OPERA AND MUSIC VERSUS THEATRICAL COSTUMES – TAKE YOUR PICK.
Opera has a small but select audience with hardened fans keen to secure their seats for the 2019 season. My money next year will be on more popular culture, such as the Westside Story and other museum displays of theatrical heritage. While I grew up on classical music, and European theatre, I also love a good stage play full of dance, costume and music.
My late Mother loved nothing better than to listen to opera at home while working in the garden. She used to say that her roses responded ‘positively’ to the strains of sad and weeping maidens and dastardly Dans singing it out on stage displaying their over-whelming narcissism.
For my money, I can live without the emotional drama of star-crossed lovers seeking to satisfy their egotistical, manic needs. Their plight might have been real, but we’ve moved on – haven’t we – in dealing with actors who treat life as if “all the world is a stage”?
I’m far more interested in the costumes they’re wearing because the art and skill of theatrical tailoring has me whetting my appetite for the performance art of the real (though backstage) stars. The exhibition recently held at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney showcased a range of living art which fostered my interest in menswear for contemporary stages: men’s costumes worn in the street, in the field, while travelling as well as to be worn in the office and at leisure at home.
Caption for photo to the left: Dark costume worn by Dame Joan Sutherland as Desdemona in Othello, The Australian Opera, 1981, Gift of Opera Australia, 2018, Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian Performing Arts Collection
The ‘Reigning Men’ exhibition showed that there is not one way of wearing clothing. Some people wear their heart on a sleeve, some wear their tattoos from shoulder to wrist or worse, across their face. But, for me, there is nothing more engaging to watch and admire than an experienced actor crossing the stage in a dramatic wardrobe of silk, taffeta, velvet and braid. That is a beauty to behold. Even though my Mother liked to listen to Opera and Operatic music and I liked to watch Opera on the stage with its majestic costumes and theatre sets, we happily shared a love of the “Splendour from the Stage”.
The latest news of Performing Arts costumes has recently reached my desk. Carmela Lonetti in an article in the AICCM National Newsletter No 144 December 2018 lists interesting facts about costumes and other theatrical props used by the Australian Opera Diva Dame Joan Sutherland. The costumes were worn as part of The Australian Opera seasons in the late 1970s and highlight the skill and crafts of theatre costumiers working in Australia.
The Dame Joan Sutherland Costume Collection Acquisition is part of the Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) National Projects register and clearly worthy of respect.
Caption for the silver and red gown to the right: Costume worn by Dame Joan Sutherland as Desdemona in Othello, The Australian Opera, 1981, Gift of Opera Australia, 2018, Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian Performing Arts Collection
Caption of photo to the left: Silver costume worn by Dame Joan Sutherland in the title role of Lucrezia Borgia, The Australian Opera, 1977, Gift of Opera Australia, 2018, Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian Performing Arts Collection.
The Arts Centre Melbourne (ACM) receives most of its acquisitions for the Australian Performing Arts Collection (APAC) through donation. In 2018, APAC received the donation of The Dame Joan Sutherland Costume Collection. This new acquisition from Opera Australia provides highlights from the celebrated career of Dame Joan Sutherland. The collection spans the breadth of Sutherland’s expansive repertoire and includes 30 complete gowns, head pieces, jewellery, wigs and shoes.
Caption: Silver costume worn by Dame Joan Sutherland in the title role of Lucrezia Borgia, The Australian Opera, 1977, Gift of Opera Australia, 2018, Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian Performing Arts Collection
With such large acquisitions, the challenge remains the timely processing and ultimate storage of items that are in their nature voluminous. Carmela Lonetti, Conservator and other members of the collection team have recently started this process. Three of the costumes and a number of accessories are currently on display in the Smorgon Plaza of the Theatres Building 100 St Kilda Road in the exhibition “Splendour from the Stage” (https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/en/Whats-On/2018/Exhibitions/New-…), aligning with the 2018 Opera Season.
Caption for photo to the left: Red costume worn by Dame Joan Sutherland as Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots, The Australian Opera, 1981, Gift of Opera Australia, 2018, Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian Performing Arts Collection
The opening of the Australian Music Vault in ACM’s Gallery 1, means an increase in the use of foyers and public areas for temporary exhibitions of the permanent collection. A challenge is that these public spaces must adapt to the ‘non-museum’ environments to safely display collections of items. Innovative ways of displaying the collection and extending the standard limits of display conditions are being pursued.
Caption: Costume worn by Dame Joan Sutherland as Violetta in La Traviata, The Australian Opera, 1979, Gift of Opera Australia, 2018, Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian Performing Arts Collection.
See the full story by Carmela Lonetti at: https://aiccm.org.au/national-news/dame-joan-sutherland-costume-collection-acquisition.
Text copyright by Fiona Rothchilds with acknowledgment of the AICCM and Carmela Lonetti.
Photos copyright AICCM 2018 and The Australian Opera.
Uploaded 19 December 2018.