Hats, masks, and jewellery, among other things, are made here. In short, any accessory connected to the heads or bodies of the singers passes through the Millinery and Decoration Workshop.
The craziest challenges are often taken on here: giant spectacles, mirrors in place of the inner lining of clothing, wings, fans, masks (fantastical or completely realistic), bowler hats, nuns’ headdresses, and crowns, sometimes even edible hats, and embroidery of all kinds and from every era.
A wide range of materials is worked with here: feathers, pearls, stones, shells, paint, rubber, fabric, wire, Plexiglas, polystyrene, foam, plastics, and many more.
The production of Bastarda (2023) was a major challenge for all the costume workshops. The Millinery and Decoration Workshop worked tirelessly. To bring the costume designer Petra Reinhardt’s designs to life, spectacular jewellery was recreated and adapted based on existing jewellery.
There are no instruction manuals here, each new accessory is a new design! M.H., Millinery and Decoration team member
With great skill, the artisans work with sewing machines and flat irons, as well as welding irons, hairdryers, glue guns, hammers, files, saws, pliers, clamps, etc.
Here, a curling iron borrowed from the world of hairdressing is used to make the folds in the ruffs for Les Huguenots (2022).
The three artisans of the workshop collaborate closely with the stage director's team, as well as with their colleagues in the Hair, Make-up and Wigs Workshop.
The accessories help to set the scene. Everything must therefore be carefully thought out in advance in order for the effect to be as credible and realistic as desired (starting with the design of the hats, sometimes involving ingenious methods for attaching them to the singers’ heads).
To shape the hats, many wooden forms are available in the stock. They serve as moulds and are selected depending on the singer’s head and the desired shape. Sometimes the moulds are covered with socks to make them a size or two bigger.
Usually, a piece of wet felt is placed on the mould, stretched, then dried. The felt is then treated with a chemical product that hardens it.
To enlarge a hat that has already been shaped by 1 to 2 cm, a conformateur (an instrument that enables the shape of the hat to be adapted) may also be used.
A straw boater made for the production of Il Turco in Italia (1995-1996). Part of the hat would be eaten onstage by Don Narcisso. A biscuit in the exact shape of the missing piece therefore had to be reattached, using glucose syrup, every evening before the performance.
The masks are mostly made with plaster or clay moulds made by the workshop. They are then cut and adjusted to the singer's head.
Acoustic constraints are particularly important when designing masks for the singers, who must always have their ears, noses, and mouths uncovered. Care must also be taken to choose specific materials to avoid allergens. Masks for the extras, however, can be almost entirely enclosed. For them, other constraints are taken into account (they often have to dance or do acrobatics, for example). The comfort of the artist is always the priority.
Masks made for Norma (2021). After many weeks of prototypes, discussion, and reflection on how the masks would be made, a specific work method was adopted (adding the teeth before the fur, for example). Making a head, nonetheless, took a week’s work.