Parlando: The COC Blog


Glimpses of Aida: Costume Room

I recently had a chance to take a look at the costume rooms of the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre, where the costumes for Aida are being sewn and fitted. I'm very excited to be able to show you some of the photos today, along with a glimpse of the process of taking a costume from an idea to a finished product.

In approaching Aida, director Tim Albery has taken note of how many private, intimate scenes are placed in the context of a society of great power, wealth, expansiveness, and nationalism—and has considered how these characteristics are reflected in the societies of our own times. He has chosen to set the opera in a luxurious and ostentatious palace in an unspecified war-torn country. The sets and costumes are meant to convey a society governed by the "nouveau riche," with lots of money and power but somewhat vulgar and outdated tastes. The lavish opulence of the surroundings will stand in contrast to the fundamental intimacy of many of the opera's most important scenes.

Using these ideas as a guideline, the costume designer, Jon Morrell, assembled a "costume bible," full of sketches, inspirational photographs, and fabric samples. Here's a peek inside!


From there, the costumes are partially constructed before being fitted to the singers. Here's a detail from a pink, beaded blazer. As you can see from the pins, it's not quite finished.

At the costume fitting, the singers try on the shoes for their costumes. The two pairs below are very luxe! An earlier form of this gold-patterned dress can be seen in the "costume bible" photo above—it's actually a vintage dress that has been shortened and elaborated with some fur trim.



This mask is awaiting some final touches: the face will soon be embellished with more gold coins. Part of the costume fitting process will involve affixing foam strips to the back for the comfort of the wearer.

Last to be fitted are the wigs, which are first styled and then adjusted during the fitting. The wig in the foreground will be paired with the fur-trimmed gold dress.

Posted by Cecily Carver / in 2010/2011 / comments (12) / permalink

ashamed (9/15/2010 11:01:00 PM)
Sounds great. After 25 years we are getting a modern Aida. Didnt we learn with that horrible Don Giovanni,(the ending) the Traviata with cell phones, and now no Egypt or Ethiopia.I can hardly wait to see the triumphant march with mercedes or cadillacs or whatever and of course no palm trees, or Nile. All that Verdi wrote for, gone. Im not against modern opera but to play with Aida the grandest of all operas is a real test. Good luck. I will still go but reluctantly.
Definitely the Opera (9/16/2010 3:13:00 PM)
Here's a very good recent post by the Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette on why there's no such thing as opera's 'original staging':
Cecily (9/16/2010 3:39:00 PM)
ashamed: I hope you'll see the production before developing your final opinion - this post contains only a few photos of a work-in-progress. I think the essence of Aida goes a lot deeper than elephants and sphinxes, and I'm looking forward to seeing the opera in a new way.
Cecily (9/16/2010 3:51:00 PM)
DtO: Excellent article, and one I hadn't seen before. The question of what constitutes "authenticity" is hotly contested outside the opera world as well (just ask a literary scholar about "authorial intent"; it's never as simple as it seems).
ashamed (9/16/2010 3:57:00 PM)
Oh yes I wouldnt miss it. I am going to Aida at least three times and perhaps more. I didnt think I would like the Dutchmans staging after the harsh criticism from all the press but I loved it. I do not have a closed mind. I understand the opera does not even take place in Egypt which is a puzzlement to me What will they do with sub titles above to tell us what people are saying. I cant wait.
Cecily (9/16/2010 4:12:00 PM)
ashamed: I really enjoyed that Dutchman too. My understanding is that this Aida is still set in the Middle East, and what I've seen of the props and sets certainly reflects that.
ashamed (9/16/2010 6:42:00 PM)
Well thats a start. Perhaps you can tell me how I can attend a dress rehearsel as opposed to a working one. I would gladly pay, but I cant seem to find out from anyone how to go about it. If you could help I would greatly appreciate it.
Cecily (9/16/2010 7:49:00 PM)
ashamed: unfortunately, dress rehearsal tickets aren't available for sale. The only way to attend is as part of an organized school group. Is there a specific reason you'd like to attend the dress rehearsal as opposed to the open working rehearsals and regular performances? Perhaps I can suggest some other events that might interest you.
Ingrid Mida of Fashion is my muse! (9/17/2010 12:36:00 AM)
How lucky you are to have had a glimpse of the costumes. Your photos are tantalizing!
ashamed (9/17/2010 1:23:00 AM)
I have attended many working rehearsals, they dont sing full out and lots of interruptions, and sometimes only one act etc. I am retired, on a limited budget and am a true lover nut, if I volunteer for something at the opera house, could that get me in to a dress rehearsal? I had a friend who saw all the ring for nothing. I paid, not a lot, but it would have been nice to see the cycle twice. I plan on going to lots of Aidas now with the standing room available. Thank you for your interest, you are more than kind.
Cecily (9/17/2010 1:18:00 PM)
Ingrid: Glad you enjoyed them! Seeing this production take shape has been fascinating.
Cecily (9/17/2010 1:19:00 PM)
ashamed: this conversation might be better suited to email.

Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001



Subscribe to the COC e-mail newsletter.
Contact Tanner
Have a question? Want to share a link? Submit a comment!