Tag Archives: opera

The Steampunk Opera Overture (demo version)

I sit here in a tine old, village house in the mountains of southern Serbia madly composing away. My wife has taken our beautiful little toddler to Belgrade in order for me to work uninterupted. I rise each morning, eat, chop wood (it’s winter and heat here is OLD school) and sit down in my studio to compose.

And so it’s about time to start sharing. Here is the demo version of the Overture (or Prologue… can’t decide exactly which). As such it will not have vocals.  I don’t know how i’ll tweak it down the road, but for now here’s the first peak at the Steampunk Opera music.

(I should add, this video is just a still image. It’s simply a way to showcase the music. I’ve tried many other methods on other sites and blogs, but i found overwhelmingly, people prefer vids, even if the vid is just a picture. Go figure.)


Posted by on January 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Plots, loops, and coincidence.

After deciding on a steampunk opera,  i had the small issue of coming up with a plot.

A friend was visiting from the states and together we went to Belgrade for a few days. While there i saw a book in a bookstore, which stood out not only because it was one of the only things in English in the entire place, and not only because i was blindingly hung over and could only focus on a narrow slice of the world to being with, but because of it’s title. Escher Loops.

I don’t know the book, have never read it, but i was fascinated by the idea that the plot for the Steampunk Opera could be a narrative escher loop:

Escher stairs

The piece would have 4 Acts, each relating to the other in ironic situations and motifs, and the end of the entire piece ends up in some way back at the beginning.

I was delighted by this idea and tried to think about it further, but good Lord that hangover…

The next day, after seeing my friend off at the airport, i began the 3 hour drive back to Soko Banja, and it was on the car ride that the story unfolded.

It did not quite adhere to the Escher Loop idea so firmly, but it does in some ways loosely hold to it.

Now since i clearly can’t just give the plot away point blank, i will say this: the opera takes place in a fictional city, at the moment, New Camden.  Probably early 20th century. The world it inhabits is one of alternative history. For the sake of the opera, the actual world history is irrelevant, however, i’m building it anyway just for the sake of immersive world building. I’ll post the alt history in a later post. But i do know that the American Revolution was roundly squashed by the British and there is no United States. New Camden may be one of the Northern American industrial cities, which is of course British.

The opera has 4 acts, about 20 minutes apiece.  Each act follows a different generation of a particular family line. The singers/actors in one generation are different characters in the next, although that how their interactions change and switch and situations between them turn, can be quite interesting. There is a narrator and her songs are a mix of dark cabaret and tango music. The opera opens with Annabel McAlastaire, a brilliant but slightly emotionally off kilter scientist, attempting to bring the dead man she was in love with back to the land of the living.

One thing that occured to me while working out the plot: i like irony in my plot. There’ll be a bunch of it (hopefully not too contrived), but in reflecting on coincidences and stories, i realized that if one is told a tale which has all sorts of fortunate coincidences, the audience will dislike it,  more strongly the more synchronicities it has. But tell a tale in which all manner of UNfortunate coincidences occur, ones which serve to screw the protagonist in more and more clever and ironic ways, and the audience will enjoy the hell out of it and find it endlessly amusing.

Go figure.

(My plot is neither of these. I’m just saying.)

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Posted by on January 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


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I am going to make a Steampunk Opera.

I  am starting this blog in order to declare my intention to make a Steampunk Opera and to document the process.

Hi. My name is Paul Shapera and I make music under the name Mocha Lab.  I will be posting many selections of my work to date so that you can get an idea of what kind of composer/music producer I am as well as other great artists whose music falls within range of this project. I’ll post on the process and details of putting a theater show up (in London, although i myself am American currently living in Eastern Europe) from the first intention to create it to the opening performance (and Gd forbid beyond).

A theater director in London, Mark Swetz, asked me about doing an opera or some other show that I might be interesting in composing. Sadly, I can’t stand opera. I like much of the orchestration, and I like the male crescendos, but in general the entire style of singing drives me beserk.

I am thoroughly well versed in musical theater, but about 10 years ago I had the realization that I couldn’t stand it anymore.  Sondheim can still work for me and I have a very soft spot for a few musicals I listened to when I was young, but you know… once again the style of singing and corniness just drives me nuts. (If, however, i had to list my 3 top musicals, they’d be Into The Woods, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Les Miserables. So there you go.) I have made several theater shows, including and especially the multi-media show The Fallen which is also on it’s way to be put up in the states, but we’ll get into that another day.

I whimsically thought about a steampunk opera, in which I would create a new genre, building heavily off of the Dark Cabaret movement (Dresden Dolls, Birdeatsbaby, Jill Tracy, Vermillion Lies… most of which I must confess I only discovered once I decided to write this opera.  Actually all I knew was Dresden Dolls, of which I’ve been a big fan. Discovering and exploring a new genre is half the fun of conceiving this). I decided to make this because after whimsically throwing the idea out, I started finding that more and more of my leisure thoughts were being spent working out ideas for the opera.  When one becomes obsessed with an artistic idea without trying to, it is a clear sign you must make it. So I contacted Mark and told him i must must MUST write a steampunk opera. He gave it a big thumbs up and wait now to hear what i’m actually going to do.

I”ve worked out a plot which i’ll go into at a later date and i’m starting the blog now, because today i will be sitting down to play the first notes of music. We’re starting at the beginning, The Overture (or Prologue, depending). I like to go in order of the story.

We’ll talk later. In the meantime I leave you with a sample of another more lighthearted musical story i’ve made. This is the first track off of Cthulhu: The Funksical, by Mocha Lab of course.


Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


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