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  • ROH Collections Item of the Month: The Attilio Comelli Design Collection

ROH Collections Item of the Month: The Attilio Comelli Design Collection

This extensive and beautiful collection from a pioneer of opera costume design gives an invaluable insight into the history of stagewear.

By Paris Hart (Former ROH Collections Assistant)

19 November 2015 at 10.00pm | Comment on this article

ROH Collections holds around 1,500 original costume and accessory designs for productions at the Royal Opera House, dating as far back as the late 19th century. These designs are an invaluable resource for people interested in learning about how a production was staged. They show the vision designers had in the early stages of their work on a production, and can offer a fascinating insight into the working practices behind a production when compared with the costumes themselves.

The majority of the ROH’s Design Collection consists of works by Attilio Comelli. Comelli was a prolific Italian designer in the late 19th and early 20th century and was Artist in Chief at the Royal Opera House from the 1890s, as well as working at a number of other theatres around London. Comelli was a pioneer for in-house designers at the ROH; before him, opera singers were largely required to bring their own costumes, and on the rare occasions designers were used they were seldom credited in programmes as they are today.

The Comelli Design Collection includes designs for nearly eighty opera productions at the Royal Opera House. The designs vary in their nature; many were done in watercolour and pencil – pieces of art in their own right – while others are rough sketches. On many designs Comelli has signed and dated them, and noted additional information such as the character and wearer’s name and even their measurements. Many designs also have fabric samples attached, which shed further light on Comelli’s vision. Often Comelli placed designs for multiple characters on one sheet of paper, or detail different angles of one costume.

This beautiful collection not only shows how skilled a designer Attilio Comelli was, but also provides an invaluable record of the development of professional costume design.

Find out more about ROH Collections.

By Paris Hart (Former ROH Collections Assistant)

19 November 2015 at 10.00pm

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged #ArchivesRock, Atillio Comelli, costume, costume appeal, costume design, design, fashion, history, Item of the Month, ROH Collections

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