”Wolf-in-Skins” is an evening-length “dance-opera” choreographed and directed by Christopher Williams and composed by Gregory Spears. Kings, foundlings, wolves, hounds, fay milkmaids and other mythical characters fill this dance opera that draws inspiration from a cycle of Welsh romance tales that preserve pre-Celtic and pre-Christian elements. It views marginalized or outmoded cultural relics, celebrating the “otherness” inherent in early Welsh literature, through a contemporary lens.
Driven by choreographed operatic sequences supported by supertitles, the work combines live music, dance, puppetry, and visual design to re-imagine lost mythology as a staged ritual. Singers performing in a quasi-archaic English represent the libretto’s human characters, whereas dancers embody its supernatural characters. A choir of shadow figures singing in Welsh represents the voices of the supernatural characters. The complete work strives to dovetail the traditional live performance genres of opera, dance, theater, and puppetry into a visual, sonorous, and spatial "polyphony" that forges new territory as its own performance hybrid carrying forward the tradition of Wagnerian “Gesamtkunstwerk” and Diaghilev’s “Ballets Russes.”
Wolf-in-Skins is currently in development in American Opera Projects’ “First Chance” and “Dance Opera Initiative” programs, supported by funding through the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and in partnership with Philadelphia Dance Projects, supported in part by The National Endowment for the Arts, the William Penn Foundation and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.
Additional development of Wolf-in-Skins has been supported in part by funds from the 92nd Street Y New Works in Dance Fund, the Greenwall Foundation, and the O’Donnell-Green Music & Dance Foundation and provided through residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, One Arm Red, Dance New Amsterdam, the Joyce SoHo as part of a Rockefeller Dance-Theater Planning Residency, and at Watermill - a laboratory for performance.
Photo by Andrew Jordan