Inspired by the collection of folkloric tales 'Healers on the Mountain' by Teresa Pijoan
LIBRETTO EXTRACT FROM THE OPENING:
[Along a high rocky edge a young woman searches in distress for a way down. Her hair is roughly lopped, her clothing ripped, her hands arms face feet torn and bleeding. A pouch hangs by a thong about her neck.]
No way down.
From this high rock,
All my journey:
here it ends.
[She sinks aside, dispirited.]
Each step of the way the earth has fought me.
Turn back! the forest said.
Its branches sprang in my face:
Turn back, turn back!
Its thickets ripped my hands and arms:
Back to your people and your village,
to your child . . .
Its thorns clawed at my hair:
How can you leave your husband and your child . . .
A woman does not do this.
I hagged my hair off to tear free of the thorns.
I do this.
I, West-Wind-Rising, I do this.
I go to find a man I do not know.
All of him I know
is his song the night wind brings me . . .
But what way forward to him now? . . .
[She searches; in vain . . . Apart on the space, an obscure form like a mound of rags. From it, a man’s voice begins to sing: ]
Lady, hear me . . .
Wherever you are,
hear me where I lie sleeping . . .
All next day long, my journey said Go back!
High desert of rock . . .
upward . . .
Go back! Go back!
Scorch of the Sun,
the searing wind:
Go back to your husband and your baby!
The sharp rock tore at my feet:
Back to your baby . . . Back to your baby . . .
I fought the wind and the Sun and the knives of rock.
I come to find a man I do not know.
All I have of him
is in this pouch I carry:
a string of shells
one day a raven brought me . . .
a raven brought me . . .
as I looked out from my husband’s door
across the world in yearning.
A string of shells
from around the neck of a man I do not know.
Only the once I ever saw him.
Across that wedding dance he looked at me.
Our eyes met.
[In the mound of rags a restlessness, a struggling; again the man’s voice sings:]
Lady hear me.
Only the once I ever saw you.
Across that wedding dance you looked at me.
[Libretto Copyright © David Rudkin, 2007. Used by permission.]