Monday, March 8, 2010

Nixon in China: The Look

It's normal practice for Vancouver Opera to rent costumes for our productions.

But not for Nixon in China!

For the Canadian premiere of Nixon in China, Parvin Mirhady and her talented staff in the wardrobe department created the look you will see on stage.

Illustration by Parvin Mirhady

All the outfits were designed specifically for our production and are exact replicas of the original outfits worn during the 1972 visit. Parvin even scoured the local vintage stores to find the appropriate accessories.

Sally Dibblee who plays Pat Nixon will be outfitted in 3 dresses, as well as 3 different strands of pearl necklaces.

There will be 26 supernumeraries who will don on the heavy wool coats, hats, belts and pouches for the Red Army look. Luckily, this "outdoor" look will only be worn at the beginning of the first act. Our supers won't completely melt under the hot stage lights.

The 8 professional dancers in The Ballet of the Regiment scene will wearing shorts, short sleeved shirts and caps. All the better to leap and twirl around in.

Speaking of dancing, Kissinger will also have his own outfit in the ballet scene.

True to the time period of Mao's China, all the Chinese characters in the opera wear the same outfit. Whether you are Mao, Madame Mao or Chou En-lai or a regular citizen, the cut is exactly the same, although the colours may vary.

It's interesting to note that Mao wore only the dark gray outfit, while his more public right hand man Chou En-lai went between light gray and blue during Nixon's visit.

They say clothes make the (wo)man and in every form of entertainment, this couldn't be more true. Wardrobe is just as important in opera as the singing and the way the stage is set. Everything must come together to convey a sense of time and place, so that the audience can immerse themselves in the feeling of authenticity.

So props to the wardrobe department for working so hard on getting the look just right!

To check out more Nixon in China costumes and detailing, click play on the slideshow or click here for our Flickr.

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