Thursday, August 2, 2012

Opera Canceled Due To Rain Inside Theater, Beautiful Costume Designs Remain Dry

By Stephen J. Gertz

 In Budapest, for the first time in history, an opera was called off on account of rain. It was to be Offenbach's La Belle Helene at the Municipal Theatre and the fire inspector was making his rounds 15 minutes before curtain time. He tried this exit, examined that extinguisher. He touched a wrong lever and stage rain fell, beat upon the scenery until all was ruined, and no performance possible (Time Magazine, Music Notes, December 19, 1928).
That indoors weather disaster prevented the production's costumes seen here from being seen there, back then. They are, apparently, the only production artifacts that survived aprés le déluge.

These delicate and detailed watercolor drawings from Hungary, 1928, are the original costume designs for that production of Jules Offenbach's 1864 3-act opéra bouffe.

The costumes depict all the main character roles, Helen of Troy, Paris, Agammenon and Menelaus as well as nearly thirty designs for the chorus including dancers, workers and soldiers.

Each watercolor is captioned in Hungarian with the name of the character and possesses the signature of the artist in pencil, "Gücs." Who Gücs was remains a mystery. "Gücs" is a Hungarian toponym; perhaps the artist used it as a nom de brush.

This production of Le Belle Hélène was and remains, apparently, the only time in opera history that a weather report served as a review, with the opera's producers raining tears upon an already sodden stage.

Images courtesy of Shapero Rare Books, currently offering this item, with our thanks.

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