Baba Yaga is a Russian folk character who defies categorization. In some stories she is a helper, in others, an antagonist, and in many, she is both. As an old, powerful, unattractive woman, living alone in the woods and doing whatever she pleases without a care for what other people may think, she flies in the face of our expectations for women characters. The story of Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave has always been a favorite of mine because it centers self-actualizing, capable women: Vasilisa, the magic doll given to her by her mother, and of course, Baba Yaga herself.
Storyteller Doria Hughes and I created this piece in close collaboration. We read multiple versions of the story, selected which details we were most interested in including, and passed versions of the music and
libretto back and forth as we wrote. Doria’s colorful, theatrical libretto and dramatic, physical storytelling style inspired the pacing of the music and the musical depictions of the various characters listeners will encounter. Some sections of the music emulate noises in the environment such as gales of wind or creaking hinges, while others form miniature episodes that capture the magical details of the story such as Baba Yaga’s chicken leg hut, her mode of travel using a mortar and pestle, the animal helpers who come to Vasilisa’s aid, and Baba Yaga.
Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave was commissioned and premiered by Dinosaur Annex in 2021.
Baba yaga and Vasilisa the Brave
for narrator/storyteller, flute doubling on alto flute, viola, and harp
music by Lisa Neher
libretto by Doria Hughes
Preview the score
Required materials: superball mallet and drinking glass made out of glass (pint glass, etc) for harpist Demo of glass slide
Live recording coming soon!