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SF Opera apprentices take center stage

Brianna Fristoe of Santa Fe, one of 73 apprentice technicians, adjusts a bow tie in the costume shop at the Santa Fe Opera. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
Brianna Fristoe of Santa Fe, one of 73 apprentice technicians, adjusts a bow tie in the costume shop at the Santa Fe Opera. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
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Annual concert series features novice singers, techs, costumers

SANTA FE – A yellow measuring tape necklacing her throat, Brianna Fristoe carefully knotted a silky bow tie around a mannequin’s neck.

The costume apprentice was “building” outfits for a golf-course scene from Berlioz’s comic Shakespeare-meets-opera “Benedict and Beatrice.”

Two mannequins in the Santa Fe Opera costume shop sported breeches, ties and vests in an explosion of argyle diamonds. Fristoe draped one figure in mostly white with windowpane breeches, while she transformed the second into a festival of bad fairway style, complete with a red plaid vest, green plaid breeches and argyle socks.

“I’m trying to bring back the breeches to make it even more ridiculous,” she said. “They come in on a golf cart having a ‘bro’ talk about Beatrice.”

She scrounged a pair of pink argyle socks for the caddy.

Fristoe is one of 73 apprentice technicians and 43 apprentice singers preparing for the Santa Fe Opera’s annual “Apprentice Scenes” concerts, the last of which is Sunday. The scenes are fully staged and costumed by the novice artists. Opera staff members chose the technicians from 700 applicants; the singers came from 1,000 hopefuls.

The Sunday lineup includes scenes from “Elektra,” “Billy Budd,” “Lakme,” “The Bartered Bride,” “Die Fledermaus,” “Giulio Cesare,” “Doubt” and “The Italian Girl in Algiers.”

Sarah Wyman of Los Alamos works in the costume shop at the Santa Fe Opera. Wyman is obsessed with period shows. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Sarah Wyman of Los Alamos works in the costume shop at the Santa Fe Opera. Wyman is obsessed with period shows. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The costume apprentices also stitch clothing for the SFO’s five productions: “Oscar,” “La Donna del Lago,” “The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein,” “The Marriage of Figaro” and “La Traviata.” They may also work in crafts or in the millinery shop.

“They become part of the wardrobe staff and work with the singers,” SFO costume director Erica Burds said.

The costume apprentices usually come from a theater background. Opera demands a different approach to wardrobe.

“Usually with a singer, they’re much more concerned with the breath they can take and how loose is this” clothing, Burds said. “They need motion and movement. That’s something new to (the apprentices). Usually, they’re thinking, ‘This is my character.’

“Singers tend to stand differently than actors,” Burds added. “Women may stand forward, so they have to adjust for that with the hems.”

When the individual production scenes debut, each costume apprentice creates her own ensembles from the opera’s extensive stock stashed in a basement beneath Stieren Hall, the orchestra’s rehearsal hall.

To participate, each must pen a cover letter explaining why they want to work with a specific director on a particular scene.

“It’s like applying for a job,” Burds said.

Santa Fe’s Brianna Fristoe buttons a vest on a golfing costume at the Santa Fe Opera. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Santa Fe’s Brianna Fristoe buttons a vest on a golfing costume at the Santa Fe Opera. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

The directors try to be specific while still giving the apprentices some freedom.

“They’ll talk about, ‘I want to set it in the 1950s in a picnic scene,'” Burds explained.

This summer marks Fristoe’s second year as an apprentice. The 30-year-old Santa Fe resident worked for a friend in London on costumes for such pictures as “High School Musical 1 and 2,” “Ratatouille” and “Yes Men.” She also studied at the London College of Fashion.

“I enjoy styling a lot,” she said.

“I collect lace and silk,” the acknowledged fabric junkie added. “I’m always hoarding fabric.”

“She’s very quiet, but she picks up a lot of things,” Burds said of Fristoe. “She has a different eye, because she has a background in fashion, which is refreshing for us.”

Fristoe recently designed her own swimwear line she hopes to sell online. She also wants to design clothing for modern dancers.

“I’m obsessed with Russian constructivism and geometry,” she said. “I’m obsessed with the Ballets Russes.”

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