Wild Cat

(2007) for soprano, mezzo soprano, baritone, children’s chorus, piano, triple wind & percussion


A street near a village school; winter twilight. The school children are fighting – Mrs Thomas and Megan try to control them. Megan’s sister Caitlin is the worst! The children go home singing of how their sleep is ‘full of shadows’ and how afraid they are.

Mrs Thomas and Megan tell each other stories of a wild cat, ‘black and silent as the shadows’ that has been sighted around the town. They work each other up in fear of how it can ‘run along rooftops’, ‘leap through open windows’ or ‘attack all the lambs’. Mrs Thomas rushes home while Megan waits to see her friend Mark.

Mark rushes in singing of how he was attacked by the wild cat: ‘huge claws like razor blades, jagged teeth like glassy shards’. It turns out he’s joking and Megan is so upset, she’s not sure she wants to marry him anymore: ‘this wildness is spoiling everything’.

Back in school, the children are even wilder; Mrs Thomas and Megan fail in their attempts to control them. They decide to send Mark off to find the wild cat and kill it – they give him meat, a stick, a cloak and a knife.

Mark then meets a mysterious child who tells how he was ‘the child you used to be’. The child gives him the tooth of a fox, spine of a fish and the feather of an eagle. ‘Keep them safe. You’ll need them’ says the child. Megan returns with food, a scarf and begs him to wear the ring he gave her around his neck as a good luck charm.

Above the town at night, Mark encounters a chorus of night creatures and hears the howl of the wild cat. The Spirit of Wild Things appears and tells Mark how to find the cave of the wild cat – ‘ride in the jaws of a fox, on the shoulders of the salmon and in the arms of the eagle’. Mark reaches the wild cat’s cave.

Mark finds the cave of the wild cat and is afraid; it is eerie and dark. But instead of the wild cat he finds Cailtin crouching. ‘I came to see the wild cat, because I love the wild cat, but it’s gone’. Mark and Caitlin sing of how man took away the wild cat’s spaces, how ‘we chased it and we killed it’.

Back in town, Megan, Mrs Thomas and the children wait with trepidation. Mark and Caitlin eventually return – Caitlin sings of how she went to see the wild cat, but there wasn’t any wild cat, it’s gone, they’ve all gone, long ago’. A final chorus sings:

Once there were cats in the mountains of Wales

Living as free as the wind and the sea

Now they’re just memories, now they are dreams

Haunting the heart of a child like me




Cast & instrumental ensemble

Professional singers
Megan – soprano
Mrs Thomas/Spirit of Wild Things – mezzo soprano
Mark – baritone

Child Mark
Chorus of school children
Chorus of animals

Instrumental ensemble
Wind Player (flute, clarinet)


Wild Cat was commissioned by Welsh National Opera’s MAX department, as part of WNO’s Land, Sea, Sky project in 2007; the libretto was written by Berlie Doherty, with Welsh translations by Menna Elfyn.

The world premiere of Wild Cat took place at Galeri Caenarfon on the 25th April, 2007, conducted by the composer. The production then toured to Holyhead, Harlech, Cilycwm and the Wales Millennium Centre.


Wild Cat, together with Philips’ children’s opera Dolffin, won a Royal Philharmonic Society Education Prize in 2007.