Leilehua Lanzilotti

Kanaka Maoli

AWARDEE:  Leilehua Lanzilotti
LOCATION: Honolulu, Hawaii
AWARD: 2023 SHIFT – Transformative Change and Indigenous Arts
Te Ao Mana
Social Media: Instagram

Leilehua Lanzilotti is a Kanaka Maoli composer and sound artist whose work is characterized by expansive explorations of timbre. Lanzilotti’s practice explores radical indigenous contemporaneity, integrating community into the heart of projects.

Lanzilotti was honored to be a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music for with eyes the color of time (string orchestra), which the Pulitzer committee called, “a vibrant composition . . . that distinctly combines experimental string textures and episodes of melting lyricism.”

Liliʻuokalani encoded hope and seeds of cultural renewal in her writings and musical compositions—a spark of hope in the darkness.” 

― Leilehua Lanzilotti (Kanaka Maoli)


Lanzilott’s SHIFT Project, Liliʻu, is a new opera celebrating the legacy of the last Queen of Hawaiʻi. Set in 1895, when Queen Lili‘uokalani was imprisoned for almost a year in ʻIolani 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. The libretto is taken entirely from the writings of Lili‘uokalani, including her newly published bilingual diaries, historical research, and in particular, the seven prison songs. As was the Queen’s writings, the libretto is bilingual in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi and English.

The main vocal forces of the opera are Roomful of Teeth with costumes designed and created by Manaola Yap. The work is directed by Ethan Heard. Language coaching and enrichment will be realized in partnership with Kahanuola Solatorio, creator of E Hoʻopili Mai. Choreography for the opera will be created by Anthony (Tāne) Aiu.

As an integral part of the presentation of the opera, free hula, language, and cultural workshops will be offered in partnership with Te Ao Mana, creating space to come together as a community in the week leading up to the opera. These workshops are not just to create space to learn, but more to create space to come together through language and culture, and to celebrate the diaspora. liliuopera.com


TE AO MANA, established in 2016 by Founders/Directors Anthony Aiu and Kaina Quenga, expands the presence of Polynesian culture worldwide through the creation of new work, specialized classes and workshops, and performances. The group draws on their rich ancestry and focuses on the connection to the ancient genius of their tupuna, while simultaneously navigating the application of their crucial relevance in a modern world.