Spoleto cleaning out closet and giving away years of opera costumes
BY EDWARD C. FENNELL
While cleaning out your bedroom closet, you’re flooded with memories as you grasp that outfit you wore to your class reunion in the 1980s.
That’s something like what Carolyn Kostopoulos is going through, except hundreds of times over.
Kostopoulos, who is wardrobe coordinator for the Spoleto Festival, is boxing up many hundreds of costumes used in opera and play productions. Part of the “treasure trove” of unique items, some more than 30 years old, have already been shipped to a New York costumes supplier.
Some of the outfits were designed and made by Kostopoulos, some were worn but once, some were made in Europe and some were sewed by hand. And, Kostopoulos said, every piece in the vast collection has a story behind it.
“For me it’s a big memory lane. I can look at all this and tell you what it was from, for the most part,” she said.
But Gaillard Auditorium storage areas have to be emptied to make way for a complete building makeover that may begin this year.
“In the beginning I was a little sad,” Kostopoulos said. She said she limited herself to two hours of sorting and packing each morning and each afternoon.
“It was emotionally draining,” Kostopoulos said. But the bright side of the story is, new opportunities will now open for the costumes.
“These things have been hiding too long and should be out there. They should have a second life,” she declared.
Kostopoulos said she’s known for about a year that the costumes would have to go. Some “street clothes” were donated to charities and thrift stores. But there is “some high end, fancy stuff here,” she added.
Temporarily donning a “Mercury” head ornament that she designed for “Le Comte Ory,” and seated near rows of boxed costumes labeled “Lady McBeth prisoners,” and “Butterfly,” Kostopoulos said most of the costumes are opera-related.
The collection grew over the years, she said. “When I came here in 1980, there was a little bit, and it’s grown. Every time we did an opera, we kept it.”
Helping pack up costumes are Aislinn Lacorazza and Anna Constantz, both of the wardrobe staff, and Alex Kosbab, a wardrobe production apprentice.
“It’s mind boggling to know that not only have some of these costumes been used only once, but also that they have been around my entire lifetime,” Lacorazza said
She said she’s fascinated by the stitching and other construction aspects she sees in the costumes.
Over the years, Spoleto has utilized the collection, as have visiting productions. Future visiting productions will have to arrive fully outfitted. “Shows will have to come here complete,” Kostopoulos said.
Spoleto expects it will be able to borrow the costumes, if needed in the future, from the New York firm it is donating them to, Kostopoulos said.
She said efforts to find buyers for the costumes were unsuccessful.
“Costumes are exceptionally expensive and very valuable, but they only have value when you’re doing opera. Otherwise they are as valuable as a cleaning rag,” Kostopoulos explained.