a new steampunk opera by award-winning composer Robert J. Bradshaw
DEUS EX MACHINA
Latin: meaning god from the machine [ˈde-us eks ˈma-kʰi-na]
Deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the unexpected intervention of a new event, character, ability, or object.
Learn more about this cutting
edge steampunk opera by
Robert J. Bradshaw.
An in-depth look at the
extraordinary creative team and
recording artists who brought
"Deus Ex Machina" to life.
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"A singular and exceptional work." (GMA)
DEM WINS GLOBAL MUSIC AWARDS! (2015)
- GOLD MEDAL: Composer/Composition
- GOLD MEDAL: Steampunk Opera
- SILVER MEDAL: Album Art/Graphics
ACT I: ABOARD A TRAIN
The Victorian Age as it never was: the world of Steampunk. The day after a convention of renowned inventors, onboard a train.
Inventor is an aging man who is absorbed by his clockworks, which he views as much as art as they are craft, but who also bears the grief of his wife's death. He has turned his genius to the creation of a perfect clockwork automaton in the image of his wife, She, who is with him on the train. He laments the blindness of the other inventors, for though he sees She as real, they only see her as a piece of brilliant machinery. He talks to himself about time and his desire to triumph over immortality in the form of She.
Distracted from his thoughts when She "awakens", She asks him if she did well pretending to sleep. He replies affirmatively but She wonders why she must feign sleep and, for that matter, follow all the other norms of their society. Inventor tells her that she must do so to fit in and be accepted but She is indignant and tells him that she wishes to be free to live and enjoy this fascinating world in which she has awakened. Though she appears adult, She is really a child at heart. She and Inventor express their love for each other and She begins to wonder about mortality. Inventor, to take her mind off it, gives her a gift: a music box, exquisitely crafted, that he has made. She adores it and they dance, accidentally bumping into Pacemaker, the Magician, who introduces himself and performs a few tricks. He compliments them both and offers them tickets to his show aboard an airship before leaving. Inventor is scornful of Pacemaker’s "trickery" but She is enchanted and Inventor cannot tell her no.
ACT II: ABOARD AN AIRSHIP
On the airship, Pacemaker amazes the crowd with impossible tricks and dares them to figure out his magic. Inventor laments She's innocence internally and determines that he must teach her to be aware of the hardships of life.
Pacemaker invites them onstage and performs an impossible feat: he removes She's beat and places it into one of his many pocket watches. As she dies, She tells Inventor that she will live on through him and that nothing is eternal. Pacemaker laughs and restores her to life, humbling and stunning Inventor. She wishes that she could be mortal, and human, so that she wouldn't have to live on after Inventor dies. Pacemaker says he will grant her wish for a fee. He tells them to come to his factory and vanishes.
PAUSE (A moment of reflection.)
PRELUDE to ACT III: ON THE DOCKS (Outside Pacemaker’s Factory)
She and Inventor reflect on life and love. Inventor's confidence is shattered and She tries to reassure him. From above, Pacemaker watches out of a window and scorns their blindness, revealing his true colors. Humbled, Inventor gives up his dreams about defeating time and puts his hope of eternal life in faith. They decide to enter the Factory and Pacemaker revels in his triumph.
ACT III: THE MACHINE (Inside the Factory)
The Factory is a colossal Machine for making watches and timepieces such as the ones Pacemaker wears. They tell him to get on with it and Pacemaker makes a golden pocket watch without a tick. They question him and he says that he has already done his magic and that She has a heartbeat. She and Inventor are overjoyed until they realize that She has been given Inventor's heartbeat and he, her clockworks. Pacemaker has tricked them, and as the couple promises that they can still love each other no matter what, he requests payment. Inventor sarcastically offers him as much time as he wants, and Pacemaker accepts, taking the Inventor's new clockwork tick and placing it in his new watch. She cries as Inventor drops his book and falls. Pacemaker, smirking, trips on the dropped book and falls into the machine. With no other recourse, She prays for salvation and impossibly Inventor gasps to life. They rush out as the machine opens to reveal a new pocket watch. Pacemaker's voice is heard asking for a volunteer from the audience...
A. Reid Bradshaw
WHAT, WHERE, WHEN
H. G. Wells and Jules Verne would feel right at home in the world of Steampunk (being two of its most important sources of inspiration). This opera is set in a world ruled by steam and natural gas, rooted in a Victorian (Industrial Revolution) aesthetic. This world evolved around mechanical devices, most prominently, clockworks. Airships, gas lamps, goggles, brass, gears and cogs are the look of this dusky city, everything with an old world patina. Who lives there? Adventurers and femme fatales. Inventors and scholars. The highest elite socialites, middle-class workers, and scrappy survivors.
ACT I: ABOARD A TRAIN
Although Inventor and She can’t afford first class, even the lower class cars are opulent visions of the Victorian era (at least until you get very close to the engine!). Plush seats, beautiful wood, brass trim, rich earth tones, and exquisite detailing allow passengers to ride in style.
ACT II: ABOARD AN AIRSHIP
A fantastic dirigible beyond anything seen in our world. A complex combination of simple Victorian machinery and futuristic (some might say, unnecessarily so) construction make this airship a site to behold! Simpler than the train, passengers still ride in style -- although the colors are colder, reflecting the function and economy necessary when building a large vessel that floats in the air.
PRELUDE to ACT III: ON THE DOCKS
The seemingly always dark and gritty working side of the town. This is the type of place high society pretends doesn’t exist, all the while clamoring for the latest craze or fad to arrive in the shops after each shipment. The Factory looms over the entire stage. A street lamp casts a paltry glow and an oil drum burns with a meager wood fire surrounded by street musicians.
ACT III: THE MACHINE
Inside the Factory, an impossible, lever and gear covered, evil-looking machine belches smoke into the heavens. It heaves and grinds, turning anything and everything into pocket watches for Pacemaker. Watches and clocks adorn every bit of available wall space.
An utterly drained, aging man. He is often mistaken for being antisocial (with a dash of mad scientist) but in actuality, he’s suffering from the devastating loss of his beloved wife. He has forgotten the beautiful, and magical, world around him -- only focused on his next creation and not aware of what he already has. Distraught and unable to cope alone, he has turned his clockwork genius to creating a companion in his wife’s image. His worn leather apron and unkempt clothes are those of a craftsman consumed by his work. His rough fingers are discolored by the metal he handles and he is never without his precious book (where he keeps the secrets of how he constructed She). He wears a complex pair of glasses, of varying magnification, so that he can see the tiniest mechanisms of his imagination. As evidenced by his exquisite creations, his work is as much craft as art.
A lady of the highest social status -- at least that is how she was built, being an automaton in the youthful likeness of her inventor’s deceased wife. Outwardly, She is the embodiment of Victorian refinement; however, her outward serenity conceals a giddy fascination for the world in which she has been awakened. She is clothed in the finest and most fashionable dresses. Never having worked a day in her brief life, she is blissfully unaware of how hard life is for the majority of society, that is, until she comes in contact with the greater world and begins to understand the concept of mortality.
PACEMAKER, THE MAGICIAN
The finest magician in the world! There is no trick that he cannot perform (literally). Outwardly, he is refined and the most understanding person you will ever meet. In his heart, he is vicious and hostile toward the imperfection that is humanity. He is dressed entirely in black. Clean and pressed, his shirt, pants, vest, and even his long overcoat are perfect in every way. He wears a top hat and carries an equally black cane. The only things that shine on him are his perfect shoes and his many watches. He carries pocket watches of varying shapes and sizes. All are beautifully crafted but not all of them tick. He is always prepared...
Continuing the concept of characters performed on instruments (developed in the Gabriel series and the opera Pandora), the brass quintet performs a role closely related to a Greek Chorus. The quintet acts onstage as train passengers (Act I), magic show pit orchestra (Act II) and a street band (Prelude to Act III). The quintet is not onstage for Act III. Beyond acting, the music the ensemble performs is itself a character, filled with foreshadowing, leitmotif, commentary and emotional drama. Dressed in less than finery, they are just trying to make a living by playing you a little tune. Could you spare a coin or two?
In addition to providing the foundation accompaniment for the work, She’s heartbeat, the machine sounds (steam engines etc…), and all music performed during the course of this opera are synchronized. The constant rumble and machinery sounds create the work’s unique soundscape.
Recording dates (2015):
January: 9, 10, 11, 28
February: 24, 26, 28
March: 10, 14, 17, 23, 24
Robert J. Bradshaw, recording engineer
Cabot Performing Arts Center
REDFERN ARTS CENTER
Benjamin Fraley, recording engineer
PERCUSSION STUDIO at Florida State University
Recorded by Benjamin Fraley (Fraley Productions)
Audio post-production / graphic design by STUDIO 251.
Soundscape / sound design, sequencing, and trumpet cues by Robert J. Bradshaw.
Additional cues by A. Reid Bradshaw and Sarah E. Bradshaw (sound design), and Benjamin Fraley (timpani).
Photography by Robert J. Bradshaw, A. Reid Bradshaw, and Roger Meissen (Arns).
Gillian Hurst, mezzo-soprano
Brendan Buckley, tenor
Gary Wood, baritone
Megan Arns, timpani
Microphones by Neumann, AKG, Audio Technica, and Røde.
Preamps by Presonus.
Recorded, mixed and mastered with Logic Pro.
Additional recording with Adobe Audition (Timpani).
Computers by Apple.
Cameras and lenses by Nikon.
James Ackley performed on a Yamaha YTR-9445CH trumpet, Monette C1-5 mouthpiece, and used Trumcor mutes.
Seelan Manickam performed on a Sonare C trumpet and Austin Custom Brass Flugelhorn.
Kristen Sienkiewicz performed on an Engelbert Schmid horn and used a Balu mute.
Robert Hoveland performed on a Greenhoe trombone and used Denis Wick straight and cup mutes and a Jo-Ral Bubble mute.
John Bottomley performed on a Kalison Akins/Leblanc CC Tuba and Dillon DCB-1185.
Megan Arns and Benjamin Fraley performed on Adams Dresden Classics Timpani.
Robert J. Bradshaw performed on a Bach LR180S37 Stradivarius trumpet, Warburton 4D 10* mouthpiece, and used a Shastock Solotone mute.
John Bottomley’s costume by Tina Blanksteen and Elaine Walker.
Megan Arns’ costume by Christine Seitz, Associate Teaching Professor, Voice/Opera, University of Missouri.
opera no. 6
DEUS EX MACHINA
a steampunk opera
for mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, brass quintet, organ, timpani, and laptop
music and libretto by
Robert J. Bradshaw
A. Reid Bradshaw
Sarah E. Bradshaw
DEUS EX MACHINA is dedicated to my
wife and best friend,
Lori A. Bradshaw.
One lifetime, together.
CAPE ANN OPERA
Artist X • STEREO • BC41522 • TT 70:02 • MADE IN USA
Copyright 2015 Beauport Classical. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use of the music or information contained herein is a violation of copyright laws. Beauport Classical, a div. of RJB LLC, Gloucester, MA.
CAPE ANN OPERA is proud to partner with STUDIO 251, BEAUPORT CLASSICAL recording label, BEAUPORT CHAMBER PLAYERS, and BALA BRASS.