After a too-long hiatus from my blog, I return with praises for this awesome work, “The Dolls of New Albion: A Steampunk Opera,” (2012) by Paul Shapera. It’s the first part of The New Albion Trilogy, and traces the story of four generations of the McAllistair family in the city of New Albion. It begins with clever Annabell McAllistair raising up the dead – a man she’d loved – and putting his spirit into a mechanical doll. This one act echoes down the generations and has profound impact on the city.
Besides being an intriguing story, the music is great, and the songs are hummable/singable and stay with you after the end of the opera. It’s available in CD or streaming form. There’s also a beautifully tuneful recorded performance of the Opera on Vimeo:
and the acting, and singing voices, will not disappoint!
And on top of all that, one thing that caught my ear was the brilliant way that so much story, so much description, was conveyed with an economy of words. Background information, motivations, and various details were artfully woven into the action without bogging it down – yes, not unusual for a theatrical production, but I’ve definitely taken it as a lesson for my own fiction writing!
And it all starts with the narrator describing the founding of the city of New Albion:
“Several hundred years before,
A gambler and a monk embarked
On a long trek through the endless prairies of the north.
They had a fierce debate
About God and chance and fate,
And to resolve it, agreed a game of cards indeed be played.
“The game went on all day,
And through the next and next they played,
And around them a shelter was built to shield the rain.
A street around the shelter formed,
Then a church, a house, a bar,
And that is how the city of New Albion was born.”
Which brings a possible writing prompt to mind – How many strange ways of founding a town can you think of?