Tag Archives: making of

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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La Clemenza di Tito – The Gown That Became Vitellia’s

12 Jan

When I first decided to start making costumes from my Mozart Project, it was because I felt I could better bring to life the operas through photography with fantastical and historical costumes. At that time I had already taken a few photos, but felt that I could do better — produce better images — and on many occasions I did re-shoots to more accurately capture my vision. I made a red gown for one of those re-shoots, but never got around to using it. The shoot fell through or never worked out, and so the dress remained.

With only one photo left to take for the project, I decided I would just use that dress, no matter what Historical context it belonged in, just because I spent so much time and money on it. Therefore, this is the dress that Vitellia wears in my “La Clemenza di Tito” images.

Elizabeth shows off Vitellia's gown, make-up and headdress.

Elizabeth shows off Vitellia’s gown, make-up and headdress.

With no connections to Ancient Rome outside of the headdress, the gown actually seems to have a bit of a Medieval flair. Using it on Vitellia was simply a choice based on having a complex gown in the closet, made and never used. Very little thought went into how to make it work Historically, or anything. I did, however, base the headdress on ancient Roman headdresses.

When I was building this dress, my goal was to do elegant ribbon embroidery!

I bought and used numerous silk, polyester and blended ribbons to do the 3-D embroidery. I used beads and pearls, and the one thing I remember about creating this dress was that it started costing more than it was worth. I chose polyester for the gown, and the embroidery started to inflate in price 2-3 times more than the cost of the dress fabric, and as anybody with any sense knows, this is both bad and slightly inept, because the dress grows disproportionate in value if I ever wanted to resell. “Here’s a gown that cost $45 in fabric and has hundreds of dollars and hours sunk into the embroidery! Want to buy it?”

Not only was the cost of the embroidery growing out of control, it began taking so many days. I literally drained my bank account to do the embroidery, and spent at least four days just going to the store search for and buying more embroidery floss. It was awful, and I actually just gave up, calling my mom and saying, the dress is a money pit and I’m done!

I left the dress as you see it in the image directly below…

The dress from center front.

The dress from center front before the embroidery was finished.

Years later, when Catey Lockhart signed on to be my apprentice, I saw a good opportunity to finish the dress. I added thick knitting ribbon on the apex of the bosom, a spot I had initially wanted to fill with more ribbonwork flowers. I also bought a brooch shaped like leaves to finish out the center. Catey added freshwater pearls all along the bottom of the dress, which, frankly, you’ll never see.

Front detail of the ribbon embroidered dress used for Vitellia.

Front detail of the ribbon embroidered dress used for Vitellia.

Looking at the dress now, I feel that it is clearly an early work — it was my third or fourth full scale gown — and all I see is embroidery that never quite got to the point I wanted it. Something that makes me feel better, however, is that my mother loves this dress. She loves the details and the colors, and because I could never resell it (money pit), I can gladly give it to her and allow her to enjoy it for the rest of her years!

A Sleeve detail (left) and back detail (right)

A Sleeve detail (left) and back detail (right)

The sad end to this story is that my embroidery days are over. I cannot physically do it because it makes my eyes hurt, and has caused my sight to go blurry and caused at least two trips to the eye doctor. While 3-D embroidery is cool looking, and has a great texture, this was my one foray into the technique. This was the final reason for using this anachronistic costume in the “La Clemenza di Tito” photo… I wanted this health-threatening, never-ending money-pit to have some sort of payoff!

Please subscribe to this blog, because, for those of you who follow me know, I will be producing a book featuring my images in 2015 and am eager to share all of the progress with you as it happens!

Don Giovanni Costumes, Menswear

29 Sep

Now that my Mozart Project is nearly finished, and I am working on getting the book ready, I will be taking you on a tour of all those costumes which never got blogged about before! As I am currently preparing the photos for my book which will feature all of my illustrations of Mozart’s operas plus text I am writing about each play, there is very little new costume progress to show you guys! But perhaps you will enjoy looking costumes from the finished photos a little closer?

don_giovanni_group02

 

First up is Don Giovanni! In my award winning photo, seen below, the feast scene in Don Giovanni is depicted. I chose to photograph it like a fashion spread, and therefore made unique costumes for each player, as well as the leads.

Don Giovanni Act Two, by Tyson Vick

Don Giovanni Act Two, by Tyson Vick

 

Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni’s coat is opulent. The structure is a Renaissance doublet, and the effect used on the fabric is extremely complex. It is essentially hundreds of pintucks.

Jake models the outfit worn  by Don Giovanni to show it off clearly.

Jake models the outfit worn by Don Giovanni to show it off clearly.

This, to date,is the most difficult costume I have made. It is the only one that I have ever attempted that I thought I might have to quit because of the difficulty. I used an idea from the book Fabricate by  Susan Wasinger (which is practically free on Amazon, so click that link and git it!) where pintucks are overlapped to create a fabric made of ridges.

A close up of the fantastic detail of the coat.

A close up of the fantastic detail of the coat.

The problem with the tutorial is that it was impossible to control over the size and dimensions of the doublet pattern, and after the first two rows, it went completely insane. I was about to give up, when my mother suggested doing the strips separately. Essentially, cutting each strip, folding it over once, sewing it down, and then repeating that process. This is what I ended up doing, and it worked great.

 

The models lounge around on the sofa.

The models lounge around on the sofa.

 

The doublet is made out of eco-felt (a felt made out of recycled bottles), because at the time, which was very early in my garment making (it’s basically the fifth thing I ever sewed), I could not afford anything expensive because the yardage required for something like this is quite a lot.

 

Leporello

Leporello basically makes this image. People love how he is just in the background eating, while everyone else is looking so Fashionable! I think this evokes the nature of the party scene, where musically, Don Giovanni has things to do and Leporello just wants to eat.

I built a new shirt for Leporello. Many years before this big scene image, Jon portrayed Leporello in an image with Donna Elvira. That was back before I was making costumes, and so his shirt is just the most pirate-y looking thing I could buy at a store. I decided to build him a very similar shirt, but with much bigger sleeves, for his return to model for me again.

Damask Pirate Shirt worn by Leporello.

Damask Pirate Shirt worn by Leporello.

The shirt is made out of an awesome rayon-knit damask. I drapes romantically, and I loved the fabric. I have some more, because I bought it all, to make even more fun shirts!

The Damask shirt from the front and back.

The Damask shirt from the front and back.

 

Masked Boy Player – Zani

The boy in the Zani mask, playing the flute, also wears a pirate shirt. This one was 100% rayon, and reveals a lot of the man’s torso. Unlike Leporello’s above, this one can actually close. Each “player” who is entertaining Don G. is based off of a Commedia Character. This flautist is Zani, a character in stock comedy who comes on the scene to do something hilarious whenever the audience looks a little bored.

zani_01

This shirt is just a New Look pattern that I liked to use in my early shirt making exploits. I still like it, but I feel like I need to alter it for a man’s body, because the sleeve and waistline fit a little small.

Jake modeled this shirt in Kismet Magazine, not just to photograph it better!

Jake modeled this shirt in Kismet Magazine, not just to photograph it better!

All the players are given outfits that enhance their sex appeal. When we go over the ladies dresses you will see one emphasizes breasts, on legs and the other hips (hilariously).

white_rayon_pirate_shirt_front

This shirt looks more renaissance than Leporello’s, which is more Pirate.

white_rayon_pirate_shirt_frontback

Stay tuned for the next post, which will feature all the ladies costumes!

And remember to subscribe to this blog, because I’m going to be putting up a lot of costume posts, and you won’t want to miss them!