Costumes are one of the best ways to express character – be it on screen or on stage. In Macbeth, costumes tell a tale of humble beginnings to unbridled horror, but it’s not just fabric and jewels that bring a character to life. It is how all the costume elements come together to showcase each character’s evolution. With its complex characters and designed by Suttirat Larlarb, LA Opera’s upcoming production of Verdi’s Macbeth perfectly illustrates how costumes and character meet.
Let’s take Lady Macbeth’s costumes as an example.
When Lady Macbeth first comes on stage, her costume is fairly simple (a t-shape common during the medieval period) and does not reflect affluence. She’s wearing earth tones; it’s the costume of a soldier’s wife, but also suggestive of the social climbing to come (a hint of green silk).
Later, when Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to kill King Duncan, she wears a white nightgown that suggests purity and belies the wickedness of their deed.
As queen, Lady Macbeth’s costume gets an upgrade. She wears a royal blue, silk and velvet gown. This regal color and fabric choice separates Lady Macbeth from the rest of the characters (except her husband), while still staying true to the medieval time period and the color scheme of the production.
When Lady Macbeth starts to go mad and realizes the consequences of murder, her costume is no longer royal blue, but various shades of gray. There’s even a fur cape that looks animalistic, reflecting her descent into madness. Lady Macbeth’s madness is further expressed in her final costume – a nightgown that looks as distressed as she is mentally.
Costumes are essential to showcasing the progression of Lady Macbeth from soldier’s wife to queen to madwoman. Through a great deal of research and creative use of contemporary materials, costumers help create the Macbeths’ world and evoke the terror they face.
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