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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Wonderful World of Costume Design for the Triple Bill

Gianni Schicchi
This year's triple bill of one-act operas presented many interesting challenges for Director Ken Cazan and his designers. In a previous blog post, Ken discussed finding a unifying theme of "home" throughout the operas. This concept was brought to life visually by Scenic Designer Cameron Anderson, who created a house that is built on stage in several pieces over the evening. If you watch all three, you'll also find repeating props occasionally - a balloon, a newspaper with Dadaist lettering on it, and even a bedpan. While there are running threads throughout the evening, each opera still maintains its own distinct style. Each opera is in a different language (Italian, German or French) and the costumes for each are also extremely different. On a triple bill evening (two times during the season when you can see all three) we start with the most "traditional" of all of the operas, Puccini's Gianni Schicchi. We've updated the setting to 1947 here, and while very lovely in design, the characters wear fairly "traditional" attire, designed by Alice Marie Kugler Bristow.

The Seven Deadly Sins
As the curtain rises on the second opera of the evening, The Seven Deadly Sins, you realize you're in for something a bit different. After all, one character (the Mother) is WEARING a washtub from the top of the show...and is played by a man (a bass, in fact). The opera continues with quite a bit of representational costuming. As Anna I and Anna II travel throughout different cities, the "Family Quartet" dons different pieces of clothing to represent new characters she meets. Each of the sins is represented by a different color, and the costume choices (as well as lighting by David Martin Jacques and projections by Cameron Anderson) enhance this idea. We move fluidly from city to city (and sin to sin) and the design choices assist the viewer in making this journey away from "traditional" opera.

The Breasts of Tiresias
That's good, because by the third opera, we're in for a wacky, zany world of design! The Breasts of Tiresias is a far-out plot from the beginning: Thérèse gets tired of being a woman, her breasts float away like balloons, and she becomes a man! Eventually her husband reverses roles, too, becoming a father to literally thousands of children that he has created by himself. To set the scene for this absurdist tale, it only takes Le Directeur walking on the set to realize this is going to be different - as he has BECOME the thing he represents, with his megaphone as a hat on top of his head. He's soon greeted by a trash can, a fountain, a Metro sign and other usually inanimate objects.

Utah Opera created the initial build for many of the costumes in The Breasts of Tiresias, which presented some challenging construction issues. Check out their blog for articles on creating these costumes out of Tyvek and other unusual materials and then comparing them with the final versions on stage.

The triple bill really is "something to see," and I know this creative challenge was ultimately quite fun for all of the designers. Utah Opera also sent Alice a special opening night gift in honor of the costumes she had created - her very own Tyvek dress, which they signed. There was also plenty of room left for her Central City Opera friends to leave a lasting impression on the dress as well.

Close-up of the signatures on Alice's Tyvek dress
You have just ONE more chance to see The Breasts of Tiresias, this Saturday, August 5 at 4:00 pm. We're offering a special Buy One, Get One Free discount for it as well, when you purchase tickets online or call the Box Office at 303-292-6700 and use the code BOGO. (Not valid for tickets purchased previously).

Gianni Schicchi plays in repertory just before the above performance, at 2:30 pm. The Seven Deadly Sins had its last performance today at 4:00 pm.

See more production photos for Gianni Schicchi, The Seven Deadly Sins and The Breasts of Tiresias by photographer Mark Kiryluk.

Photos of Alice's dress were taken by the author.

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