|Shadow puppets designed by Carl Day|
Tamino, a prince from a distant land is battling a serpent. Overcome with fatigue he faints and as he is about to be killed, the three ladies who are servants to the Queen of the Night slay the serpent and rescue him. When he comes to, they show him a picture of Pamina with whom he falls madly in love. The Queen of the Night appears and pleads with Tamino to rescue her daughter from the evil Sarastro. He agrees, and with his new found trusty sidekick Papageno, the birdman, he sets out to find her and free her from bondage.
On his journey, however it is revealed that the Queen of the Night is the evil one and Sarastro is the benevolent one. In order to become a modern man, and win the hand of Pamina, Tamino must pass through a number of trials. Papageno also finds his soulmate, the beautiful birdgirl Papagena. Finally, when Tamino and Pamina have passed through the trials of fire and water, the Queen of the Night and her evil henchman Monostatos are vanquished and the two are married.
This production was co-directed by Jon Linford of the BYU-Idaho Music Department and John Bidwell of the BYU-Idaho Theatre Department. Jon suggested the concept that when European strength and vitality met Eastern sophistication and philosophy, the Renaissance was born.
We discussed what this meant at some length and determined that our hero, Tamino would be a northern barbarian who would slowly transform throughout the opera until he became a "modern" man.
We had a very talented young costume design student named Julie Brown that was trying to beef up a portfolio so she could apply to graduate school. I agreed to take her on as an assistant designer for this show. Julie was very good and so I decided she should be more of an associate designer and I gave her Pamina and the three spirits, as well as many of the chorus members to design. She did a wonderful job on those costumes. As part of the agreement, though since I was the designer of record, I retained right of approval on her costumes. I do not feel that I abused that authority, however.
One challenge we had was the fact that many of the roles were double cast. Tamino and Pamina, the Queen of the Night, and Papagena were all double cast. Of all the characters, only the actresses who played Pamina were the same size. For example, one of the queens of the night was at least six inches taller than the other. So we had to build double costumes in some cases and find creative solutions in others.
As I was pondering the role of Tamino, I recalled an album cover of a 1970's southern rock band named Molly Hatchet. It had a barbarian carrying a battleaxe and wearing a winged helm This was my initial inspiration for his character. I also really liked the fact that I could inject a little Rock and Roll into an opera. Afterall, Mozart, in my opinion, was a rockstar in his day.
I viewed Tamino as a Viking and dressed him in a blue tunic with an animal skin cape, breeches with cross gartered boots and the feathered helm. I also had a student and good friend, Robert McKenzie build a Scottish targe for him. In addition to that I bought him a bearded axe.
|Tamino in battle dress with axe and targe|
|Tamino vanquished, with helm and targe|
|The transformation begins|
Tamino continued to change, sporting neatly coifed, dark hair in an 18th century style, no mustache, and wearing penitent's robes
|Tamino in penitent's robes|
|Pamina, Sarastro and Tamino as the newly enlightened|
The Queen of the Night was an interesting challenge to design. The first time we see her we need to identify with her because we believe she is an injured mother who only wants the return of her daughter. The second time we meet her we realize that she is the embodiment of pure evil. In addition to this she must be at all times spectacular.
I decided she should be in full 18th century costume with the underdress, paniers and an overdress. I also cheated just a little and gave her an Elizabethan standing collar in black boned lace. I designed an enormous hooded cape for her out of sheer purple and blue organza which she kept on for the entirety of her first entrance. The cape hid the sinister, 18th century horned goddes wig that we styled.
I found a dark purple tafetta with a swag design which we turned upside down and cut out the bottom row of swags which gave it a batwing design. This I backed with a pleated black satin ruffle about nine inches long. The overdress was constructed out of a black chenille with gold thread and trimmed in purple. Finally, the hood was large and the cape was 20 feet long by 15 feet wide. The edges were cut with a batwing profile and made sturdy by sewing tie-line in the hem. We also had wooden rods for her hands to hold the cape out at different moments of the aria.
I found some pointy witch shoes online and finished the costume by adding about a hundred dollars of colorless acrylic gems to all parts of the costume, including her earrings, shoes and wig.
Her first entrance was stunning. She had her back to the audience and was in total darkness. The front of the stage was lit so we barely saw her silhouette against the black star drop. The cape was spread out over the stairs and when the lights bled up over the stage it was breathtaking. She turned and delivered her first aria without removing the hood or the cape. On her second aria she was without the hood and we saw the horned wig for the first time and through costume realized she was evil
Unfortunately, someone released the spotlight crew on picture call night so we don't have images with the correct lighting in many cases. That's a shame as it was a beautiful lighting design.
|The Queen of the Night|
|More the Queen of the Night|
|Can't get enought of the Queen of the Night|
|The horned goddess wig|
I asked Lindsay Lopez to design their makeup and requested that she incorporate ostrich plumes into their eyebrows. I also asked Celeste Harper to style the wigs. She styled an 18th century wig for Papageno which abracted a coxcomb on top and an 18th century ladies wig for Papagena with ostrich plumes woven throughout.
Papageno was dressed in traditional 18th century garb except that he tended to sprout yellow and orange feathers from the seams in his jacket. He also had a yellow and orange collar made of a feather boa. Papageno also sported a shaved ostrich plume tail.
If we had allowed an assitant or allowed fabric to be left on stage it would have been easy. All we would have had to do is remove a cloak and voila she would be revealed. I didn't want anything that easy. I wanted the hag costume to melt away and the bird girl to appear. I wanted jaws to drop.
Patty is a very gifted pattern maker and came up with a solution to this impossible problem almost without any hesitation. It involved Papagena getting dressed in her bird girl costume, then lifting everything up and stepping into the hag costume but tied at the waist and pulled up to conceal the pretty costume. Then we added witch gloves which were long opera gloves dyed grey with witch fingertips glued to the fingers.
Papagena would say her last lines as the hag while carefully pulling her fingers out of the gloves, then she would turn around and part the hag robe with her hands and gravity did the rest. The transformation was spectacular. The old crone literally melted away and Papagena appeared and the audience had a collective jaw drop every night. And there was no fabric left behind. Magic.
|Papageno and the Hag|
|Papageno and Papagena|
|Papageno and Papagena|
I rented helmets for the two armed men and decorated them with coque feathers. We had some old vacuum formed scale armor breastplates that I used, and then I outfitted them with heavy knit thermal underwear that was dyed grey, then I cut out armor pieces out of milk jugs and plastic soda bottles. We painted them and stitched them to the thermal underwear.
The gauntlets, though were the best part. I bought grey cotton knit gloves and cut out finger armor from the handles on the milk jugs and then stitched the handles to the fingers on the gloves. I've used that on Halloween costumes for my boys as well. It's a really great way to get cool armor cheap.
I finished the costumes off with high boots and breeches from costume stock. The final touch and my last homage to Rock Music were the rockstar wigs I put on these two men.
|Two armed men in "milk jug armor"|
To my knowledge that is the only alteration I made to any of Julie's designs.
|The Three Spirits|
|The Priestly Chorus|
- Directed by Jon Linford and John Bidwell
- Costume Design by Gary Benson
- Associate Costume Designer: Julie Brown Hogge
- Scene Design by Richard Clifford
- Lighting Design by Brent Prichett
- Costume Shop Director: Patty Randall
- Technical Director: Ray Versluys