The Role Costume Plays in Performance

As part of our Sponsor a Costume series, we caught up with 2nd year postgraduate student, Sarah Foubert (pictured, right), who will be performing the role of Hannah in our December production of The Merry Widow.

She talks about the role costumes play in bringing a performance together and what she is most looking forward to about the RNCM’s upcoming opera.

What do you most look forward to when working on a new opera production?

The first time you see the model of the set, the drawings of the costumes and the first time you step on the stage are all very exciting. You also look forward to the first time you see your costume, the first dress rehearsal – and definitely the first performance. These are the little magical moments that make the production special.

Another amazing moment is when you step on stage to work with your fellow colleagues for the first time. That’s when you get to interact and get to play out these ideas you’ve been shaping in your head and test them. It’s the most exciting (and my favourite) moment because that’s when the story really starts taking shape.

How do costumes affect your performance?

A couple of days ago I woke up in a bit of a panic thinking about my costume for the Merry Widow. I was suddenly reminded of the dress I wore when I played Euridice in the RNCM production of Orfeo ed Euridice. It had taken a while to finish the dress, because it was being made from scratch, and as a result I could only wear it in the last couple of rehearsals before the public performances started.

There was a lot of walking and running in the performance and I kept falling over the train! I managed to get used to it in time, but seeing that there will be a lot of dancing and running around in The Merry Widow, I was suddenly very worried I would fall off the stage, tripping over my costume!

The clothes you wear really change the way you perform and it takes a bit of practice to put the whole performance together whilst in costume. Not only do you need a different kind of spatial awareness, it is also a completely different feeling when you sing in a corset, and it takes some getting used to. But all in all, singing in a beautiful costume just makes the experience more interesting and exciting. I’m sure my costume will really help me to get into the character of Hannah, and if I’m really honest, the costumes are one of the reasons I like opera so much, so I’m really looking forward to wearing it.

What is the most memorable opera production you have seen/been in?

My most memorable opera production was the 2003 Sydney Opera House production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. I was really young when I went and even though I had been studying music since I was a little girl, I didn’t know much about opera at all. I can’t tell you what impressed me the most. I remember being completely in awe of the building when standing outside. Now, many years later, I still think back to that evening as one of the most memorable experiences in my life.

If someone had told me then that only a couple of years later I would be living in England, studying at the RNCM and singing the role of Hannah in The Merry Widow, I would have said they sounded completely ridiculous!

Sarah receives a full scholarship for her studies at the RNCM and you can help further support her and other students by sponsoring a costume – to find out how you can do this and how we will thank you for your donation, click here.

Sarah will be performing on the 3rd, 7th (Matinee) and 11th of December. Find out more about The Merry Widow.

11 September 2014