Costuming an Opera, Part 2 – Creating Idomeneo

27 Apr

The lead character of the opera “Idomeneo” by Mozart is the King of Crete, Idomeneo. When Catey and I were asked to costume this opera, it was important to give Idomeneo a Kingly look.

Idomeneo laments having to stab his own kid to death.

Idomeneo laments having to stab his own kid to death.

I based my basic concept for the lead costume off of the original costume from the first performance of the opera back when Mozart wrote it:

The original Idomeneo costume.

The original Idomeneo costume.

When Idomeneo first washes up on shore, something that happens to people a lot in this play, I wanted to evoke a wet feel. There wasn’t a large budget for much set design, so I took a very textured gold fabric and overlayed a sheer sparkling blue on top to express coming out of the sea.

The lowest layer of Idomeneo's costume under construction. The textured fabric is covered by a sparkly sheer overlay to evoke wetness.

The lowest layer of Idomeneo’s costume under construction. The textured fabric is covered by a sparkly sheer overlay to evoke wetness.

The costume can be seen on stage below as Idomeneo confronts the specter of the person he has vowed to kill, a specter which haunts him.

The sparkly costume in action on actor Ben as Idomeneo.

The sparkly costume in action on actor Ben as Idomeneo.

When he returns home to his throne, he dons his coat, cape and armor.

The coat is one of the two most expensive fabrics in the opera. I once attended a play of cobbled together costumes where the monarch was wearing polyester (because someone thought it looked shiny, and therefore rich, or something) and the poor people were wearing silk, linen and cotton that had been distressed (so it looked shabby?) I decided to avoid the mistake of costuming the richest person in the cheapest fabric, so here you go, Idomeneo, at $35/yd, this coat is the richest piece in the opera.

The idomeneo fabric. Catey and I lay out pattern pieces to fit.

The idomeneo fabric. Catey and I lay out pattern pieces to fit.

The coat is a standard Rococo cut, like a pirate frock coat. If lifted from the bottom front over the top of the head, it creates a full circle of fabric.

Idomeneo's costume under construction. Catey cuts out the pieces.

Idomeneo’s costume under construction. Catey cuts out the pieces.

Catey and I did not manage to line up all of the diamond pattern at the seams, but what you gonna do?

Pinning together the Idomeneo coat.

Pinning together the Idomeneo coat.

We had to travel a few times to the University to take measurements of the entire cast. I also returned later to try some things on the actors.

Below you can see images from the first and final fittings.

The actor of Idomeneo, Ben, at his first fitting and final fitting.

The actor of Idomeneo, Ben, at his first fitting and final fitting.

We also did not have the budget for real armor, so a costume breastplate was used.

A scene from Idomeneo featuring three of the leads, Idamante, Idomeneo and Elettra. Costumes by Tyson Vick and Catey Lockhart.

A scene from Idomeneo featuring three of the leads, Idamante, Idomeneo and Elettra. Costumes by Tyson Vick and Catey Lockhart.

I was quite pleased with the way Idomeneo’s costume looked on stage. It was regal, evoked tradition, and seemed to help the actor, Ben, get into character.

Below you can watch a video from a dress rehearsal of Ben Fox in full costume as Idomeneo!

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