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Theatre Costume

1977 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In 1977 Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 25 years on the throne. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company contributed to the festivities by staging a Silver Jubilee Season at Sadler's Wells, the highlight being a new production of Iolanthe with silver-themed designs by Bruno Santini. Gilbert and Sullivan's 1882 Savoy opera mocks the House of Lords within a tale of fairy folk and mortals who struggle with a typically Gilbertian plot contrivance that impedes the course of true love. Sullivan's music incorporates references to contemporary Grand Opera and the first production presented the Queen of the Fairies as a substantial lady in a breastplate and Wagnerian helmet, whose claim to have swung upon on a cobweb was amusingly unlikely. Subsequent productions have maintained this tradition by making the Queen into a parody of Brünnhilde.

Reviewers of the 1977 production were slightly disappointed that the Fairy Queen was, in the words of the Financial Times critic: 'trim of appearance, prettily dressed and not at all ridiculous'. Her costume is a riot of black and silver synthetic fabrics, designed to shimmer under the stage lights. The bodice is shaped to suggest a breastplate but is covered in shining black sequins so that the Queen retains her femininity. Santini gave the fairies the traditional tiny wings of the Victorian imagination but the Queen's are a stylish black nylon net shot with lurex and edged in silver russia braid to match the rest of her outfit. They slot into the back of the bodice and were not worn with the cloak but mirror the 'flame' shapes of the cloak's high collar fashioned by Martin Adams from piano wire. Along with the choker necklace in the style of a ruff and the tightly curled wig, the collar hints at the Elizabethan period, an appropriate reference for a production marking the second Elizabeth's Jubilee.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 10 parts.
(Some alternative part names are also shown below)
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Bodice
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Skirt
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Cloak
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Wings
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Garland
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Sleeve
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Sleeve
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Necklaces
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Wig
  • Theatre Costume
  • Opera Costume
  • Coronet
Brief Description
Costume for the Fairy Queen in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera, Iolanthe, D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 1977, designed by Bruno Santini, made by David Garrett with collar and decorative features by Martin Adams
Dimensions
  • Height: 200cm
  • Width: 155cm
  • Depth: 100cm
  • Wig ( h) circumference circumference: 61.0cm
Approximate, including length of train. Costume measured on hanger, excluding wig and coronet.
Marks and Inscriptions
At nape of wig - "Made by Martin Adams for Miss Leonard [FQ]"
Gallery Label
COSTUME FOR THE QUEEN OF THE FAIRIES IN IOLANTHE 1977 Gilbert and Sullivan audiences are notoriously conservative about the staging of the operas, believing the original productions are sacrosanct. In this 1977 production of Iolanthe the D’Oyly Carte Company tried to break with the 1882 staging. The original Queen of the Fairies wore a horned helmet and breastplate, but designer Santini dressed her in black and silver, implying a feminine side beneath her hard authority. Opera by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, 1882 D’Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London Lurex, lamé, cotton, net, sequins, diamanté, lace, wire, metallic cord and Velcro Designed by Bruno Santini Made by David Garrett and Martin Adams Museum no. S.348&A to G-1985 (March 2009)
Object history
This costume was worn by the Queen of the Fairies in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera, Iolanthe, directed by Michael Heyland for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, 1977. The production opened at Sadler's Wells Theatre and then toured Britain and America. Patricia Leonard was the Queen in the opening performances and the role was later taken by Elizabeth Denham and Jill Pert, whose names appear in the costume.



The Queen of the Fairies carried a full-length wand. This is also held by the V&A Theatre Collections (S.349-1985).
Summary
In 1977 Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 25 years on the throne. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company contributed to the festivities by staging a Silver Jubilee Season at Sadler's Wells, the highlight being a new production of Iolanthe with silver-themed designs by Bruno Santini. Gilbert and Sullivan's 1882 Savoy opera mocks the House of Lords within a tale of fairy folk and mortals who struggle with a typically Gilbertian plot contrivance that impedes the course of true love. Sullivan's music incorporates references to contemporary Grand Opera and the first production presented the Queen of the Fairies as a substantial lady in a breastplate and Wagnerian helmet, whose claim to have swung upon on a cobweb was amusingly unlikely. Subsequent productions have maintained this tradition by making the Queen into a parody of Brünnhilde.



Reviewers of the 1977 production were slightly disappointed that the Fairy Queen was, in the words of the Financial Times critic: 'trim of appearance, prettily dressed and not at all ridiculous'. Her costume is a riot of black and silver synthetic fabrics, designed to shimmer under the stage lights. The bodice is shaped to suggest a breastplate but is covered in shining black sequins so that the Queen retains her femininity. Santini gave the fairies the traditional tiny wings of the Victorian imagination but the Queen's are a stylish black nylon net shot with lurex and edged in silver russia braid to match the rest of her outfit. They slot into the back of the bodice and were not worn with the cloak but mirror the 'flame' shapes of the cloak's high collar fashioned by Martin Adams from piano wire. Along with the choker necklace in the style of a ruff and the tightly curled wig, the collar hints at the Elizabethan period, an appropriate reference for a production marking the second Elizabeth's Jubilee.
Associated Object
S.349-1985 (Part)
Collection
Accession Number
S.348 to I-1985

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record createdJune 24, 2008
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