Monday, May 3, 2010

A Request

After posting the opera photos, I received a request for a few more photos. So, here they are. Of course, I have chosen the more over-the-top hats and headdresses to show you. There would only be a few of these really fun ones each year. Most of my year was spent pulling dusty boxes out of stock and going through all of the hats for a particular opera to see who was supposed to wear what and would it fit the new cast. Then each hat would be fit on the new singer, adjusted to size and relabeled. There was always somebody who didn't fit an assigned hat, so that hat would have to be padded out if too big, or made new if too small. Millinery in opera is mostly about dust and drudgery. Just endless boxes of old hats that had to be freshend up for yet again one more time. When I first started work, we would do nine or 10 operas in a season which ran from the first of September to the end of December. But in later years would only do five or six shows and they would have more performances of each opera. Most every year we would do one new opera from scenery, costumes, the works. A designer would arrive early in the year, and we would discuss the sketches and what the hats were supposed to look like. Then we would have fittings in the summer and dress rehearsals just before the show opened in September or when ever. Some designers arrived with almost photo realistic drawings and others would arrive with what could only loosely be described as sketches. Yes, I even got a "sketch" on a paper napkin with burger stains on it. And then there were two designers with whom I had worked many times, who would just come over to my table with no sketches and give me a list of characters and tell me they all needed hats. The next comment would be, "You know what I want, just make something pretty". That was fun, in that I got to design the hats, but it was also a bit terrifying knowing that I might spend hours on something that he didn't like after all. So in those cases, especially, I would make what was called a mock up...a bunch of fabrics pinned on a headblock arranged into the shape of the hat or headdress as best I could. Then I would discuss this with the designer and continue on.

Some operas only had a few hats. We did two operas that actually had no hats. I loved those. And then there was War and Peace where I stopped counting at 700 because that number was just too depressing.

The first photo is from Aida. It was a revival, but I had to make the white hat new because of a fit problem. The vulture wing headdress with a crown of cobras was remade because this singer was a completely different size from the original, so the original proportions were wrong for the new woman. The big, wonderful turban was from Abduction from the Seraglio. I cannot begin to count how many turbans I made over the years. I never could figure out why so many operas had turbans in them. The next photo is from Wozzeck. I only made the top hat and military cap. The helmet was made in the crafts department. Tosca is next. I loved this hair ornament. It was composed of two circular bands of gold and jewels.Next is Boris Godunov. I wish you could see his crown/hat better. It is a recreation of the one actually worn by the real Boris. The crown or tiara worn in Die Valkyrie originally was made as a domed crown that completely covered the top of the head. The singer who was supposed to wear it however, threw a double hissy fit and refused to wear it. So for the next week we would cut bits and pieces off it to see if she would wear it and it finally got down to this little bit of tiara. Oh, the stories I could tell you about opera singers! And finally we have a photo from Salome. I don't know why, but we did a lot of productions of Salome and only two times did we use the same costumes. I actually got tired of making wacky headdress for Salome.

I hope you enjoy seeing these crazy hats.

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