We asked our Costume Designer, Neil Fortin, to give us some insight into the process of creating the costume designs for this new production of Eugene Onegin.
The enduring story of longing, remorse and love unfulfilled will echo grandly in our 1950's world.
While we were designing Opera Omaha's production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, director Rosetta Cucchi and I searched for the correct time period in which to place our new production. In my mind traditional productions of this beautiful tale tend to place the action during the mid-19th century. Together we knew we didn't need the period trappings of the story but wanted to make sure that it didn't feel too modern either. Since the silhouette of the 1820's is a wide bust, nipped waist, and large skirts I thought that updating it to the mid 1950's would keep that same silhouette but have a modern, attractive approach.
Conceptually we have individual atmospheres we are creating for each of the three acts--Act 1 will emulate the gentility and everyman look of the lower and middle classes, act 2 will introduce country society at a gambling fete, and act three will be a feast for the eyes with creme de la creme of mid century Russian society. The class progression from act to act will be visual and visceral as the colors change from muted natural hues to the garish dinner jackets and tea length gowns, so famous in the '50's, and finally ending on the glamour and Western influence seen in Russia during this time period.
My designs always hinge on the details of the time period, here we will see an amazing mix of true vintage pieces, modern copies of 1950's formal wear and an impressive array of couture evening gowns built specifically for our singers. Gloves, antique jewelry, and period shoes will lend gravitas to our 1950's setting as well as stunning wig and makeup work from our talented team. Part of Rosetta and my discussion centered around making sure this didn't look stereotypically Russian in the sense of embroidery, heavy furs, and cossack collars, but instead we turned to a variety of Russian catalogues from the mid 50's. Using these catalogues allowed the show a subtle injection of true Russian fashion and kept those Western fashion vibes at bay.