Friday, March 8, 2013
Sultry Carmen a perfect fit for Sydney Harbour
In front of a clothes rack, a machinist is ironing 25 metres of orange satin destined for a single skirt. “I owe you an apology!” Lynch tells the machinist with laughter. By the window a dummy is clad in a sexy figure-hugging red dress over which an embroidered gypsy shawl has been draped. The magnificent dress is to be worn by Carmen performers, mezzo-sopranos Milijana Nikolic and Rinat Shaham.
“[Director] Gale Edwards wanted a sexy and stripped-back rather than a village-y look,” says Lynch, who has been working on the production for the past year. Lynch used Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and 60s icons Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida as visual references for her designs. She enjoys collaborating with Edwards, with whom she’s also recently worked on La bohème and Salome. “Gale has a very clear idea of what she wants, which is how I prefer to operate,” she says. “It’s when the director relies on the creatives to follow their own paths that you’re in dangerous territory.”
Lynch and Edwards have both had frequent and successful collaborations with set designer Brian Thomson. The partnership works because of Edwards’ appreciation of design and Thomson’s flair for simplicity, Lynch says. “With Gale, you’re working in an environment where design is really important. And Brian’s work has a simplicity that makes people stand out. As a costume designer I love that.”
Because of its scale, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour - Carmen demands different thinking to that of a production at the Sydney Opera House or The Arts Centre Melbourne. “I was really fortunate that I got to see La Traviata last year because it enabled me to experience how distance affects how you see the costumes,” Lynch says.
To begin with, a big set generally dwarfs people, and as costume designer you have to find ways to make them visible. In the planning phase, this means avoiding small patterns and visually cutting people up too much. From a shelf underneath a working surface, Lynch pulls out a roll of black fabric with apple-sized red dots. Skirts for the girls. From a distance the apples will look like polka dots.
Groups of artists also have to be costumed very carefully. “When the stage is large and the audience far away, a single colour becomes one big image, while lots of different colours become ants on stage. So what we have is a yellow sweep of people, a green sweep, a red sweep.”
Every costume designer works with a particular artist in mind, and in Carmen the title role is shared by artists with dissimilar body shapes. “Milijana is tall and statuesque; Rinat is smaller. So you adjust the costume to flatter the figure for which it is intended. The final look will seem the same to the audience, but there will have been changes that personalise the costume for the artist.”
Despite so much thought going into each outfit, Lynch keeps tweaking in the final stages of preparation. By the time stage orchestrals begin, she’s thinking of practical considerations – someone’s tripping on a hem, a costume needs a piece of jewellery, make-up or hair needs adjusting.
In the hands of consummate professionals, it always comes together.