Saturday, June 8, 2013

Prince of Madness!

I think this was probably the most intense working experience of my life! Last night was the first public reading of Gesualdo, Prince of Madness, a new opera being developed by San Francisco's Opera Parallèle. The performance was accompanied by a full-length motion comic, with artwork by yours truly and animation by Brag Art's Sony Green.

The opera's based on the true story of a late-Renaissance scandal, full of sex and blood and flagellation and late-night madrigal playing. So we pulled out all the stops in the comic version, enhanced by Sony's animation and a specialized musical instrument known as the "slap stick" that produces whip-cracking sound effects.

Here's some character artwork in progress. 26 multi-panel pages, each with multiple poses for the animated figures, which together covered 45 pages of 11x17" Bristol board. My awesome wife Julie came to the rescue by adding in the flat colors as I worked.

By the time I was done with that, I only had three days left to draw all the backgrounds, delivering the final pieces to Sony barely a hour before showtime. Here's a selection of these.

There was a pretty good turnout for the reading - over a hundred opera-goers, and I'm pretty sure none of them knew what to expect.

Does this look like a man who's been awake for three straight days?

Conductor Nicole Paiement sets up the performers. (That giant lute is known as a theorbo.) During the performance, the accompanying motion comic pages were projected on the wall above them, kind of like those Rocky Horror Picture Show re-enactments.

For obvious reasons, we didn't get photos of the actual performance, but director Brian Staufenbiel apparently videoed the whole thing. Here's a blurry curtain call; the actors left to right are Chris Filipowicz (Orazio), Nikola Printz (assorted female servants), Maya Kherani (Leonora), Daniel Cilli (Carlo Gesualdo), Michelle Rice (Maria), and Andres Ramirez (Fabrizio).

A post-show discussion panel with librettist Mitchell Morris, composer Dante De Silva, director Brian Staufenbiel, and conductor Nicole Paiement.

As a bonus, here's the hitherto-unseen final frame from the last page, which didn't play during the reading due to some kind of technical glitch. This is pretty much how Sony and I were feeling at the end of the week, but I'm sure we'd leap at the chance to do it all again!

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