VOICE OF THE DRAGON 2: Shaolin Secret Stories (Apollo Theater, NYC) Written by Ruth Margraff with composer Fred Ho, directed by Terry O'Reilly, martial arts choreography by Jose Figueroa, vocals by Marina Celander
one of 6 martial arts operas created by Ruth Margraff & Fred Ho 1997-2014 see https://www.innova.mu/composers/ruth-margraff
DEADLY SHE-WOLF ASSASSIN AT ARMAGEDDAN (A SWORD BALLET) May 16-June 2, 2013 Ellen Stewart LaMama Theater (NYC); June 24-25, 2006 Mandel Theater @ Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA; April 29-30, 2005 NYSCA Individual Artist grant for The Japan Society city wide exhibit “Cool Japan: Otaku Strikes!”, choreography by Spinnin Ronin’s Tsuyoshi Kaseda, dir. Sonoko Kawahara with martial artists (NYC)
VOICE OF THE DRAGON 3: DRAGON VS. EAGLE commissioned by Rockefeller Foundation & Peregrine Arts, 2008 Brooklyn Academy of Music workshop and January & June, 2007 at the Apollo Theater (NYC)
VOICE OF THE DRAGON 2: SHAOLIN SECRET STORIES…(A MARTIAL ARTS EPIC PREQUEL) 2004 Apollo Theater/Mary Flagler Cary Trust/Caribbean Cultural Council/ICM Artists/World Music Institute commission for prequel Shaolin Secret Stories at Apollo Theater acclaimed by New York Times (NYC)
VOICE OF THE DRAGON 1...ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINESE AMERICA
2002-2003 Columbia Arts Management, Inc./Big Red Media, Inc. North American tour to following Performing Arts Centers in 33+ cities: Hancher Auditorium Iowa City, IA; New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newport Performing Arts Center, Newport, OR; Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR; Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Arts, Eugene, OR; Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis, Davis, CA; Van Duzer Theater, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA; Center Theater, California Center for the Arts, Escondido, CA; Riverside Municipal Auditorium, Univ. of Calif., Riverside, CA; McCallum Theater for the Performing Arts, Palm Desert, CA; Smothers Theater, Seaver College of Pepperdine Univ, Malibu, CA; Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ; Beckman Auditorium, Calif. Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA; Carver Community Cultural Center, Lila Cockrell Theater, San Antonio, TX; Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, Appleton, WI; Pabst Center, Milwaukee, WI; Power Center, Ann Arbor, MI; Southern Theater, Columbus, OH; Vern Riffe Center, Portsmouth, OH; Chicago Theater, Chicago, IL; Ford Theater, Honeywell Center, Wabash, IN; Zellerbach Theater, Annenberg Center, Univ. of Penn., Philadelphia, PA; Palace Theatre, Stamford Center for the Arts, Stamford, CT; Tilles Center for the Arts, Brookville, NY; John Harms Center for the Arts, Englewood, NJ; Colonial Theater, Keene, NH; Cubb Theater, Capitol Center for the Arts, Concord, NH; Garde Arts Center, New London, CT; Jorgensen Auditorium, Univ. of CT, Storrs, CT; Community Theater, Morristown, NJ; Center for the Arts Concert Hall, George Mason Univ., Fairfax, VA; Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts, Richmond, VA; Shubert Theater, New Haven, CT; etc. 2003 Bronx Museum excerpts (New York); 2001 Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2001 Next Wave Festival/Harvey Theater, Nov. 7-11, dir. Mira Kingsley, chor. Jose Figueroa Afro-Asian Music Ensemble (Brooklyn); 2001 Seattle Repertory Bagley Wright Theater May 12-19 (Seattle); 2001 Northeastern University Center for the Arts August 18 (Boston) 2000 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Peter B. Lewis Theater (NY); 1999 The Guggenheim Museum, Peter B. Lewis Theater, prod. Mary Sharp Cronson and PBS' "Eye on Dance" Celia Ipiotis (NY); 1999 John Harms Center for the Arts, JVC Jazz Festival (New Jersey)
NIGHT VISION: A THIRD TO FIRST WORLD VAMPYRE OPERA
2002 Symphony Space w/World Music Institute (NY); 2001 Brooklyn Academy of Music Café: concert (NY); 2000 HERE Arts Ctr, dir. Tim Maner; 2000 Public Theater Joe's Pub; 2000 Epistrophy Arts/Sri Atmananda Memorial Hall, (Austin); 1999 Cooper Union Great Hall w/Dr. Sa'di Al-Hadithi, recording Avatar Studio C; 1998-99 funded by Rockefeller Foundation, Jerome Foundation, NEA, and NYSCA; 1998 Joseph Papp Public Theater “New Work Now” Festival;1998 New York Theater Workshop reading,1998 Audrey Skirball-Kenis’ Spring Retreat (LA)
See--> 2:49 min. excerpt of VOICE OF THE DRAGON 2: Shaolin Secret Stories with photos from live performance at the Apollo theater soundstage here: https://vimeo.com/32748801 including track: "Li Wen Mao, The Peking Opera Orphan." The narrator’s vocal is recitative in vowels that extend in a Peking opera style of English. She inhabits the subjectivity of all the characters of the story, much like the chorus in Japanese Noh plays.
THE NEW YORK TIMES Arts Section Opera Review
"Crouching Leopard, Somersaulting Dragon"
By JON PARELES
Published: January 10, 2004
Long before martial-arts acrobatics became a staple of action movies, they were part of Chinese opera, and the composer and baritone saxphonist Fred Ho has decided they can be at the center of an American opera as well. His ''Voice of the Dragon 2: Shaolin Secret Stories'' is an opera without songs. But it has plenty of jazzy music from Mr. Ho's sextet, the Afro Asian Music Ensemble, and a nearly nonstop display of leaping, punching, somersaulting, pole-twirling, sword-wielding combat, choreographed for a dozen martial artists by Jose Figueroa. Its world premiere was presented by the World Music Institute's Interpretations series on Thursday night at Soundstage at the Apollo Theater, the small upstairs space at 253 West 125th Street in Harlem, where it continues through tonight.
''Voice of the Dragon'' tells tales of the Shaolin Temple, the cradle of Chinese martial arts, and Mr. Ho plans to make it a trilogy. The first part, ''Once Upon a Time in Chinese America . . . The Martial Arts Epic,'' was presented in 2001 and depicted a battle at the temple against a traitorous female warrior, Gar Man Jang.
''Secret Stories'' is the prequel: coming-of-age stories for Gar Man Jang (played by Soomi Kim) and the Shaolin heroes who will go on to fight her. It is told, like the first installment, in narration written by Mr. Ho and Ruth Margraff that was delivered with melodramatic relish by an elegantly costumed narrator (Marina Celander); it was directed by Terry O'Reilly. The narrator shifted between high-flown storytelling and slangy retold dialogue, with glints of humor, while the martial artists rocketed across the stage.
''Secret Stories'' is about loyalty and self-renewal. Like the X-Men, the Shaolin heroes have varied talents. One has a crouching, feral attack because he was raised by leopards. One specializes in blades, one in wooden sticks, one in theatrical flamboyance. Each comes to a monastery as an orphan or outcast, chafes at the discipline but eventually accepts the teachings of the masters. As heroes in training, Tom Kaseda, Philip Silvera, Sekou and Scott Parker all made quick transitions from feigned clumsiness to taut precision.
There's also a girl, Ng Mui (Mei-Chiao Chiu), who grins and pouts with rubber-faced glee as she grows increasingly skillful. Gar Man Jang turns from Ng Mui's mentor to her jealous and vicious opponent, and as ''Secret Stories'' ends, Gar Man Jang and the narrator merge, moving in tandem and vowing to defy even the moon and sun.
Mr. Ho's music provided vamps and themes for each character, and it worked more as soundtrack and atmosphere than as foreground music. He often used closely harmonized saxophones akin to Charles Mingus's arrangements, but when melodies emerged, they often hinted at Chinese modes, and Royal Hartigan deployed Chinese cymbals, gongs and woodblocks alongside jazz drums. It was burly, foreboding music, using shifting meters to keep the tunes off balance and provide subliminal tension.
As a jazzy martial-arts pageant, it orchestrated some impressive razzle-dazzle.