In a north Edmonton warehouse, Deanna Finnman works with a team of costumers and milliners to make kimonos out of zoot suits and headpieces full of Ginsu knives.
Partly inspired by Harajuku – the Tokyo district where the sight of young people in anime-inspired getups is just another Wednesday – her 50 costumes are a hybrid of styles from modern and traditional Japan. The Edmonton Opera‘s head of wardrobe says the costumes match the fun, topsy-turvy spirit of the town of Titipu, the fictional setting of The Mikado, which plays at the Jubilee Auditorium on Feb. 4, 7 and 9. But, what is most significant is that the company is now building its own wardrobes, something that it hasn’t done since 2010 – and then, only out of necessity.
At the time, the opera was producing another Gilbert and Sullivan work, Pirates of Penzance, and it decided to use costumes that had been in storage. But they were falling apart, forcing Finnman to quickly construct new pieces in time for opening night. She says, “I think we put the last bow on the last costume 20 minutes before it started.”
The Mikado’s costumes cost four times more than renting the pieces, but the 48-year-old opera company’s new initiative is to put its own signature on all its productions. For the first time in her 12 seasons with the company, Finnman was hired full-time this year. Now, she’s gearing up for another full-scale design, for Fidelio in April.