;

Carl Puhl (Written in Music),

Review in English:

Jairo Lobo (blog),, reblogged on

The website of Katibu di Shon (in Dutch) is
All attached photographs are credited to Marco Borggreve, National Travelling Opera of the Netherlands

6 thoughts on “First opera in Papiamentu: Katibu di Shon

  1. p.s. Also, it should be added that on 1st and 3rd photography you can see the multimedia presentation of photography by Jolanta Isabela Pawlak, who besides that is the author of scenography (sculptural form combining coral rock and the ab. 200 portraits) and all the costumes to the opera “Katibu di Shon”.

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