Written by Sheldon Harnick.
Opera in 2 Acts. The libretto, by Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), is based on Coyote and Pavayoykyasi (taken from Hopi Coyote Tales). The five tales told in the opera are based respectively on legends from the Crow, Okanagon, Karok, Klamath, and Hopi tribes. The music is not intended to resemble Native American songs and traditions; its style is purely Henry Mollicone's.
Each of the tribe's tales is told in a separate scene. The Coyote figure is featured prominently in each, representing the embodiment of the entirety of our human nature. The five tales are: Old Man Coyote Makes the World, Coyote Keeps his Name, How Coyote Brought Fire to the People, Coyote in Love with a Star, and Coyote and Pavayoykyasi. The scenes are held together by a character called "The Storyteller," who at the end of the opera addresses Coyote: "As you behave, we shall too. Old Man Coyote, we are you." Duration: ~ 2 Hours, 30 Minutes
| COYOTE || Tenor |
| SOLO STAR/MAIDEN (one or 2 performers) || Soprano |
| STORYTELLER/PAVAYOYKYASI (one or 2 performers) || Bass-Baritone |
| FOX || Mezzo-Soprano |
| DUCK 1 || Soprano |
| DUCK 2 || Tenor |
| SKOOKUM 1 || Soprano |
| SKOOKUM 2 || Mezzo-Soprano |
| SKOOKUM 3 || ALTO |
| CHORUS OF 24 (minimum) || |
| 4 SUITORS/VOICE OF THE GREAT SPIRIT (from the Chorus) || 2 Tenors/Baritone/Bass |
2 Flutes (Picc.), 2 Oboes (E.H.), 2 Clarinets (B.Cl.), 2 Bassoons, 3 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, 3 Percussion (including Timpani), Piano/Celesta/Synthesizer (1 player), Harp and Strings
March 1998, Lyric Opera of Kansas City
Oberlin Conservatory of Music
The work had its premiere in 1998 at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, which deserves high praise for nurturing a piece that should have a long, healthy performance life. Oberlin's production conveys all of the irresistible musical personality and dramatic intrigue in this collection of American Indian tales... Harnick's libretto is a quicksilver, funny and often poignant narrative full of engaging images. And not since he wrote lyrics to Jerry Bock's music for such beloved Broadway shows as "She Loves Me" and "Fiddler on the Roof" has Harnick collaborated with the composer of such freshness and substance. Mollicone's score for "Coyote Tales" runs the gamut of sonic delights, basking in American folk idiom and affectionate references to Strauss, Britten, Copland and Bernstein... he lets loose streams of lyrical lines that caress the ears and draw the listener directly into the characters' expressive worlds. If this opera is any indication, Mollicone is something of a radical in an era when too many composers pooh-pooh the melodic element in music. His vocal lines sing and his orchestrations add colorful commentary to the opera's dramatic twists.
-Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer
The libretto of Sheldon Harnick and Robert Darling is brilliantly crafted, full of rich, poetic language, crafted to reflect the Native American attitudes and lore... The music could be described as eclectic, incorporating structures from the past but with traces here and there of contemporary music. This eclecticism is characteristic of Mollicone's own musical style. The music was easy to listen to and it became the unifying component of the opera... It is not in the mold of opera as we know it. But I found it thoughtful, exquisitely crafted, beautiful musically, and faithful to the native American lore it depicted.
-Lea Frey, OperaGlass