Tag Archives: Il Re Pastore

From Concept to Completion for Tyson Vick’s Mozart Photography Project!

19 Jan

Well, I’ve Run Out of Costumes to show you. Over the past three months I have shared nearly every costume I created for my photographic illustrations of Mozart’s Operas. There are three or four pieces hiding in the closet somewhere that I’d like to dig out and photograph for you guys, but then I will have showed you everything!

While this project is getting ready to be compiled and put together in a book, I wanted to show you how it all began!

One day I was walking home from the library after looking for some Mozart Operas to get through the inter-library loan, and I thought, “Hmmm. Maybe I could illustrate my favorite parts of these operas through photography!”

When I got home I drew some sketches on my opera list, which you can see below!

The first thing ever put on paper for my Mozart Photography Project.

The first thing ever put on paper for my Mozart Photography Project.

And after ten years, that list turned into this:

Half of the finished photographs all put together in a collage.

Half of the finished photographs all put together in a collage.

In the image above you can see a little over half of all of the photos I took to illustrate the operas of Mozart! You’ll have to squint, but you can even make out that two of the initial sketches seen in the top sketch image were brought to life and can be seen in the final grid of photographs– lol, it’s a lot of work but on the top image, far right sketch row, second box down (guy blowing away in wind) is the design for row 1 column 5 in the photo set. In the sketch far right, bottom, image of lady with severed head can be seen in the photos row three column 3.

Isn’t that fun to see an idea come to fruition?

Be sure to subscribe to this blog, because now you will start getting all of the information on the books progress! You’ll get to see some of the final photos, and the beautiful costumes, hair and make-up — both Historical and Fantastical! There are also a few costumes left to share with you once I get them photographed! These are exciting times!


Alexander the Great – Horrible Histories

31 May

This may have a tenuous connection to Mozart, but Alexander the Great is a main character in the opera “Il Re Pastore”, and this video is so funny that I wanted to share it. It made me laugh so much. It’s a brief history of Alexander the Great.

Good times.

Il Re Pastore – A Fugitive Princess

10 Jan

Mozart’s opera “Il Re Pastore” (The Shepherd King) is a piece of historical fiction telling the story of how Alexander the Great conquered the tyrant ruler of  Sidon, Stratone, only to discover the rightful heir to the throne, Aminta, had been living incognito as a peasant for many years (in an attempt to escape the tyrant’s wrath); and how Alexander re-instates the poor man to the throne.

The opera has no antagonist, which makes it dramatically relaxed (A bit like Winnie the Pooh), where most of the problems arise due to assumptions, miscommunication, longings and fears. It is not boring, however, due to the author’s use of emotional truth as the basis to the events (as per usual for Metastasio), rather than relying entirely on the music or theatricality.

When Alexander the Great defeats the tyrant Stratone, the tyrant’s daughter, Tamiri, is left to flee into the forest for safety as a “Fugitive Princess”. There, she sings songs with nature metaphors, falls in love with one Alexander’s men, is nearly forced to marry the Shepherd King, and in the end is pardoned for her crime of being a tyrant’s daughter.

Tamiri is quite a resilient Fugitive Princess, a post which she occupies with all of the nobility that an 18th Century Princess could muster, even though she’s supposed to be an ancient princess, disguised as a shepherdess, and hiding amongst the woods in quite a dangerous situation. She actually strikes me as sticking out like a sore thumb with how little effort she gives to the “Fugitive” part (changing her clothes), and how much she emphasizes the “Princess” part (as any member of the play’s contemporary Noble audience would have expected.)

It is this line, said by a soldier to the Fugitive Princess, that directed my entire design of Tamiri for my photography:

“You here? You, in this state of undress?”

So now we have a Fugitive Princess hiding in the woods, unconvincingly, in a state of undress. Now isn’t that enough to inspire any costume designer! I took the idea and ran with it.

In accordance with mixing the 1700s with the ancient world, I decided upon dressing Tamiri in fancy Rococo underwear and wig, but keeping her true-love in the classic Greek attire. I also wanted to reflect the personality that I interpreted of Tamiri when I read about her going Fugitive. Particularly, I liked the idea of a Princess thinking the best way to disguise herself while hiding in the woods would be to wear clothing that had a nature motif, with a wig decked out in different twigs and gourds.  “Now no one will be able to recognize me! Ha! Ha!”

Which, of course, is kind of silly, but it’s also the kind of thinking that went into the costume design of opera in the 1700s.  They seemed less interested in credibility than they did in fashion.

My main influence was the floral applique and lace dress created by Eiko Ishioka in Tarsem Singh’s film, “The Fall.”

Eiko Ishioka Costume Design for Nurse Evelyn in The Fall

Eiko Ishioka Costume Design for Nurse Evelyn in “The Fall”

When I examined Nurse Evelyn’s dress in “The Fall”, I thought it was very beautiful, and I like how the texture turned to 3-D around the collar. Luckily, I accidentally stumbled upon a book at the fabric store that taught me how to create such an effect. The book was called “Embellish with Anything” by Gladys Love.

Embellish With Anything Cover and Ginkgo wallhanging

The Cover of “Embellish with Anything” by Glady’s Love, Her Ginkgo Wallhanging Project

The book “Embellish With Anything” is full of great information for fabric artists. This fully illustrated “how-to” book shows how to utilize and alter fabrics to create artwork. The techniques are more advanced than general step-by-step guides, and require a little bit more equipment and patience to complete. However, the techniques can be used to create amazing and striking works of art.

One of her techniques is to create a Ginkgo Biloba inspired wall-hanging by making your own appliques, utilizing asymmetrical cutting and sewing techniques, and beading.

Ms. Love’s focus seems to be to bring out the reader’s creativity with ideas rather than just giving them a project to make, and the images in the book show a range of results created using her initial technique. Projects include making your own beads out of fabrics, making your own custom appliques, beading and machine embroidery, and a really ingenious use of the zig-zag stitch on a sewing machine to make a tree out of thread (on the cover).

Gladys Love also curates her own blog called Fibresoul where she shares her creative adventures.

I utilized her technique to embellish Tamiri’s nature inspired Bridal Corset.

Tamiri's Ginko Bridal Corset Front and Back

Tamiri’s Ginko Bridal Corset Front and Back

The corset is fully boned with plastic boning, and is based off of the innards of Simplicity Pattern #3635.

I wanted everything about the outfit to be ivory and white, so I used two colors of dupioni silk, white bridal satin, and ivory ribbon (ruched around the top edge) for the bodice section, and I used a large piece of folded crepe silk for the skirt. The corset interfacing and boning channels are covered with strips of ivory and white dupioni silk using a technique from the book which shows you how to cut the fabric in waves and sew it together flat, which gives it a bit of a “tree bark” look.

This “bark” fabric is then cut according the the shape of the corset.

Gingko bridal corset front.

Gingko bridal corset front.

The appliques are drawn on to a piece of silk or satin and sewn to the facing fabric, then cut out and turned. Then, this turned “leaf” is topstiched with different types of embroidery thread (again I used Ivory and white) to make the “veins” of the leaves.


The appliques are hand stitched to “bark” part of the fabric before it is attached to the boned interlining or the lining. The appliques are then dotted with seed beads which resemble dew. I also used strings of freshwater pearls weaving in and out of the leaves because they look quite similar to the flower of the Ginko tree. Finally I used ivory colored seashells as “twigs” for the “leaves” to wrap around.


While it may seem surprising to some readers, this “applique” process only took me the length of the films “Se7en” and “Zodiak: Director’s Cut” on DVD as well as a few un-noticed moments between films (around 5 hours). This is because I laid out the appliques, then drew a diagram which indicated where each leaf in which fabric and what color went where. Only the seed beads were attached randomly.

The corset was then assembled, and the ruched bias strip around the neckline was attached. The last step was to attach the crepe silk skirt which is double-layered in the front, and single layered in the back, and hand pleated (by eye rather than by markings) evenly around the hips.


If you would like to see the final image of Tamiri from this shoot, I have posted a video which features Tamiri’s Act 1 Aria “Di Tante Sue Procelle”, as well as the photograph I created in order to illustrate the scene! Though, I must admit the scene I illustrated is actually a recitative, not the aria that follows. A video that featured a recitative with my image, however, would be like listening to a random track on a foreign language audio-book.

Buying and Styling Historical Wigs

7 Dec

Wigs. What to do about wigs?

As any historical reenactor, cosplayer, or costumer quickly learns, you either have to be willing to pay, or be willing to learn how to style wigs if you want any semblance of quality. There are no shortcuts to attractive wigs — believe me, I’ve tried to find them. Pay, or learn — those seem to be the only two options. I have tried both processes, and I would like to share my results with you.

First of all, let me say that I think taking the time to learn how to style a wig is the best route to go.

In her blog, Demode, Kendra Van Cleave offers perhaps the most extensive and useful Rococo wig tutorial available. Her “1770s pouf tutorial” is both useful to someone who wants to re-create her style, or someone who wants a bit of a jumping off point to learn what steps to take in order to achieve their goals. At some point, I hope to create my own tutorial on wig styling, but until then, check out Demode. (UPDATE: My Tutorial is up in its own Blog Post!)

Only recently did I come across the Demode tutorial, and for quite some time I was content to use the well-made and re-styleable Empress Wig available in many colors all over the internet.

Empress Wig Styles

The Widely available Empress Wig (Left) comes in many natural colors and can be styled many different ways. Six examples of how I have styled this wig on the right.

I highly recommend this wig for purchase. It comes in Blonde, Black, Brown, Auburn (Red), White, Pink and Purple.

The Empress Wig is both affordable, and attractive. It can be re-styled many times, and you can add hair pieces into it, as well as any sort of decorations you care to try! It is attractive straight out of the package, but once ratted, it loses its “sheen”, though it can be re-styled back into its original shape.

There are a few problems with the Empress Wig, which a casual wig wearer would probably not encounter. One problem is that it really only has two styles that it can maintain without hair extensions or a lot of work with pins and curlers. The first style it can maintain is the  “as is” style, the way that it comes out of the package (The top and bottom images in my first example column). The second style is the ratted* out style (the second two images in the column).  If you are willing to add hair extensions and hell-a lot-a pins (The examples in third column), you’d probably be just as willing to style a pouf wig from the very beginning anyway.

A second problem is that it stretches the more it is worn, and the more stuff you put in it (Hats, Flowers) will start to cause it to drift about aimlessly. It can’t really be attached satisfactorily to the person’s actual hair beneath without rigging your own clips into it. Poor hair, it wanders.

The Empress wig does come in white, which some people may think looks more historical at first sight, but it is actually not. As one wig expert said, unless you had a very large collection of very elderly ladies with very long silvery hair, it would be rather unlikely that you could have ever made a white wig in the 1700s. That is, unless, you used horse hair. And wearing horse hair in the 1700s is just about as likely and fashionable as wearing horse hair today. In other words, don’t do it.

It is better to wear a wig of your actual hair color and powder it, if you want a white wig. Today, they make white and silver hairspray (I go through about a can a month), which is available at Beauty Salons like the chain “Sally’s” or at Halloween stores and aisles during the spookier seasons of the year.

As for men’s wigs, I have not yet found a satisfactory wig for purchase.

Men's Wig Styles

Here are two commonly available 1700s wigs (the big images), and next to each are two examples of how I have styled them (The small images).

The men’s wigs I have used are fairly cheap halloween wigs, and they are frustrating to style, require extensions to fill in the wide gaps between hair wefts,  and never quite sit like real hair. I cannot recommend any 1700s men’s wig that I have purchased.

However, once I discovered the Demode “1770s pouf tutorial”, I found that buying a shoulder length wig with a center parting (generally a woman’s wig) worked extremely well for creating 1700s men’s wigs! Styling your own is the only way to go if you want a convincing men’s wig!

There are quite a few attractive wigs  that I have not yet had the chance to purchase or try out. Here are some links to a few that I have bookmarked:

Lacey Farm Girl at voguewigs.com

Madame Macabre wig at buycostumes.com

French Curl Wig at amphigory.com

In the Future, I hope to bring you a web tutorial, showing how I style wigs for my photography projects. I have made some pretty neat hairstyles out of some pretty cheap wigs, but they have yet to be photographed.

Currently, I have only purchased wigs from “Spook Shop” and “Amazon.com”, and both are trustworthy sites.

  • Ratting is the process of back-combing the hair. Pulling the hair out straight, one starts at the tip and combs “backwards” down to the scalp, causing the hair to gather in clumps and bunches and stick up in a wild and carefree sort of manner. In a wig it takes a good wash and shampoo and a lot of combing to remove the ratting.
  • Demode Blog: http://demodecouture.com/
  • Demode Pouf Tutorial: http://demodecouture.com/pouf/
  • UPDATE, Feb 26, 2011: Visit My Wig Tutorial!