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Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (designed)

  • Date:

    1980 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Collis, David (costume designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Artificial silk, net, silk and gold embroidery, sequins, synthetic fabric, beaded cord, crystal beads, 'jewels', silver braid, bead tassel, synthetic plush fabric, calico lining, rigelene

  • Museum number:

    S.17-2004

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This costume for Hanna Glawari, the 'Merry Widow' of the operetta's title, is a riotous, theatrical recreation of Edwardian evening dress. Everything is exaggerated and over the top, reflecting Hanna's character and her great wealth. One fabric is overlaid on another, decorated and trimmed with artificial jewels, braids, sequins and beads in a visual riot that would ensure that, whenever the singer appeared on a crowded stage, she would automatically draw the audience's attention.
Historical costume on stage is never an 'authentic' reproduction; theatre designers adapt historical dress to make it acceptable to a contemporary theatre audience. Thus the fabrics, cut and style of a theatre costume are at once recognisable as historical period and yet bear the signs of the age in which the production is being staged. If the play was produced twenty years before or twenty years later, the costumes would be treated quite differently.
Although the costume was worn in an English National Opera pro duction, the label inside is for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. As opera production became more expensive towards the end of the 20th century, many companies purchased or hired existing productions or created co-productions with other opera houses throughout the world.

Physical description

Edwardian-style dress of a sheath of blue pink shot artificial silk with scalloped hem, overlaid with purple net, embroidered with flowers and foliage in silver silk and gold thread, the flowers additionally embroidered with blue and gold sequins; the lace continues above the bodice to form short sleeves. Around the waist is an exaggeratedly wide boned and shaped belt of black and gold synthetic fabric appliqued with a net shell, delineated in beaded cord and crystal beads, accented with amythest 'jewels'; around the shell and to the similarly shaped back of the belt are various leaf motifs embroidered with gold and bronze sequins, pearls; metal cords and blue sequins. To the upper left of the belt is attached a silver braid knotted loop, trimmed with sequins. . Over the right shoulder is a swathe of pinky orange shiny synthetic fabric, which is fastened at the base of the belt at the back, falling into a long narrow 'tail' finished with a red bead tassel. The sheath is overlaid with a 'novelty' fabric covered with silver plush spots, which have been random coloured in shades of purple, pink, red and blue, with highlights of bright gold thread spots; the fabric is lined throughout with pale mauve artificial silk. This fabric is attached to the left shoulder, over the sleeve, forming the back left bodice and falling into a long narrow point finishing in a brown gold bead tassel and as a narrow sash over the left shoulder. The fabric is draped assymetrically over the sheath skirt, forming a long fish-tail train at the back. The belt and bodice are lined with white calico and stiffened with rigilene bones, and the sheath is lined with white synthetic fabric.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (designed)

Date

1980 (designed)

Artist/maker

Collis, David (costume designer)

Materials and Techniques

Artificial silk, net, silk and gold embroidery, sequins, synthetic fabric, beaded cord, crystal beads, 'jewels', silver braid, bead tassel, synthetic plush fabric, calico lining, rigelene

Marks and inscriptions

'OPERA THEATRE of ST. LOUIS / Name Rebecca Abrams / Role / Show M. Widow Act/Scene'
Printed and handwritten. Left back.

Dimensions

Length: 199 cm Dress, shoulder to hem, Length: 170 cm, Width: 45 cm Dress, shoulder width, Weight: 1.9 kg packed weight of object

Object history note

Costume designed by David Collis for Hanna Glawari in Franz Lehar's operetta The Merry Widow for English National Opera, 1980.

Historical significance: English National Opera's repertory included operetta as well as grand opera and a policy of performing new or little-known works. As opera production became more expensive towards the end of the 20th century, many companies took over productions from or created co-productions with other opera houses throughout the world. This production originated with Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Descriptive line

Costume designed by David Collis for Hanna Glawari in Franz Lehar's operetta The Merry Widow for English National Opera, 1980.

Materials

Synthetic silk; Synthetic fabric; Net (textile); Silk thread; Gold thread; Sequins; Beads; Cord; Artificial jewels; Silver braid; Plush; Calico; Rigelene

Techniques

Machine stitching; Hand stitching

Categories

Stage costumes

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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