HOUSTON -- If there's a difference between designing costumes for theater and for the opera, said Anita Yavich, it's one of scale. A rising young costume designer for the theater, the 32-year-old is making her debut at a major opera house with her array of guises for Houston Grand Opera's revival of Madame Butterfly. Having opened on January 23, Puccini's tragic love story, pitting Japanese tradition against American ethnocentrism at the turn of the century, continues through February 15.
Sometimes in theater, Yavich explained, designers can get to know actors, dressing them personallyas in individuallywhereas in opera oftentimes costumes must be more utilitarianas in interchangeablesince many shows are co-productions in which various singers alternative a given role, wearing the same garb. In theater, venues are typically smaller, and more intimate, than in opera; consequently, in the former details can be stitched in for the effect, while in the latter such flourishes have to be hemmed in for more basic patterns. The goal in both cases: costumes easily read by viewers. But while the inherent process remains similar, the overall perspective changes.
A Hong Kong native, Yavich deduced that her Asian descent influenced her decision-making on Madame Butterfly. But in a subliminal way. "I'm not Japanese, so it's not that I remember something specific from my past, such as what my parents wore. And I came here [to the United States] when I was very young."
A resident of New York City, Yavich has created the frocks for such recent New York productions as Mere Mortals and Others at the John Houseman Theater, Easter at Naked Angels, and Cloud Tectonics at Playwrights Horizons, and for such recent regional offerings as Uncle Vanya at Yale Repertory Theatre and The Tempest at Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival.
Houston Grand Opera's revival of Madame Butterfly continues at the Wortham Theater Center's Brown Theater through February 15. For tickets, $20 - $175, call (713) 227-ARTS or 1-800-828-ARTS. -- By Peter Szatmary