Grant Fonda
composer for film, television, and the concert stage

Blog

Ophelia! Ophelia!

Almost exactly two years ago, my incredibly humble and visionary friend Caress Reeves approached me about scoring her thesis for her Masters in Fine Art Animation at USC. Caress and I had collaborated on several projects prior to this, so I knew that it'd be extremely out of the box and terribly creative. She didn't disappoint. Her idea? Create a space-opera animated musical.... without any spoken dialogue. Yes, opera in the truest sense. (I would also like to point out that Caress is the only director that I've ever worked with who has temped at least part of EVERY one of her projects with something by Stravinsky. Talk about great taste!)

We brainstormed for several months and as things progressed, Caress ended up with this idea that would manifest as a funk-opera. Yes. Funk-Opera. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll just say that we had a TON of fun. And so, before a single frame was rendered, we started working on the music and libretto with lyricist JJ Bassette. Over the next several months, I worked to create themes and orchestrations that were reminiscent of The Magic Flute and Rigoletto, throwing us into the heart of an opera house but in a far-fetched enough manner that our audience still found things comic. We were, in a way, making fun of the dramatic (in a true dramatic, not musical dramatic sense) soprano divas of opera. And my, what fun we had. I've never done as much score study for a project as I did for this little film, but the end result was worth it. After hours of studying Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Aloe Blacc, Mingus, and even some Ella, writing, throwing things out, writing, and re-writing again, we were finally ready to hit the studio.

"Ophelia! Ophelia! God's hand-picked chosen queen!"

"Ophelia! Ophelia! God's hand-picked chosen queen!"

After auditioning over 50 women for the three lead roles, we ended up hiring the extremely talented Christin Hunt (Ophelia), Candace Coles (Maria), and Ashley Sirls (Daphne). (I might add that Ashley sent me the COOLEST Michael Jackson cover recorded on her iPhone while she was on Choir tour for part of her audition! Totally impressed!) After a day of tracking vocals, we brought in a 30 voice choir.... while Caress filmed the entire thing to model the eventually animated characters after facial expressions, body movements, and Adam's Apple movements (true story).  These three women COMPLETELY brought these characters to life, and incredibly, NONE of them had previous experience as voice actors. Absolutely brilliant. Trust me, when you watch Caress's animation of Ophelia, it's like a completely startlingly hilarious (and at times disturbing) version of Christin bringing her to life! 

One of Caress' photos from our day tracking choirs and soloists. 

One of Caress' photos from our day tracking choirs and soloists. 

After two years of sitting on this score, Caress and I are happy to share a portion of it with you. In celebration of Mothership Opera returning home to Los Angeles in Festival this Friday night, I present you with the Miserable Opening Act from our short funk-space-opera. (For the record, you won't hear any funk in this bit....)