The costume sketches arrive at the studios six months before the premiere. Then a chain reaction gets going which keeps everyone fully occupied right until the curtain rises.
First there is the textile dye works. "We dye, bleach, print patterns and decorate the fabrics,” says textile artist Mia Persson. "Sometimes we also tear them apart. In fact we do everything but sew."
Naturally we also order ready-made fabric by the metre, but usually the costume designers have very specific requirements. So it is up to Mia Persson and Tatiana Bjarne to find the right feeling with colours, patterns and textures.
"Each production is unique and we do a great deal of experimenting," says Mia. "We mix new working methods with tried and tested ones. In Die Zauberflöte for example, we used an age-old patinating method that makes velveteen look like leather. You coat it with several layers of saddle soap. It is the patinating process that gives the fabrics their life and soul."
”A large amount of clothing is created for each production. For Goya, for example, over 300 costumes were made in an 18th and 19th century style” Gunilla Andersson
"The clothes are sewn according to the exact measurements of the person who is to wear them. It’s not just a matter of making a size 10 or 12,” says tailor, Gunilla Andersson.
It is all about well-tailored quality. The clothes must last for many, many productions. "The dancers must be able to rely on the clothes being able to cope with any kind of movement. They have to be able to move without any restrictions. The same goes for the singers. The clothes need to be comfortable; if anything feels uncomfortable it will interfere with their concentration."
Thousands of costumes are kept in the costume storeroom in the cellar of the opera. And even more are stored in Gothenburg harbour. "A large amount of clothing is created for each production. For Goya, for example, over 300 costumes were made in an 18th and 19th century style. For some roles the actor changes costume five times during one and the same performance," says Gunilla Andersson.
Anne Modin, who is also a tailor, sees a clear trend. "In the old days we used to tailor-make everything. But now we reuse more and more. It's in line with the times. Both as costume designers and as people we’re thinking more in the long term."
Centaurs from Texas.
Not all the costumes are made in the tailor's workshop. In the leather workshop it’s not just shoes and belts that are made, but also the occasional costume. Malin Jonson remembers one performance in particular. "In preparation for A Midsummer Night's Dream, we were given the task of creating costumes for a number of centaurs. I ordered eight real horse tails from Texas that were in exactly the same shade as the dancers' own hair colours. The costumes were made up of leather belts wrapped around the dancers’ bodies in all directions."
"We've done other strange things too,” she goes on to say. "For example, we’ve made knights' armour out of leather. Metal armour wouldn't work; it would make too much noise and disturb the orchestra."
Wigmaking and more.
The wigmaker's workshop is obviously where the wigs are made. Or ‘ventilated’, as is the term for the particular type of knotting used by wigmakers. "Making a wig takes approximately 40 hours. Most wigs are made of real human hair or buffalo hair. Then they last longer. They can be washed, dyed, cut and used for several performances,” says Ilona Andreasson.
"We work with all types of performances. Dance, musicals, operas and operettas. There's a difference between doing the hair of a vocal soloist and a dancer. A dancer needs a lot more hairspray!"
The wigmakers are responsible for more than just hair. This is also where the artists' make up is done before every performance. But make-up is not always enough. For example, Anders Lorentzson, who plays the role of Apater in Goya, wears a big false nose in the performance,” Illona Andreasson tells us. "We made that here too."
Come and join us around the stage.