Friday, April 27, 2012

The Costumes and Wigs of Semele

Costumes from the COC production of Semele, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
In a fusion of Chinese theatre and European Baroque, the costumes of the Semele, an upcoming production by the Canadian Opera Company, are sumptuous in their rich colours and luxurious fabrics. In a behind stage press preview, I got to see them up close as well learn more about the making of this opera. After what I've seen, I'm predicting it will be a spectacular run.

Costume from the COC production of Semele, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
Handel's Semele is a rare opera that was composed in English and audiences at the premiere in 1744 were shocked by the erotic nature of the story. This version presented by the COC has been directed by the famed Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Huan.

Ming Dynasty Temple detail, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
Not limited by convention, Zhang Huan has brought a 450 year old temple to serve as the stage centrepiece. This is not a recreation, but an actual Ming Dynasty temple that has been painstakingly reconstructed. When Zhang Huan purchased the temple in 2007, he had it moved, piece by piece, to his studio in Shanghai. During that process, he discovered the diary written by the temple's previous owner, Fang Jixin, in which he records his anger and frustration over his wife's infidelity. Fang Jixin murdered his wife's lover and then was sentenced to firing squad. To reflect the duality of reality and theatricality, the wife of Fang Jixin has actually give a part in this production.

Wig from the COC production of Semele, photo by Ingrid Mida 2012
This COC production has all the elements of opera that I love - spectacular costumes, magnificent sets, top notch performers, plus the added drama of the opera itself intertwined with history.

Semele runs for eight performances only at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on May 9, 11, 13, 16, 19, 22, 24, and 26, 2012. Tickets are available at the box office and online at the COC website.

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