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Theatre costume - The Nightingale

The Nightingale

  • Object:

    Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (probably, designed)

  • Date:

    1983 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hockney, David, born 1937 (costume designer)

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

  • Museum number:

    S.26:1 to 6-2003

  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 105, case 10 []

Throughout the 20th century, great painters have been employed to design sets and costumes, with varying degrees of success. Among the most successful is David Hockney (born 1937), whose bold sense of form and colour are admirably suited to the stage. His ability to absorb a subject and then embody it visually using only the essential elements gives a great simplicity to his stage pictures, creating the essence of a character, theme or period.

Stravinsky's opera The Nightingale (Le Rossignol), is based on Hans Andersen's story of the Chinese Emperor who replaces a nightingale with a mechanical bird. When the Emperor falls ill, Death agrees to spare the Emperor if the nightingale will sing once more. Hockney's designs were highly stylized, set and costumes limited to shades of blue, black and white, reminiscent of the Chinoiserie Willow Pattern design. This costume is for the Bonze, a Buddhist monk, and the robe's very simplicity married to the high, stylized headdress help establish the character's authority.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (probably, designed)


1983 (made)


Hockney, David, born 1937 (costume designer)


Height: 165 cm, Width: 200 cm, Depth: 145 cm

Object history note

Costume for the Bonze in Stravinsky's opera The Nightingale (Le Rossignol), designed by David Hockney, Royal Opera, 1983, worn by Robert Lloyd. The production was originally seen at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York as a co-production with the Royal Opera.

Historical significance: An example of costume designing by a distinguished painter. Hockney first designed opera for Glyndebourne in 1975 and went on to work on operas in Los Angeles and New York. Le Rossignol was performed in a double bill with Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortileges, also designed by Hockney, a co-production between the Royal Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, New York. This was the first Hockney-designed production seen at the Royal Opera House.

Descriptive line

Costume for the Bonze in Stravinsky's opera The Nightingale (Le Rossignol) designed by David Hockney, Royal Opera, 1983


Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes


Theatre and Performance Collection

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