Linda di Chamounix
Costume Design Concept
Set in the bucolic village of Chamounix in a remote region of Savoy in 1860, Linda di Chamounix tells the story of a simple country girl whose innocence is shattered by the complexities of life.
In Act I of the opera, the lovely and virginal Linda must resist the lechery of the aristocratic Marquis. To protect her virtue, Linda’s parents send her to Paris, where she finds herself alien to her circumstances - her lover is betrothed to a countess, the Marquis’ pursuit turns predatory, and her father disowns her. Driven half-mad with distress, she returns to her village having lost her youthful luster and innocence. The villagers embrace her, her father reclaims her, her lover professes fidelity, and the Marquis is forgiven; but the damage has been done, and Linda becomes a very different girl of Chamounix.
At its heart, the opera is a tragic coming of age story whose themes include lost innocence, personal betrayal, and the corruption of power. Although the opera is billed as a “melodrama” whose stock characters are presented in pure form, the plot-line carries the heft of reality.
Noting the pastoral setting and internal timespan (late summer to early spring) I chose a chromatic earth-tone palette inspired by late summer vegetables: eggplant, bell pepper, pumpkin and cucumber tones in period textiles of wool, cotton, linen, silk, leather, and lace.
Many of the costumes were acquired from various sources, so adherence to the silhouette and palette concept was important in unifying the aesthetic. An array of costume pieces was assembled in coordinating and contrasting colors to create base costumes for each chorus member, customizing each look and making the village a cohesive mix of individuals.
Translating the evolution of Linda’s journey into a visual language, a costume arc that progressed from simple innocence to complex reality was conceived, and overlays were used to communicate the progression. As the story is told through Linda’s perspective, all characters share her arc.
The opera opens with the villagers en route to church. White linen overlays delicately embellished with bits of lace gave a monochromatic frivolity and innocence to Act I. The male principals (in whose hands Linda’s fate rests) appear in dark tones: her father is in deep browns, the Prefect is in grays, and the Marquis is in blacks.
The structure of the libretto consists of three acts, the first and third of which are set in the village of Chamounix. Act II's setting and style stands alone. Having left the warm security of her village, Linda finds herself in the austere opulence of a fashionable Parisienne salon. It is winter in Paris. Blues, blacks and grays in silks, satins and refined wools punctuate the action and tone of the scene. The costume choices reflect high society rigidity by featuring elegant tail-suits and structured crinoline gowns.
By Act III, the villagers’ overlays are comprised of complex French country motifs originating from middle eastern textiles. The overlays reinterpret the late summer colors of the base costumes to a village in the bloom of early spring. Linda’s floral bouquet, cradled in her arms in Act I, has become a floral crown, and she is “home.” Her world has become a more complex place but perhaps more authentic. The finale promises a life of true love and fully grounded joy, and the opera ends in an explosion of color.