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THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE: IN CONVERSATION

12.11.14

To coincide with the Royal Opera House' Live Cinema Series we've been delving into the world of the cultural institution for its 2014/15 season offering. For the final part in our series, we go behind the scenes at the Royal Opera House for an exclusive interview with Performance Support Technician, Stephen Frosdick. Discover how the venue's costumes come to life and learn about what life is like on the inside. For your chance to win £1000 of Reiss clothing, a night’s stay at The May Fair hotel and tickets to the Royal Opera House’ Live Cinema Season, enter our competition here.

Why did you want to work for the Royal Opera House?

I’ve always been in awe of the glamour of the Royal Opera House from a young age. Luckily my parents took me to see a ballet when I was about ten and since then I've always wanted to be part of such an inspiring and design-led organisation. Covent Garden is the hub of London and it’s exciting to work in the thick of it.

What inspired you to work within the costumes department?

I have a natural love of design and textiles so having the opportunity to help bring these stunning productions to life through my own creativity is thrilling.

How do contemporary fashions/trends within costume-making influence your designs?

Fashion trends throughout the years have always played a powerful role in ballet and opera costume designs. Each production - from the post-war The Sleeping Beauty in 1946 through to this year’s stunning production of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - capture the feel of their era. I suppose fashion itself is constantly changing and finding new ways to surprise us and we could say the same about the arts.

How many man-hours does it take to create the average costume?

A difficult question really – the time taken to make a costume can vary from fifty hours to literary thousands of hours depending on the production. Even with the most laborious projects it's always worth it in the end.

What is the process from a costume’s design to its completion?

Producing a costume is a lengthy process made up of numerous stages. We start with a briefing of the production and work our way through research, sketches, approval processes, perfecting final designs, sourcing materials, fitting costumes, and making adjustments. Some productions run for years and years so an interesting part of the job is ensuring that our costumes stay true to their original design as the years pass by.

What makes the Royal Opera House a unique place to work?

The variety. Every day at the Royal Opera House is so different from the last. As new productions come and go we’re constantly researching new ideas and finding new sources of inspiration.

What are the considerations unique to costume design?

We used to not have to worry about fabrics and accessories and how they looked up-close but now that we record so many of our productions in high definition for cinema and DVD, there's a much higher scrutiny of the up-close detail.

What has been your most memorable moment at the Royal Opera House?

It has to be my first visit to the auditorium. When I went in for my interview I was asked if I would like to see the department but I asked to see the auditorium in case I didn't get the job!

Which production has been the most inspirational to work on?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – especially designs for the Queen of Hearts!

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The team are incredibly busy and, when it comes to the finer detail, it’s often difficult to know when stop!

What is the one thing about your job which would most surprise people?

Probably the amount of running around we have to do! There’s constant communication between departments (with a 1000 people working at the Royal Opera House at any one time).  This means coordinating with hats & jewellery, the women’s and men’s workrooms, the dye department, the fabric library, designers, head cutters, tailors, stockroom managers and costume supervisors.

That and how closely we get to work with these amazing world-class artists. The last minute backstage tweaks, pulling them into a costume seconds before they go on stage!

For more in the series discover our Top Ten Independent Cinemas