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Published on Mar 1, 2015
Wolf Woman (2006) - Alice Ping Yee Ho, composer - Janice Jackson, soprano
This performance was part of a larger world premier performance of 4 mini operas entitled "Wolf Moon", directed by Linda Moore, in January 2007, in the Sir James Dunn Theatre, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Generously funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Wolf Woman is a 20 minute mini-opera for solo soprano. It is a dramatic composition that evolves in four stages: search and discovery, transformation, resurrection, the spirit breaks free. The text is an invented language of native Algonquian words and nonsense syllables, mixed with singing, narration, ancient folk tunes and extended vocal techniques. The singer is challenged to create multiple characters by changing her vocal colors, performing ritualistic movement and playing various hand held percussion instruments. There are also suggestions for some simple lightning, setting, and costume design as part of the dramatic presentation.
The central theme of my composition is transformation. The wolf woman is a mythical figure: mysterious and determined, possessing both vision and supernatural power, inhabiting the world of the living and the dead. This wolf woman, this collector, gathers the bones of wolves, sings over them, creating a living wolf which is then transformed into a desirable woman. These scenarios are dreams – the bone collector, the wolf, the woman – the only difference is their changing material form.
This piece is inspired by the myth of La Loba, the wolf woman, from Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. La Loba is a fat, hairy old woman who lives in a hidden canyon. The sounds she makes are more animal than human. Her sole work is the collecting of bones, especially those of wolves. When she has found enough to make a complete skeleton, she raises her arms over it and sings so intensely that the wolf returns to life and escapes into the canyon. As it lopes into the moonlight, the wolf is transformed into a laughing woman who runs free toward the horizon. The story ends with a warning to the reader: “So remember, if you wander the desert, and it is near sundown, and you are perhaps a little bit lost, and certainly tired, that you are lucky, for La Loba may take a liking to you and show you something of the soul.”