Take a virtual tour behind the scenes at Dutch National Opera & Ballet
In the costume department, consisting of one atelier for ballet and one for opera, you’ll always hear a sewing machine rattling and see the most amazing fabrics. The ballet costumes are made of special materials that have to be incredibly strong yet light as a feather. For the opera, costumes are made not only for the soloists, but also for the 60 members of the chorus. Costume designers dream up what the costumes will look like, but it is the cutters who actually make them. Good cutters, often with their own specialism, are few and far between. Some are specially trained to make men’s costumes while others specialise in women’s costumes.
The best make-overs ever are provided by the wigs & make-up department. They make all sorts of wigs, from spectacular hairdos to what they call the ‘bald heads’. They prefer to use real human hair, because it looks best on stage. Each hair is stitched individually onto a net with a crochet needle. It’s hard work but it really pays off! There are now around 3000 wigs in the store. The hair and make-up stylists also do the make-up for singers, dancers, extras and actors. The stylists’ personality and the calmness and quality they exude are extremely important in the preparations for a performance.
At the props department, you can find the craziest things you could imagine and everything you might need for a performance: from tables, chairs and vases to flying monsters, strange birds and remote-controlled dolls. The props makers work with wood, paint and dyes, and cover things with fabric. The special effects are made here too. The props department staff try to shape the ideas and wishes of the artistic team as perfectly as possible. They usually do so by making the objects themselves, but sometimes they have to buy something at a flea market, for example, or on the internet.
People are doing things on and around the stage all day long. Here, the stage manager is ‘boss’. During the performance, he or she sits in the wings at a huge table covered with buttons, giving cues to everyone concerned; cueing the lighting and sound technicians, calling the soloists to the stage and ‘dropping’ the curtain. Lighting designers make increasing use of moving light, whereby the position, colour and shape of the spotlight can be controlled by computer. So placing and changing colour filters is practically a thing of the past. On the stage floor, in the fly tower, in the wings and behind the stage, the stage crew have a mammoth task in building and striking the sets, laying floors, hanging drops and flats and doing scene changes. And they have to do all of this without the audience noticing a thing.
© Dutch National Opera & Ballet