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Wolf-in-Skins - a dance-opera by Christopher Williams and Gregory Spears

by Christopher Williams

NY

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     Wolf-in-Skins is an evening-length “dance-opera” I've been creating over the past year with longtime collaborating composer Gregory Spears.  Inspired by ancient Welsh lore, my libretto for the work bears witness to the initiation rites of a central hero character grappling with identity via bouts with supernatural agency, otherworldly passage, and transformation.  Driven by choreographed operatic sequences supported by supertitles, the complete work will combine live music, dance, puppetry, and visual design to re-imagine lost mythology as a staged ritual.

     Striving to carry forward the traditions of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, the new work’s concept is equally driven by the music and the choreography.  My interest in creating movement-based works on stage by commingling various performance genres and historically influenced visual designs has in turn influenced Gregory's attempts to fashion his own musical language from a variety of classical styles.  His score (for a 10-piece chamber orchestra consisting of a blend of modern and baroque instruments) draws upon a host of historical accents such as early music, romanticism, modernism, and minimalism as well as a lexicon of musical leitmotivs.  Singers performing in a quasi-archaic English represent the human characters in the libretto, whereas dancers embody the supernatural characters therein.  A choir of shadow figures singing in Welsh represent supernatural characters' voices.  Costumes for the supernatural characters, designed by another longtime collaborator Andrew Jordan, incorporate research on extant Neolithic textiles and artifacts, while garments for its human characters designed by Ciera Wells re-imagine historical styles from the late Bronze Age to the early Middle Ages.  Mobile set pieces designed by Michael Wang and Tom Lee allow for an adaptable stage space to accommodate my choreography.

     Thanks to Philadelphia Dance Projects and American Opera Projects, the first fully produced preview performances of the work’s first act will take place from January 25th-26th, 2013 in the Conwell Dance Theater at Temple University.  The crack team of collaborators and I have been meticulously crafting the work and rehearsing with a cast of acclaimed New York City and Philadelphia based dancers as well as some of the finest early music specialists and opera singers in New York.  At this crucial stage of the process we need your help.  Your donations will allow us to cover the substantial touring expenses that have arisen as we aim to bring the thirty-two-plus performing and collaborating artists it takes to realize this presentation to Philadelphia.  In the happy event that the project is overfunded, all excess funds will be used to compensate the vast team of performing and collaborating artists as we embark on completing the second part of the work, which is slated for presentation in New York City in 2014.  Your support in bringing this revolutionary new work to the live stage for the first time would be deeply appreciated.

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