Set in 1895, when Queen Lili‘uokalani was imprisoned for almost a year in Iolani Palace for her alleged knowledge of an attempt to take back the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, Lili‘u tells the story of the Queen’s life at a time of great upheaval. Denied visitors except for one female companion, Lili‘uokalani depended on secret messages and news that would come to her as wrapping for flowers.
The opera libretto is drawn completely from Lili‘uokalani’s own words (in ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i/English): her diary entries, excerpts from her biography, and lyrics from her songs written during the imprisonment.
Lili‘uokalani used her voice to encode hope and seeds of cultural renewal in her writings and musical compositions. Lili‘uokalani’s advocacy for the revival of Hawaiian music and culture is her greatest legacy as seen through her various acts of cultural preservation and through her voice as a composer—a spark of hope in the darkness.