A costume workshop and natural dyeing

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After six years of restoring the identity of the Opéra Comique, the theater's management supplements its mission with the transmission of craftsmanship. After launching the Academy of the Opéra Comique dedicated to singing in 2012, another activity defines the trademark of our theater: its costume workshop.

The Opéra Comique is one of the few French opera houses with a costume workshop where cloths, patterns, fabrics have been conserved for over a century in order to richly document period costumes. Our Workshop offers high competence in terms of fabric cutting, material research and new colors. During the 2007-2008 season the Workshop complemented its activities with the dyeing process so as to endow costume designers with greater originality. This new creative collaboration, initiated along with Christian Lacroix, was first implemented in the production of Roméo et Juliette, premiered in April 2008.

In 2012, the Opéra Comique developed a natural dyeing workshop by gradually discarding chemical dyes in favor of plant and animal pigments such as madder and cochineal. The recent development of concentrated extracts of plants has resulted in a new natural dyeing method. Far from being old-fashioned, the use of such pigments greatly improves the creative approach and dialogue between costume designers and makers as the color spectrum is much wider and deeper than that obtained with synthetic dyes.

This technique also complies with sustainable development as dye baths are reusable and not harmful to users or the environment – waste water can be disposed of without any pollution.

The natural dyeing workshop of the Opéra Comique is a way to enhance the theater's craftsmanship and develop the artists' creativity and the originality of costumes.

The first natural dyeing tests were performed for the production of the Ballets de Noverre in December 2012. The tableau “les naïades” in the ballet Renaud et Armide was entirely made with this technique.
In Marouf, savetier du Caire by Henri Rabaud scheduled in June 2013, the natural dyeing technique appealed to the costume designer, Vanessa Sannino, which she largely used for the costumes of the production, especially “the parachute dress” worn by Princess Saamcheddine in Act 3, Fatoumah’s costumes in Act 1, the women at the marketplace, the neighbors and the caravaners in the finale of Act 5.
In January 2014 nearly all the costumes in Lakmé by Léo Delibes were made with this technique. A great variety of vegetable extracts were used as dyes such as buckthorn, coreopsis for yellows, catechu, oak, myrobalan and madder for ochres, oak galls with iron for gray whites, cochineal, indigo and logwood for purples, weld and chlorophyll for greens.
This new skill arouses growing interest in professionals of textile and fashion industries, especially trainers who are regularly invited to discover this technique at the Opéra Comique.

Discover further photos of the costume workshop for the 2012-2013 season at the Opéra Comique here >

With the support of :
 

Fondation d'entreprise Hermès