The Costumes of Kemp’s Jig

Usually, when we perform music from another time period, we have to close our eyes and imagine what the people playing it in the past would have looked like. But for our first concert of the season this year, entitled Kemp’s Jig, we are thrilled that you won’t have to use your imagination, because we’re actually going to be wearing period costumes to get into the fun!

Kemp’s Jig will include a collection of comedic musical skits that were popular on the Elizabethan stage. To look the part, we asked costume designer Meriem Bahri, who is known for her costumes for the Haymarket Opera Company and the Boston Early Music Festival, to help us out.

In Elizabethan times, touring comedians wouldn’t have completely new costumes for each role. Instead, they’d carry a stock of clothes and props, which they’d use to interpret the traditional characters of the Elizabethan theater. The comedians would dress for their characters using various costume pieces and props collected through the years, and the items would serve several purposes and would be worn by various actors as they played different roles.

In that spirit, some costumes for the jigs we’re performing are newly created especially for this show, while others are rented or loaned. We used some that were originally built for Chicago’s Haymarket Opera Company, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Boston Early Music Festival, and the Royal Opera House of London. The oldest piece (the servant’s dress) is probably the one made in Rome by Tirelli Costumi, for a 1975 production of Othello!

For the new costumes, we used a color palette or rust, blue, grey, beige and brown to coordinate with our borrowed pieces, and engravings and paintings of theatrical entertainments from the Elizabethan era inspired the designs.

We hope you’ll join us Oct. 21-23 to partake in the fun!

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