Klaus Haapaniemi tells about the concept and ideas behind the opera costumes

Mar 28, 2015

The visual concept opened to me as a ballroom like ensemble which would feel like a forest. To follow this it felt natural to visualise the costume design as clothing with references to history of fashion, not a specific time or style but a combination of many. The costume design had to stay light and be flexible and dynamic for moving on the stage but also be visually impactful and detailed with strong graphic silhouettes. It was very important to me to create costumes that would give a direction to the performers for their character studies.

I wanted to use natural materials like wool and silk as much as possible. It was really interesting to get to use the Opera ateliers, the costume studio, hat makers, the dye department and the cobblers are unique in their incredible skills.

My aim was to give each costume a recognisable character and it was strongly based on the hand sewn geometric patterns and the focal point of each outfit are the hats that give each costume their distinctive look. The hats are one of the most important parts of the whole visual concept of the Cunning Little Vixen. The hat like head pieces that are functional in the fast choreography are successful only because the incredible skill of their makers.

I divided the costumes in two categories in my mind. Animals and humans.
Animals I saw as naturally flamboyant creatures who shamelessly flaunt their decorative features and shine. The humans I wanted to show as simpler and modest and almost clumsy crowd who are identifying their social or professional status. Both groups I wanted to unify with graphic embroidery and patterns that would take this production from the world of Janacek to more scandinavian and nordic world with it’s own aesthetic.


the Fox and the Vixen
Main roles were in my mind a lot not only because they are on stage most of the time, but while sketching the characters they were the easiest. They look like they are naturally part of the whole set and pattern that runs through all the animals. Their silhouette is most streamlined, edgiest and most finalised. The stole like tails are coved in fringes and they help the performers to create coquettish and seductive Vixen and Fox their Cunning character. The fox cubs are a cute variation of their parents costumes.


The Badger
My interpretation of the badger is slightly introvert, noble loner in his own hole, and I associated the character in a Tudor world.

The Rabbits
I saw the rabbits more harlequin like compared to the more low-key animals. Also mixing the roles sexes made the characters more interesting. A detail I find amusing is the tail combined with a Scottish sporran.


The Frogs
The challenge for the frog costume was the wide trimmed hat which together with pleated shirt collar give an impression of the wide frog’s mouth. This was functionally challenging because the frogs jump and leap in the choreography.


The Owl
I wanted to make the owl one of the most stand out costumes, partly because it’s role is so short on stage. Starched laces make the owl look victorian which was an unusual subject for that time.

Just like the owl Jay is only a short but beautiful fleeting moment on the stage. I wanted to make the costume multilayered feather coat with metallic blue and pastel shades. The complicated cape/wing is layered on top and Jay is crowned with a light but humorous cap that looks like a red beak.


Guinea Fowl
I imagined guinea fowl as mysterious and provocative creature hiding partly behind a mask, bit like in archetypes of Commedia dell’arte, but also massive and comical presence. Hand beaded velvet cape and complex head piece makes the guinea fowl one of the most memorable characters in Cunning Little Vixen.

Hens and the Cock
Ones of the most successful in use of material and colour as well as fine dress making skills. Starting point for the hats was Inca head pieces. Decorations are based on simple and geometric patterns that are visible from back of the theatre.


The Woodpecker
The woodpecker is simple and graphic in it’s colour palette and silhouette which I think gives a hint of the singer’s vocal range. Silky materials and applications makes the costume shine like a feather coat and the high shoulders give the woodpecker strong and dramatic masculine/feminine attitude.


The Squirrel
I imagined the squirrel flirty but playful creature whose tail would be a kind of fur stole. I didn’t want to use fake or real fur for the costumes but we found an alternative in mohair wool.


The Hedgehog
The basis for the hedgehog was Denzil Ibbertson drawing of St. Hlelen prisoner Napoleon. I tried to convey the melancholic loneliness and stubbornness of that drawing.