Saturday, August 20, 2005


The costume sketch inspires an opera post

ok, well, D in my comments section actually inspired it. So for the record; a little about costuming for opera.

For those readers who aren't familiar with a costume rendering, techinically it is not supposed to be a "realistic" drawing. yes, some designers get sketch-happy, but it really is supposed to convey a mood, a feeling, or a concept to the staging director of an opera.

Understand that FEW opera companies in the US get the luxury of building costumes from scratch - most designers are forced to work with rentals, which often don't fit properly, and then a few pieces here and there are built to expand a limited selection or fit a singer who showed up at the 2-week-prior-to-dress staging rehearsal many sizes larger or smaller than the measurement sheet sent by said singer's manager.

So to go to the time and expense of fully rendering and painting a costume sketch is quite the luxury - I often got a hand slap from the managing director for doing sketches as detailed as this one - a lot of costumers do collages when they are out working in the field, and only go to this length if they are being paid for the rendering period, or going for the exam and need to fill out the portfolio.

I never took the exam, and got my USA card by actually working in the industry - I was hired enough by opera companies to fulfill my Taft-Hartley and go up to USA #829.

As I said in the comments, I "retired" at the ripe old age of 32 after 16 years, to never, ever go back.(yes, I designed my first production at 16 y/o) Designing costumes for live theater is grueling, back-breaking work that pays barely enough to eat on.

I also suffered a severe case of burnout - in 2 years I was asked to do 5 productions that all needed to look like a "Merchant-Ivory" production. I saw enough cream/tan summery fabrics to choke a horse. The previous rendering was from one of those productions, which is also why it was never painted - I had done so many prior to it, I just couldn't work up the energy to paint it.

And that is when opera started becoming a JOB, and not a career, and it was time to leave.

It has taken me 4 years just to be able to go back and LOOK at these sketches again ...

1 Comments:

Blogger Ariadne said...

Our fellow Opera Ring blogger at theconcert.blogspot.com just posted some interesting stuff about how hard the costuming, stage and other tech apprentices worked during Santa Fe ...

6:40 PM  

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