“Il Costume Prende Vita”: Courses for Costume Designers and Costume Technicians Lead by Professionals of the Teatro Alla Scala Academy, Milan, Italy

Project location: Italy, Milano
Project start date: January 2011 - Project end date: June 2011
Project number: 2010-31
Beneficiary: Fondazione Accademia d’Arti e Mestieri dello Spettacolo Teatro alla Scala

The Fondazione Accademia Teatro alla Scala will organize two training courses for costume designers and costume technicians in Milan.
The project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, has an ambitious goal: to give the participants of the above-mentioned courses the opportunity of working together for the creation of the costumes of an important event, the graduation ceremony performed by the dancers of the Ballet School of the Accademia.
The students will contribute to the project by using their own skills and competences. Teachers from both courses will follow the project accompanying them through the often delicate moments of communication and exchange of opinions with the fellow students and supporting them in the specific tasks they will be asked to accomplish.

The course for set and costume designers

The course takes place at the Ansaldo ex-factory, headquarters of the Laboratories of Teatro alla Scala; this is an ideal location for the training, as it offers the students the opportunity to be personally involved in the creation process connected to the big productions of the Theatre. The coordinator of the course, Mr Angelo Sala, is the head of the Stage Laboratories of Teatro alla Scala.

The two-year training, consisting in classes, practical workshops and internships, aims at preparing the students to conceive, plan and make sets and costumes for the opera as well as for theatre, cinema, television and other events. Among the subjects taught:
- guided listening of the opera;
- music and theatre history;
- sculpture techniques;
- theatre carpentry;
- light engineering;
- technical English;
- IT applied to set design.
Throughout the various editions of the past years, the students had the opportunity to encounter famous directors, set and costume designers, such as Graham Vick, Tullio Pericoli, Luca Ronconi, Peter Stein, Roberto De Simone, Hugo De Ana, Franco Zeffirelli, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Franca Squarciapino, Luisa Spinatelli.

The course for costume technicians

 The course trains professionals who will be able to produce theatre costumes, from the actual manufacture to the maintenance and storage, providing specific knowledge about the theatre costume making. Throughout the years classes have been years by experienced teachers and influential theatre professionals.

The subjects taught include:
- guided listening of the opera;
- history of the costume;
- cutting and making techniques;
- costume decoration (dyeing and embroidery);
- Television and cinema costume making;
- IT applied to dressmaking;
- professional orientation.

The internship experience plays a fundamental role in the training. The students visit various companies and have the opportunity to observe different techniques and methodologies, and to notice how differently the work can be organized, both from a relational and from a professional point of view. The internship is an extraordinary occasion to discover and enhance one's preferences and potential and to develop flexibility as a fundamental requisite of the job.
During the experience the students follow all the phases for the creation of a live production, before and during the show.
The first internship takes place in costume-making laboratories, such as Brancato Costumi Teatrali, Milan; Fondazione Ente Autonomo Piccolo Teatro di Milano - Teatro d'Europa, Milan; Fondazione Teatro regio, Turin; Operà National de Paris, Paris; Teatro dell'Opera, Rome; Teatro Sociale di Como.
The second internship experience takes place within the teams of Teatro alla Scala's costume unit.

The courses will be organized as follows:

Phase 1 - Premises
Students involved: costume designers and costume technicians.
- Meeting between the costume designers and the choreographer/director of the show;
- History of the costume*;
- Guided listening*.
*Focused on the specific choreography of the show.
- Group lessons.

Phase 2 - Conception
Students involved: costume designers.
- The designers conceive the artistic idea for the costumes;
- Drawings and fashion sketches are created.
- Individual work sessions with the support of the teachers.

Phase 3 - Creation
3.1 - Sharing the idea
Students involved: costume designers and costume technicians.
- Analysis and discussion of the designers' ideas by the technicians;
- Adjustments of the sketches.
- Meetings in group;
- Discussions in small groups (1 or 2 designers plus 1 or 2 technicians)*.
*According to the number of outfits necessary.
3.2 - Manufacturing
Students involved: costume technicians.
- Choice of the appropriate fabrics/techniques to create the costumes;
- Cutting and sewing;
- Costume rehearsals.
- Individual manufacturing sessions with the support of the teachers;
- Occasional updating in group involving the designers.
3.3 - Review
Students involved: costume designers.
- The designers revise the costumes, elaborating, decorating, adding accessorizes:
- The technicians can be asked for modifications.
- Discussions in small groups (designers-technicians);
- Individual manufacturing review by the technicians.

Phase 4 - On stage
Students involved: costume designers, costume technicians and dancers.
- During the rehearsals the dancers check the comfort and practicality of the outfits;
- Final adjustments;
- Début of the dancers and assistance by the costume technicians from behind the scenes.

Anticipated achievements or outcomes of the projects
The achievements of the project will be first of all the training of 16 costume technicians and 8 costume designers (24 students).
The specific achievements will be:
- Experience of apprenticeship for the costume designers to understand the real dynamics and rhythms of the professional sphere, from the conception of the creative idea to the final decoration of the outfit.
- Experience of apprenticeship for the costume technicians to understand the real dynamics and rhythms of the professional sphere, from the first cut of the fabric to the final adjustments on the body of the artist.
- Transmission to the students of the important value of collaboration within the work in partnership for the fulfillment of a shared objective.
- Verification by the Accademia of the students' maturity, competences, skills, of their ability to work in team and to exchange expertise and know-how.
- Transmission of an antique handcraft tradition requiring artistic awareness and sensitivity.
- Transmission of the historic artistic tradition incorporated in the Italian opera theatre and ballet.
- Response to the necessity expressed by the opera theatres to involve highly specialized professionals in their productions.


- The creation of as many outfits as requested by the choreographer and of as many costumes as requested by the number of dancers involved in the performance.
- The staging of a performance able to tour in Italy and abroad.

Fondazione Accademia Teatro alla Scala was born in 2001, promoted by Fondazione Teatro alla Scala with the aim of favouring the training of the artistic and technical professionals of the Theatre (as stated by the law on the Lyric Theatre Foundations as well as by the Theatre statute itself) and, at the same time, with the aim of preserving and enhancing its own artistic, historic and cultural heritage through the transmission of knowledge.
The Accademia is structured in four departments: Dance, Music, Stage and Laboratories, and Management; next to the artistic disciplines (opera singers, the orchestra, the prestigious Scuola di Ballo that during its 191 years of activity has been training some of the mayor talents in the world) the entrepreneurial and technical disciplines range from the stage technicians to the electricians/installers. Two relevant structures support the work of the four departments: the Centre for Professional Guidance in the field of the performing arts and the Research Centre.
One of the strongest points of the Accademia is represented by its teaching staff, constituted for the 80% by the Theatre's employees, having among its statutory goals the objective of promoting, favouring and increasing the education, training, updating, educational and professional guidance through specialization courses, through the production of opera and theatre performances, through researches, exhibitions, workshops, meetings and agreements with Italian and international institutions such as universities, foundations, conservatories, social partners and schools.
Accademia Teatro alla Scala is currently running 35 courses, enrolling about 600 students every year. The Accademia also offers a wide range of workshops and seminars, which every year involve over one hundred pupils.
The Stage and Laboratories Department of Accademia Teatro alla Scala offers a wide choice of courses: for mechanics, electricians, light designers, video makers, photographers, make up artists and hairdressers, as well as a course for set and costume designers and a course for costume technicians, born from the will and commitment of two very important professionals of Teatro alla Scala.
The course for set and costume designers was conceived and implemented in its first editions by Mr Tito Varisco, director of the set production department from 1970 to 1978, while Mrs Cinzia Rosselli, responsible for the dressmakers department of Teatro alla Scala, founded the course for costume technicians back in 1997.

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