Though there’s nothing on our main stage, the summer months provide our team the crucial time for planning and prep that the season simply doesn’t always allow. Over the last few weeks, we’ve shared about each department’s summer prep activities in anticipation of our season opening with Verdi’s Don Carlo on Sept. 22. We’ve already gone to almost every department at LA Opera asking what each team does while the stage is dark during the summer. In this final installment of our series, learn about what our Costume and Development departments worked on over the summer!
To recap, we’ve already talking with those in our Technical and Production offices, as well as our PR/Marketing and Education and Community Development departments about their roles during the these months. Though all teams are tackling different tasks, the general consensus is that everyone is hard at work with their own prep before opening night. However, some departments have gone beyond that, like our staff at the costume shop.
The discussion with them began with a trip to the LA Opera Costume Shop near the Arts District in Downtown LA. Though they’ve has already put in monumental amounts of work on the costumes for Don Carlo, they’ve already begun work for Satyagraha and Hansel and Gretel as well, which premiere later in the season.
At the time of our visit, the team was hard at work with garments for Hansel and Gretel. Meredith Miller, Head of Crafts, and John Bishop, Senior Cutter/Draper, detailed the lengthy process of creating the fantasy-like creatures for the production. According to both, some of the garments take two people to operate, while others require body strength just to keep balance in the elaborate pieces.
“One thing is that all of the performers need to have really good core strength because the balance and movement require that. Some of these pieces are 12 to 15 feet long,” stated Bishop. “By the time it is harnessed to their body, they need to rely on core muscles to even move around in them.”
Bishop even tried on a few of the garments to demonstrate what he was talking about. Most of the costumes are build off a purchased backpack as the framework and then modified to accommodate the infrastructure of each creature. Most pieces are being recycled from the production’s premiere in 2006 — however others are being reworked or are completely new. Miller noted that the creatures are meant to blend into the background of the forest and look like they’ve aged, so they are intentionally manipulated exude a distressed aesthetic.
“They all have a certain charm to them,” Bishop added. “A lot of Doug’s inspiration came from the Pacific Northwest and Native American art.”
Back at our offices at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Development department isn’t necessarily getting ready for the next season— rather, they’ve stayed ready. Marlinda Menashe, Director of Institutional Giving and Government Relations, stated that in the Development department, there hasn’t been a huge difference in the workload during the summer.
“For our Institutional funding, which is foundations, corporations and government funding, our funding cycle never really stops. We are constantly working,” stated Menashe. “Because many of our foundations and corporations are all on their own grant schedules, we are reporting on existing foundation funds that we’ve received and also developing new propositions for funding for subsequent years all year.”
Though their workload is in constant flow, Menashe did state that there are a lot of changes that are finalized from May all the way through September.
“There is a lot of planning for the coming year, and a lot of looking through who funded us in the past year and making sure that we have a plan for asking them again in the following year,” continued Menashe. “We take another look at all of our programming, because that’s what we’re raising money for. We are very conscious if there are any changes to programming, or whatever already is on the mainstage, Off Grand or our Education and Community Engagement performances.”
In the end, Menashe said, all the changes or additions in programming come down to evolving tastes of the public.
“We really look at how things are changing or if there is anything new and exciting that we would like to fund in the coming year.”
We may have caught up with most of LA Opera’s hardworking departments, but there is still plenty of work to be done before we opening night! For more information or to purchase tickets for our 2018/19 season, click here.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.