Opera fans will relate to the broad epic themes in Maine native Richard DeCosta’s new filmed opera “K’ai — Death of Dreams.” Epic love, thwarted by seemingly insurmountable outside forces, valor, sacrifice.

Androids, alien slavery, transcending physical bodies to connect in dreams.

Wait, what?

“K’ai — Death of Dreams” may in fact be the first original sci-fi opera — an incredibly ambitious, large-scale work (which DeCosta envisions running six or seven hours when finished) about, paraphrasing from his website:

“An alien tomboy named K’ai is a member of an enslaved alien race who’s never allowed her circumstances to define her. She’s in love with a character named Pivane, but, as he’s an android, their love is forbidden, so she seeks a way to be with him in their dreams and beyond.”

Oh, and did I mention that “K’ai — Death of Dreams” will be sung entirely in an alien language?

“There’ll be subtitles,” assures DeCosta. “Essentially, it’s a foreign film.”

Very foreign.

Like every independent filmmaker, DeCosta has had to make some major adjustments in order to bring his dream to the screen. Originally intending “K’ai” to be shot in 3-D animation, he had to abandon that plan due to Maine’s creative brain drain.

“There are so few good animators available in this area,” DeCosta said. “People will get really good at something, and then they move away from Maine. It seems the animators are the quickest to go.”

So even though DeCosta is an animator (as well as a composer) himself, he realized that the task of animating his dream project would leave him no time to write the music. That’s when he turned to Maine Studios.

“Now we’re going to use real actors and real opera singers,” he said, touting the casting of Portland mezzo-soprano Nicole J. Rawding in the pivotal role of K’ai. “We’re shooting in all high-definition with green screen, alien makeup, the works.”

As for the alien language, DeCosta had originally planned it as something audiences might find familiar. “Originally, I wanted to do it in the language from ‘Avatar,’ at least partly to get James Cameron’s attention, but the studio owns the language and wouldn’t budge.”

Like his heroine, undeterred by the unfeeling forces arrayed against him, the multi-talented DeCosta (also a software designer) made up his own.

“Actually, I’m glad they said no, because the language I created is actually more suited to opera — there are more vowels, more space, it’s easier to pronounce,” he said. “I came up with a set of rules, grammar, vocabulary, then designed a program that transposes letters, looks for combinations of letters and creates patterns, cleans it up and makes it singable.” (To hear several of these alien arias, check out composer.richarddecosta.com.)

As to when we’ll get to see, and hear, the completed film, DeCosta states that, while the music is almost completed, the first scene will film in the next month or so.

And then the real work begins.

“I’m lucky enough to have landed the most lucrative day job of my career, so I’m funding everything by myself at this point,” says DeCosta. “When this first segment is done, which will be small enough in scale but hopefully will give a sense of the scope, then we’ll put it up on the website and enter it into every film festival we can find. After that, we have a PR person looking for investors. Ideally, then I can work on it full time.”

Sci-fi fans, local film fans and opera fans will all find something for them in “Kai — Death of Dreams.”

And if you’re all three, this is your lucky day.

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.

 

 


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