April 08, 2020

Wigs and Makeup in the RING

The Rings major challenge for wigmaster and makeup designer Sarah Hatten is the prosthetics for the giants. “Prosthetics are complicated, from coming up with a practical design – in this case, working from the images costumer designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca created – to how that can be realized, and how it functions onstage.  When we use prosthetics, they’re built to film quality, allowing us to transform someone into a specific character without adding lots of character makeup. This helps to create a realistic look. The world of our Ring is a more natural one and this allows the extreme characters to fit in.”

As in the Rheingold premiere (2016/17), the giants’ prosthetics are again a full head and face, “and this time we’re adding a cowl.” Hatten worked with Anthony Kozar, a Chicago-based effects artist: “He created the practical design. We did makeup tests and then modified how the prosthetics were positioned on the singers’ faces. In Siegfriedwe added prosthetic arms for Fafner that we didn’t have in Rheingold.” Wotan’s eye, too, needed a prosthetic. “The singer’s own eye is covered – the prosthetic is made out of foam latex and is glued down with a medical adhesive. He has to do the entire cycle with visibility in only one eye.”

When the stage crew are in the underworld, “they wear welding masks. Mime has gold in his own hair and all over his body, because he’s been working with the gold. Marie-Jeanne takes into consideration who the artist is and what they bring to the role. We really collaborate: she develops a particular world, I find the materials for it, and I execute it – it morphs from where her idea starts to what the reality is. For example, we try to work with everyone’s own hair. We add color, extensions, hairpieces, even gold foil, to help alter their everyday looks to make their characters believable.”

Lyric’s wig staff created the Ring wigs, including dreadlocks for Wotan and the Valkyries, which proved particularly time-consuming. “Their base color is a natural hair color, varying according to each person, then with red added in. We worked on them for two months. Erda’s wig has an especially lived-in look, like an old woman who hasn’t cared for herself, but we simply teased a lovely grey wig and made it frizzy. The subtle transformations make a giant impact. There’s a human element in everybody’s look, which I think is unique to this Ring, compared to others that are so fantastical.”

Photo: Kyle Flubacker