For the past few weeks, our props, costumes, and wig/makeup teams – the same people who created a scarily realistic head of the John the Baptist for Salome – have been working on their latest bit of opera magic. They’re not just creating a head, but an entire body to look like one of the characters in Tosca.
That character? Cesare Angelotti.
Angelotti (played in our production by Nicholas Brownlee) is an escaped political prisoner given sanctuary by the opera’s hero, Mario Cavaradossi (Russell Thomas). While Angelotti evades capture for most the opera, he’s ultimately cornered by Scarpia’s thugs. In our production, Angelotti’s corpse is hung by the neck. When this happens, the singer is replaced by a “stunt double,” or in other words, a mannequin that’s dressed and styled to resemble the singer.
Making the body double is a multi-tiered process that starts with sourcing the dummy.
Properties Coordinator Lisa Coto sources the dummy. We started with an articulated dummy used for search and rescue and CPR training. Coto chose this dummy, because it’s well-made. It’s a heavy dummy (60lbs) and the limbs dangle like a real person; in other words, it’s very lifelike.
After Coto sources the dummy, she delivers it to Costume Design Manager Jeannique Prospere. Prospere and her team make sure that the dummy’s costumes match Angelotti’s costume – an off-white, striped prison uniform, with blue/grey pants and jacket. Since Angelotti has been in prison, it’s not enough for the team to replicate the costumes. They also must distress, age, and dye the costume to make it look like the dummy has suffered the same trauma as the live character of Angelotti.
Once the dummy is costume-ready, he goes off to Wigmaster Darren Jinks and his wig/makeup team.
They add long, greasy, and stringy hair that matches the wig worn by Brownlee as Angelotti. The dummy’s original coloring doesn’t look lifelike, so the makeup team must give it more human coloring, and then add shadowing around the eyes (using purple and grey shadow colors), and beard shadow.
Oh, and they have to make him look dead. They add blood, dirt, and grime to his body so he can look like an escaped convict – very distressed. The final touch? They use prosthetics to create a gun wound in the profile of the dummy’s head.
Although the Angelotti dummy only has a few moments on stage, creating him takes time weeks and the expertise from multiple departments. Look out for the dummy – he’s just one magical aspect of the opera. See how the props, costume, and wig/makeup crafts come together to make the opera magic happen.
To learn more about and purchase tickets to Tosca, click here.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.