Interview with Cristina Fortuny, Head of Fashion at Gran Teatre del Liceu

Interview with Cristina Fortuny, Head of Fashion at Gran Teatre del Liceu

BarcelonaOn Thursday, January 4, an opera classic returns to the Liceu, Carmen, by Georges Bizet. In Barcelona, ​​the work was premiered at the now defunct Teatre Líric, in Carrer de Mallorca at the corner with Pau Clares, on August 2, 1881. At that time, the absolute premiere of the work failed, in 1875 it was not yet finished in Opéra-Comique in Paris. Whether out of fear or disgust, Bizet would die three months after the disastrous first performance and without hearing the praise of composers like Johannes Brahms or philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche. There were many who praised the richness of Bizet's operas, their originality and their dramatic structure. Since then, the ubiquitous opera has been translated into several languages ​​and made into a film on several occasions.

The success of the opera based on Prosper Mérimée's novel returns to the Liceu with its doors wide open. Carmen, Don José, Escamillo, Frascito and up to 120 other characters will fill the stage of one of the world's most prestigious opera houses, but before applause rings out in the boxes of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, hundreds of workers will have to put a thread on the needle so that everything is ready for the premiere.

One of these workers is Cristina Fortuny, who since 1989 has been working hard to ensure that all the characters appearing on the Liceu stage wear the best dresses. It was 1999, the year the Liceu reopened its doors after reconstruction caused by its fire, when Fortuny was appointed head of the wardrobe service. January 4 will be the 230th time it will be conducted Carmen At Liceu i Fortuny, he was responsible for stitching several of these shows, the last one in 2015.

What is the most important thing for you to do in your role as Head of Wardrobe at Liceu?

– I think that a very general view should be taken of all parties involved in the process. There are a lot of switches to consider, and the vast majority of them touch each other. If you do not have deep knowledge of the whole process, you will not be able to shape it well and it will be unbalanced.

Carmen It has not been shown at the Liceu for nearly ten years. How far do you go about preparing costumes for the play?

Carmen It is a reference work, therefore, we already have the mute stored in the theater. But this is only the beginning of all the work. We are notified a year in advance of the plays we will perform, and from season to season we prepare the costumes for the plays according to the order of performance.

How does the line of work survive despite being its own business?

— Two months before the first rehearsal on stage, we bring the pieces to the tailor shop in Liceu. From that moment we start consulting the size information of all people who will perform the show, which is stored in the theater database. It is also possible that there are new professionals and we do not have their sizes in the database, and then we have to contact their agents or theaters where they have previously worked to get them. If the professional sizes almost fit into our wardrobe, it is only necessary to adjust the wetsuits one by one, which in case Carmen It means designing a wardrobe for 124 people, some of whom have more than two or three sets of clothes.

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What if the singers' sizes don't fit into your wardrobe?

-This happens a lot, and then things get complicated. We have to go to the database of the theater that made that costume to find out the origin of both the fabrics and the suppliers that were used. Then we contact the suppliers and if we are lucky and they are still in stock, we buy the fabric and repeat the change back to the size of the professional in question.

Did you have to make any professional's wardrobe from scratch for this cast? Carmen?

– naturally! Specifically, the character of the Soloist, who is one of the characters with the largest number of silent voices in a single play. The singer is 1.95' tall and we didn't have any clothes that would fit him. We called a torero clothing store saying “I'm calling from Teatre del Liceu and I was looking for some fuchsia torero socks with black spikes for a 50 foot man.” There was great silence on the other end of the line. Obviously, bullfighter clothes are not made in these sizes. We also had to have some custom shoes made at a theatrical shoe house, where they were able to make a great replica of a matador's shoes.

clothes Carmen They are from 2004, the first time this work has been performed at the Liceu. Is it difficult to maintain the uniformity of seedlings used twenty years ago?

— Maintaining harmony between new and old pieces is often the most complicated part of the process. For example, Carmen It has an additional difficulty, it is a work set in the past and nothing can be considered new. It must be spent. When you make a new piece, you have to give it the aesthetics of a used piece, otherwise the wardrobe will not be cohesive. That's why it's so important for the model to be the most faithful to what the fashion designer did.

What times is the fashion designer present?

– For everything to go well, he must be present from the preparation of the production file until the day of the first show. When the work has already been done in the theater, the costume designer may or may not send an assistant directly. In case CarmenAlthough he has already performed at the Liceu on numerous occasions, Mercè Paloma has been present since the beginning of training. The presence of a costume designer is important because sometimes the soloist does not agree with the way he dresses. If so, the costume designer will defend to the death the costumes that have been designed and will act as a screen between the soloist and the costume department. But if there is no stylist, it is the soloist's voice against us, and this is work added to our work.

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The costume designer is part of the five-person team in the play's artistic team: stage manager, set designer, costume designer, lighting designer, and musical director. In case Carmen, the costume designer for the production of Calixto Bieito is Mercè Paloma. As costume designer, Paloma was responsible for the visual design of the characters based on the script of the play in order to determine the type of clothing, gestures and presence of each professional in their role.

Carmen's technical team

Production from Carmensigned by Calixto Beato, and identified by several attributes: Sexy, grotesque, violent, subversive. But there are two that admit of little debate: Carmen And Flame retardant I Close connection. This version, co-produced by the Fenice de Vència, Massimo de Palermo, Regio de Torí and Gran Teatre del Liceu de Barcelona, ​​is approaching 25 years of presence in major international theaters and has become one of the most popular, if not the most popular. , from Bizet's masterpiece for its aesthetic boldness.

Is it common for a play to be co-produced by several theatres?

– Yes, and more and more. The cost of production is very high, and if you do a joint production, the costs are shared and the continuity of artistic production is ensured.

Which theaters have a close relationship with the Liceu?

– On the issue of transfer consistency, Lécio's closest relationship is with Real Madrid, but also with Maestranza in Seville or with the Theater in Bilbao. But we produce a lot in collaboration with Covent Garden in London and the Paris Opera. We also rent a fair number of items from the theater in Salzburg, or to Italian theaters such as Parma or Palermo. It is difficult to work in the United States because of a physical problem, but this is no obstacle to staging a play if it is of interest, even if all the costumes have to be transported from the other side of the Atlantic. . We even rented from Japan once. But everything that comes out of the European Union is always more complicated.

Manage massive workload. How many people are in the wardrobe department?

— There are now 22 people, of whom 11 are full-time employees and the other 11 have a part-time contract or a non-continuous fixed contract depending on whether they will cover stable employees or cover peak work periods. For example, only 12 people are needed to cover the role. Our staff is very atypical, because the general rule is that there is a women's section and a men's section, which is very divided, but in our case we decided to sew more theatrically where there are people who know to do a little bit of everything to have more resources.

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Events usually start at 7 p.m. What hours do you work?

– The theater has two periods: one that begins at eight in the morning and ends at four-thirty, and one that begins at four-thirty and ends at eleven. This is a schedule without a job. On the day of the function we start a little later and leave later. Depending on the length of the play, we start at five or five-thirty and leave between twelve and one-thirty.

What is your task during the job?

— We share the work, so that some help the soloists, others the women's choir, others the men, others the figure. At the beginning of the day we put all the well-ironed clothes in the dressing rooms, and when the play starts we help dress the actors, and also during the quick changes, because the music doesn't stop. When the job is finished, we pack everything up and take it to the laundry, to the disinfection point and back to the tailor to check the seams. The next day is about finishing everything that was left ready the night before.

Do you particularly remember any unexpected last-minute moments?

-We've been through a lot! The great rule is that businesses cannot be cancelled. But sometimes it happens that the soloist gets sick. It has happened more than once that the day before a play, they have to replace a soloist, and you get a singer with completely different volumes who don't know what part of the world and you have to do everything from scratch. This person travels, lands in Barcelona, ​​is picked up at the airport and during the flight to Liceu it is explained to him via a tablet what his interventions are. There's not a minute to waste. There's only an hour and a half of rehearsal and then getting on stage in front of a lot of people. Also in some quick changes, some of the tailors had to stay hidden on stage because Solceta had to come out to sing and the dress wasn't finished yet. If anyone had noticed, it would have been a disaster!

What do you want most from your job?

– Many things, but the one thing I really appreciate is being able to work every two months with different professionals. Every business has its own stylist and its own standards, which is very enriching. What is needed in theater is for the production to run for a long time to make the production profitable, and here you can create a bigger family. But here in the locker room it enriches you much more in terms of learning because it forces you to adapt to new ideas and do a constant communication exercise with the whole team.

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