"The Flying Dutchman" is an early opera by Richard Wagner. And, like many of Wagner's later works, it's rooted in myth. The Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents this tale of a ghost captain, cursed to roam the high seas. Every seven years, the captain goes ashore – and if he finds true love, he’ll be released from the curse.
Keeping it local
"I am a firm believer in doing things here in Kansas City, if at all possible. We had these built at KC Costume and it was wonderful, because they have virtually a factory to assemble this and they have some very skilled staff," said Mary Traylor, the Lyric's costume supervisor. "So having it all in one place at one time with really talented people working on it was a major plus to the completion of my vision for the show."
" 'The Flying Dutchman' is a good taste of Wagner and a great first experience for a lot of people," said Tracy Davis-Singh, Director of Production. "One of the great things about building an entire new package of costumes designed specifically for our singers is that we have complete artistic control to display the vision that we have."
Shaping the costumes, sneaking in color
Mary Traylor said the concept behind the costumes was shaped by research, the music, and conversations with the director.
"The costumes started out as kind of a nebulous idea that I then discussed with Bernard Uzan who is the director of the opera, and then I did a lot of research because we are basing it in actual historical era, the turn of the century in Scandinavia," said Traylor. "I wanted color for the women. The ladies when they are singing and fixing the nets, the music is upbeat, and then when they actually arrive, when the boat comes into the harbor, all of these people are gathered together and the music is, you know, bright and kind of upbeat, so I've snuck in the bright colors.
"And then, of course, on the opposite spectrum, you've got the sailors, the rough and ready guys who endure storms at sea, so above and beyond all this is the eternal Dutchman who has been sailing around the world for hundreds of years. And he is above and beyond time, so we had to meld the pristinely-costumed Dutchman with the real women and the sailors, then on top of it the ghost crew."
Building costumes to fit the cast
Richard Paul Fink returns to the Lyric to play the lead role as the cursed captain. During a final costume fitting, Fink and costumer Mary Traylor spoke like old friends as she checked his black captain's jacket.
"This will be the third time I have worked with Mr. Fink. It's really great when you know the person you are designing for," Traylor said. "And he has an incredible physical range, and that's really exciting when you have somebody that knows how to wear the clothes and how to use them. He's not afraid of his clothes. He's incredibly talented as a physical actor as well as a brilliant singer."
Production director Tracy Singh-Davis added that building the costumes in Kansas City allowed the Lyric more control over the artistic process.
"By building all of our own costumes we were able to truly cast the best singers available, the best chorus available, and then build the costumes to fit them, so these little things beyond that, beyond the artistic vision of just the costumes that show how all of the different elements of a production, how interdependent they are on each other," Davis-Singh said.
Pulling the audience "into our vision and our dream"
"We are not portraying reality, we are pulling the audience into our vision and our dream," said Traylor. "And we are hoping that they will participate and I think they will with this one because it's such fusion of wonderful music and beautiful singers and then the visual spectacle on top of it all to make one incredible experience."
Lyric Opera of Kansas City presents "The Flying Dutchman" through Sunday, March 10 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Missouri. (816) 994-7200. For an in-depth guide to the performance, check here.