Can you tell I love being in costume?
Given that it's Halloween, I thought this would be the perfect post to share on a day dedicated to dressing up! I am currently in rehearsals for Opera Omaha's production of Madama Butterfly as Kate Pinkerton, and I wanted to share with you the process of becoming this character.
Kate Pinkerton is a small but pivotal role in the opera: after Madama Butterfly is left by her husband, Ben Pinkerton, and gives birth to his son, Pinkerton and his new wife, Kate, return to take Butterfly's child. Kate is a complicated character. Is she an innocent bystander, a woman who just found out that her husband had previously married, impregnated, and left this young Japanese geisha, or is she a willing participant, a woman willing to steal another woman's child? After thinking and learning about Kate's character, I think she is badly misinformed. She views Butterfly with pity and looks down upon her life - and she thinks she's doing Pinkerton's child a favor by bringing him away from Japan. It's a horrible, disgusting worldview but one that makes sense for the time period in which this opera takes place. And she is also angry, desperate after realizing that she herself can't have children and that her husband had never told her about this incredibly important part of his life. And so she hates this world that brings both pain and hope in the form of a child into her life.
This entire production was designed by Jun Kaneko, a wonderful artist who lives in Omaha. He has created a beautifully warm and modern production with bright colors and patterns. Of course, Kate's is the opposite. Kate's costume is really fascinating because it describes her character visually. The color scheme - black and white - is how Kate views the world. There is no room for grey. The angles in the vest reflect her harshness, as well. I just love that her costume is a twist of an early 1900s outfit - she's the only character in the opera to wear an outfit that really places her in time. I think the shoes are the staple that really look late Victorian, and I'm kind of obsessed with them! They are actually pretty comfortable and I think they would look great in a modern context.
The process of becoming Kate is a fun one. First, I put on my shoes. All of those buttons are real, so I have to do them up before I put on my hoop skirt so I can actually reach my feet. Then I put on a beautiful undershirt made of some sort of satin fabric. It zips up in the back because there is no stretch. After that, we put on the blouse - it has about a million snaps, so my dresser helps me do them up. Then I step into the hoop skirt, which I think must weigh about 30 pounds because of all of the fabric. It is stunning and I sort of wish I could wear it everyday! We finish off by putting on the vest and belt, a beautiful asymmetric piece that I think makes the costume so unique.
Then I head over to hair and makeup. The wonderful makeup and hair designer pins up my hair and puts on a wig cap, then does my makeup (I'm even wearing false lashes)! Then we put on the wig, and I am ready to go.
None of this could happen without all of the wonderful people working backstage making this all possible. So huge thanks to them!
What are you wearing for Halloween? Let me know in the comments! And don't forget to get your tickets for Madama Butterfly - I'll see you all there!
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