Suppose you had to design an opera based on a stapler. Could you do it? Sue Bonde could. Sue’s a costume designer for Portland Opera. She’s part of the design team that includes the set designer, the lighting director, the prop supervisor and several others whose work visualizes the ideas of the stage director.
Also visiting our class was scenic designer Curt Enderle and general director Christopher Mattaliano, here in his capacity as opera director. Curt, a Drammy award winner, also has extensive experience bringing opera to life. Curt and Sue worked closely together during Portland Opera’s recent production of Galileo Galilei. They spent two hours giving us a general overview of how they combine a director’s ideas with their own creativity, experience, and brilliance to create a dazzling visual production.
Basically, the collaboration starts with an initial meeting with the opera director. The director’s concept can be specific (“I want the set to look like this painting”) or vague (“I see gold & orange & heat & tension.”) What’s crucial is that the design team is inspired by this initial meeting. They then feverishly begin doing research, developing ideas, making sketches, shopping for fabrics, solving problems, and in Curt’s case, creating a three dimensional model, all in scale. Sue and Curt brought examples of their drawings, models, and final costumes for Galileo Galilei. Each one was a masterful work of art in itself. We students oohed and aahed appreciatively.