Salmon Arm costume designer Keren Huyter fitting Carmen Harris, who is playing Musetta, into her dress. -Photo contributed

Costumer tackles operatic challenge

Keren Huyter outfits 57 characters for Opera Kelowna’s La Boheme

It’s possible that no woman in Salmon Arm has more clothes in her house than Keren Huyter. On Facebook she posted a picture that shows jam-packed racks surrounded by boxes overflowing with shoes and hats, large plastic bags squeezed together, and even the window sill is piled high with items. Walking space is at a minimum.

But none of it is hers. As costume designer for Opera Kelowna, Huyter is in charge of costumes for 57 people for Puccini’s opera, La Boheme.

“It’s very crowded in here. I do have quite the challenge,” says Huyter, “just the sheer amount of people, and the main characters are coming from all over the globe.”

In fact, one of the actors sent his measurement chart back to her in German.

“I’m pretty good at puzzles, I figured it out,” she says laughing.

The Opera Kelowna’s version is set in the 1920s, so Huyter spent a lot of time scouring local shops for vintage pieces as well as sewing costumes for the main characters.

“Some (characters) just need old pea-coats. I found some at the NOSBIS garage sale. The story takes place in the winter so everyone has coats and hats on. I was at the Shuswap Theatre, upstairs at Church’s Thrift Store, and I got a bunch at the Mental Health Thrift Store. I scored pretty good, and I had my own stash.”

This is Huyter’s second year with Opera Kelowna. Last year she did costumers for their production of The Magic Flute.

“It was all from scratch, and it was more fairy tale so it was more challenging because I had to create.”

This year included a lot of shopping but she did get to make the main characters’ outfits.

“I often work until two in the morning. I do most of my work between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. That’s when people are leaving me alone, I’m uninterrupted. I love being interrupted but that doesn’t bode well for getting work done.”

Huyter loves the challenge of creating unique costumes.

“The females need to look extra special and the toy seller is a Willy Wonky type.”

Huyter still has lots of work to do but the costume fitting went perfectly, from the lead characters to the 19 children in the chorus. Now with the fittings done, it’s dress rehearsal time and then, the big night.

“Dress rehearsals make me nervous but on opening night I’m fine.”

She will be there in case any emergency repairs are needed but she knows that the costumes aren’t going to be that comfortable.

“The action takes place in winter. They are onstage under lighting. The main characters get a bit of reprieve because they’re supposed to be indoors and don’t have to wear coats. The chorus members are going to cook. I don’t know if they know that yet.”

Show dates are Friday, August 18, and Saturday, August 19, 7:30 p.m. There are still some tickets left. Order online at operakelowna.com