Tag Archives: Costumes

7 LA Opera Stage Costumes You Could Totally Wear To Comic-Con

Are you heading down to San Diego for Comic-Con and looking for something to wear? Here’s a list of opera costumes that will leave you Comic-Con ready.

1. This costume from Grendel looks straight out of Game of Thrones.

Jay Hunter Morris as Unferth in Grendel (2006)

Jay Hunter Morris as Unferth in Grendel (2006)

2. Armored soldiers from Aida — who’s to say these aren’t right out of Game of Thrones or Outlander?

Aida (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

Aida (2005); Photo: Robert Millard

3. Any of the Pagliacci clowns — whether you’re dressing as a riff on the Joker or Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, or a classic homage to Killer Klowns From Outer Space everyone (meaning no one) loves a creepy clown.

Georgie Gagnidze as Tonio in Pagliacci (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

Georgie Gagnidze as Tonio in Pagliacci (2015); Photo: Craig T. Mathew

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Living the Suit Life

Head Tailor Laina Babb posing with suits she's made for LA Opera productions

Head Tailor Laina Babb posing with suits she’s made for LA Opera productions

When Laina Babb learned to sew at age six, she never imagined it would lead her to the opera. She’s made her love of sewing into a career, first training and then apprenticing as a tailor. Now, as LA Opera’s Head Tailor, Babb manages a team of up to six tailors (depending on the show). Together they craft all the men’s suits used in the company’s productions. That means she’s had a hand in making pretty much every suit you can imagine – elaborate French Revolution-style suits for The Ghosts of Versailles, 1960s Italian suits for the Woody Allen directed Gianni Schicchi, and even a flashy, taffeta suit worn in Porgy and Bess.

From Learning to Sew To Working at LA Opera

Long before Babb worked at LA Opera, she was just a little girl learning to sew as part of the 4-H program in her hometown of Lockwood, California. In this program, children complete hands-on projects that will serve their communities, as part of a larger goal to empower young people and teach them leadership.

Babb took her sewing skills with her to high school, where she made costumes in the theater department. Working in costumes in high school spawned her desire to turn a love of sewing and costumes into a career in theater.

Babb enrolled at Chapman University to study technical theater. During her four years at Chapman, she took multiple costume classes, but the technical side of costuming – of building them and solving all a director’s staging challenges – kept calling.
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Body Double

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.

The original search and rescue dummy before the costumes, wig/makeup, and props magic.

The original search and rescue dummy before the costumes, wig/makeup, and props magic.

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.

Craftsperson Meredith Miller (left) and Costume Design Manager Jeannique Prospere (right) discuss the Cesare Angellotti body double for Tosca.

Craftsperson Meredith Miller (left) and Costume Design Manager Jeannique Prospere (right) discuss the Cesare Angelotti body double for Tosca.

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.

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Opera Costumes You Could Totally Wear to the Oscars

Salome (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

Salome (2017); Photo: Ken Howard

It’s Oscars time and we are all waiting with baited breath to see whether La La Land takes home best picture. We’re also excited to see the glamorous looks stars don on the red carpet – some of which could totally be pulled straight from the opera stage.

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What Is It? Objects That Help Make Opera Magic.

The Tales of Hoffmann (2002); Photo: Robert Millard

The Tales of Hoffmann (2002); Photo: Robert Millard

Have you ever wondered – “How’d they do that?” Opera brings stories to life, and the magic you see on stage is often the result of incredible ingenuity on the part of our behind-the-scenes artisans. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite objects used in productions—old and new, both onstage and off—to give you a glimpse at what’s involved in staging the operas you love.

Can you guess what these objects are for? (The answers are below, but no cheating!)

Torch

  1. The torches we use onstage have a name that references a crucial safety feature. What are these props called?
  2. Butane-Bufer
  3. Dead Man’s Torch
  4. Burnless Bunsen
  5. Touchable Torch

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Quick Changes – The Magic Happens in the Wings

LA Opera Dresser Shelley Graves-Jimenez speaks about the Macbeth assassins costume to guests at the company's Newcomer Event

LA Opera Dresser Shelley Graves-Jimenez speaks about the Macbeth assassins costume to guests at the company’s Newcomer Event

Ever wonder how an artist steps off stage, then minutes later magically returns in a whole new get-up? While they’re in the wings, they’re in the hands of a dresser, that’s how. You’ll find dressers backstage at most large-scale live performances.

We spent a few minutes with Shelley Graves-Jimenez, one of LA Opera’s dressers, who told us what it’s like to be a dresser in the wings during an LA Opera performance.

Dressers make sure that the performer they’re assigned to can focus on their performance and not whether their costume is right. From head to toe, Graves-Jimenez and her colleagues ensure every piece of an artist’s costume is on, secure, and comfortable before they hit the stage. “Nothing they’re wearing should distract them,” she says.

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Costumes Meet Character in Macbeth

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.

Lady Macbeth Costume Sketch

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).

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How the Costume Shop Updates an Iconic Production

A 1993 rendering of Musetta's Act II Costume in La Bohème, designed by Peter Hall

A 1993 rendering of Musetta’s Act II Costume in La Bohème, designed by Peter Hall

La Bohème is one of the world’s most beloved operas; it also returns this season in one of LA Opera’s iconic productions. In 1993, director Herbert Ross envisioned a production set in the romantic era of Belle Époque Paris, fashioned brilliantly by costume designer Peter J. Hall. Since Hall’s passing in 2010, the costume shop has made some updates to his design, while keeping his original vision for La Bohème alive.

“He was a real artist,” says Jeannique Prospere reverently. Prospere is a Senior Costume Production Supervisor at LA Opera. Since joining the company in 2007, she has overseen many shows, including La Bohème (which has 160 total costumes). “As a supervisor, what I usually do is try and get into the designer’s head and see what they want to be on stage and keep that vision alive,” she says. This entails reviewing the costumes each time a production is revived, making sure that they retain the same feel and that the original idea is kept. Costumes might also need to be tweaked for a singer, not only in size and shape, but also in aesthetic, in order to reflect a singer’s individual essence.

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Magic Flute By The Numbers

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute (2014); Photo: Robert Millard

The Magic Flute will take the stage in less than a month, sharing its roaring twenties inspired magic with Los Angeles once more. It’s exciting to see the whole production come together; it’s an elaborate one, but not in the way that you might think. Instead of giant, fantastical sets, this Magic Flute showcases a slew of projected animations, designed by filmmaker Paul Barritt, and inspired by the silent-film era.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYg1zSrQIyo

There are 677 digital animation cues in the whole opera (yes, opera!). But that’s not all! To evoke the era of Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, and Buster Keaton, you have to have the right costumes. We have 102 original costumes made for the production, including 14 wolf masks worn by our men’s chorus. Yet, no production of Mozart’s famous comedic opera would be complete without a characteristic Monostatos (Brenton Ryan), the evil henchman, who wishes to possess Pamina (Marita Sølberg). Our Monostatos looks like he stepped out of a classic horror film (think Nosferatu with a little more mobility), helped by the 6 prosthetics required for his makeup.

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Norma by the Numbers

Our upcoming production, Norma is a phenomenal production that displays Angela Meade’s and Jamie Barton’s electric vocals. But Norma is a huge production in more ways than voice. There are some rather impressive and interesting numbers to note that an opera goer might not think about during the show.

Angela Meade as the title character in Norma at Washington National Opera (2013)

Angela Meade as the title character in Norma at Washington National Opera (2013)

Before opera fans even see the show, a crew of 46 people helped load in the set.

The giant set includes a unique assortment of props, perhaps the most notable being 1 giant full moon.

Let’s talk about costumes for a second. Norma’s bronze and elaborately beaded bodice alone required 18 hours for a very talented seamstress to assemble.

The story of Norma features 2 fiery divas, not battling out for the love of one man, but instead joining forces in this ultimate girl power opera. The show features a total of 6 principal artists, 43 chorus members, 12 adult supers, 2 child supers and 7 dancers.

Norma opens November 21st and runs through December 13th. Be sure to grab tickets to the performance that the New York Times states is an opera “that every opera lover should hear.” Keep an eye out for the giant moon!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yS_WAH-zVqE

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7 Opera Halloween Costumes

This is the time of year when things get spooky – horrific even! It’s also that time when people scour various pop up Halloween stores in search of the perfect costume. Here at LA Opera, we don’t have your typical witches (Hocus Pocus, anyone?), vampires (Dracula), and ghosts (do you see dead people Sixth Sense style?). While these are all good options, consider taking your costume to an operatic level with these 9 opera Halloween costumes.

The Countess in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades is a force to be reckoned with, dead or alive. With her obsession about keeping the secret of what makes her constantly win at cards, the Countess is more fun and regal than other aristocrats (looking at you, Cleopatra!).

The cast of The Queen of Spades (2001); Photo: Ken Howard

The cast of The Queen of Spades (2001); Photo: Ken Howard

The Dragon in Elliot Goldenthal and Julie Taymor’s Grendel puts Khaleesi’s brood to shame.

Denyse Graves as The Dragon in Grendel (2006); Photo: Robert Millard

Dressing up as Don Giovanni, the title character in Mozart’s Don Giovanni is guaranteed to charm.

Erwin Schrott as the title character in Don Giovanni (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

Erwin Schrott as the title character in Don Giovanni (2007); Photo: Robert Millard

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Wear A Costume, Get An Upgrade

When you think opera, you don’t usually think swashbuckling, brawls or adventure. But then there’s Moby-Dick and it’s filled with all that and more.

If you’re keeping track, you know that Moby-Dick opens on October 31. Of course, we couldn’t ask you to come to the opera on Halloween without inviting you to come in costume.

So this is your formal invitation to join us on opening night – all Hallows’ Eve.
If you dress like a sailor or pirate or a whale we’ll upgrade you to a better seat if they’re available.

The better the costume, the better the seat.

What can you expect in the opera version of Moby-Dick? Jake Heggie, the acclaimed composer, has distilled the huge story so that the audiences of all ages get to know the famous Captain Ahab, his crew and his obsession with the mythical whale. With deck-top action, ocean intrigue, uncanny staging and the presence of the beastly Moby-Dick, this show leaves you wide-eyed and rethinking your definition of opera.

https://youtu.be/2vTPaB6ni20

So dig in your closet, hit the Halloween store and pull together your opening night Moby-Dick outfit.

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Costume Shop of Wonders

“What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage.”
 –Edith Head

Today, LA Opera’s two-story costume shop in Downtown LA is filled with racks of costumes for the upcoming season. There are rows of colorful pieces for Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci right next to Grecian-inspired items for Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma and 19th-century sailors’ clothing for Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick. It’s a striking clash of styles and time periods. I’m at first overwhelmed by the sheer volume of costumes for these productions and how they do not even begin to encompass the company’s extensive inventory.  Yet, as a first time visitor, it’s also thrilling to be surrounded by creations that are a crucial part of creating the operatic characters seen on stage.

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