choreography, direction, and Libretto by christopher williams
Music by gregory spears
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.”
Commission Wolf-in-Skins is currently in development in American Opera Projects, supported in part by funding through the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 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.
Development Artists Dancers: Caitlin Scranton, Joanna Kotze, Storme Sundberg, Steven Zarzecki, Jordan Morley, Edward Rice, Aaron McGloin, Raja Kelly, Samuel Wentz, Kira Blazek, Dylan Crossman, Jordan Isadore, Burr Johnson, Kennis Hawkins, Matthew Flatley. Singers: Anthony Roth Costanzo, Marcus DeLoach, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Nina Berman, Ryland Angel, Drew Santini, Owen McIntosh, Matt Boehler, Evan Hughes, Rebecca Ringle. Musicians: New Vintage Baroque ensemble, Lindsay McIntosh, Larry Lipnik, Kristi Shade, Sebastian Street Quartet (Daniel Lee, Dongmyung Ahn, Alexander Woods, Kyle Miller, Ezra Seltzer).
Development Partners Philadelphia Dance Projects. 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.
“Operatic elements tell the story while dance explores the dreaminess of the mythology…it’s a visual feast.” —Merilyn Jackson, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Dance and opera certainly have been blended over the centuries, but not often with the sort of intensive interaction demanded by [choreographer] Williams and composer Gregory Spears, both seemingly fearless about striking out in new direction.” —David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Inquirer