'The Merry Widow' photography by Mark Lyons.

Discussing ‘The Merry Widow’ Costumes with Student Designer Greta Stokes

The Merry Widow Costume Designer Greta Stokes recently sat down with CCM Public Information Assistant and DMA student Charlotte Kies to discuss the work that went into this delightful new production of Franz Lehár’s most popular operetta.

Charlotte Kies: Hi Greta! What can you tell me about your inspiration for these costumes?

Juliana Rucker draped and built this charming blue dress for Valencienne. Photography by Steve Shin.

Juliana Rucker draped and built this charming blue dress for Valencienne. Photo by Steve Shin.

Greta Stokes: Although the opera was written right around the turn of the 20th century, we knew we wanted to create a more modern silhouette for the women’s garments, like the same kind of idea behind Dior’s new look of the 1950s.

But when we began working with the text and thinking about how the actors are interacting we kind of let go of the design being so strict. It became more 50s, 60s, 90s, now. It became looser and less of a period piece, because it’s not a stiff opera. It doesn’t need to be historical.

When I first got assigned this show I watched an old production of it, I looked at old stills and I got a feel for what the opera used to be. At this point we had already decided on the 50’s. If you look at my Pinterest board it starts with these beautiful black and white photos. And then you can see how after every conversation I had with [Merry Widow director] Professor Emma Griffin the board gets crazier and crazier, and brighter, and begins to include things that aren’t from the 50’s at all, like these modern fashion collections and this weird art. It started out very demure, with lots of little black dresses. And then it just got wild, and the cast is really into it. It has been a great kind of build up to that and I think that the result is really interesting and different and fun.

Greta Stokes' design concept for Hanna's dress.

Greta Stokes’ design concept for Hanna’s dress.

CK: So the costumes are not specific to one decade?

GS: They’re mid-century flavored. There are a lot of brighter colors, and we took a lot of inspiration from more modern fashion houses. There’s a lot of Prada and Dolce & Gabbana resort lines right now that are very colorful. Our costumes are those two ideas [vintage and modern] married together.

When people come in for a fitting for a period piece and they’re putting high-fitted pleated pants on you, they look great if you’re doing a strictly 50’s show. Even though they look great on stage, you can tell the actors are uncomfortable in them. So to have a modern cut with a vintage feel, I know my performers will go on stage feeling comfortable and good about how they look, and you can really see that in their movements.

CK: Can you tell me about your design process?

GS: We started looking at research in the middle of last semester before it was cast. All of the designers got together to discuss concepts, colors schemes and how we would interact with each other. We built research collages and talked about what inspired us. From there I decided what pieces needed to be built for the performers. Our lead character’s costume is getting built from scratch. We discussed how the characters are in this made-up country at an embassy in Paris and what that might look like. We got to decide what and where that country was. We decided on something eastern European, but I incorporated little bits of different European cultures into a made-up folk costume so you’ll see elements of that. There are two characters that are wearing kilts and one in lederhosen. There are little flavors of recognizable folk traditions scattered among the Petrovenians. It’s off the wall but still a little controlled. When I’m in the costume shop and all around me are flower crowns and lederhosen and kilts and a bunch of tuxedoes, I feel I should be telling people “I swear I’m not crazy, I promise this will make sense!” Fingers crossed!

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photography by Steve Shin.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.

CK: Does Hanna have a costume change in the middle of the show?

GS: She kind of does, she has this outer shell made with beautiful pink dupioni. The shell comes off later in the opera as the acts and the parties go on. And there are so many crystals on that black skirt, it’s gonna be on fire.

CK: How are these costumes different from costumes you might see in another version?

GS: In the original versions there are HUGE choruses and they’re all wearing these crazy costumes that are all very expensive and lavish. Older productions were all about the costumes, and the performers just kind of walk around the stage going “lalala, look at my giant hat, lalalalala.”

Ours is a condensed, smaller cast. It’s still a lot of people, but because we have created more modern clothing, it has become really more about their movement. The idea is that they’re drinking, moving from one party to the next. They’re having a really good time.

CK: How much liberty do you have? Do you get to design whatever you want? Do you have any restrictions or guidelines?

In Act II, the party guests reconvene at Hanna Glawari’s house for a garden party. Brian Horton built these hats for the characters, who decide that Hanna’s garden is better suited for their outfits. Photography by Steve Shin.

In Act II, the party guests reconvene at Hanna Glawari’s house for a garden party. Brian Horton built these hats for the characters, who decide that Hanna’s garden is better suited for their outfits. Photo by Steve Shin.

GS: We operate under the guidance of Professor Dean Mogle, head of the Costume Design and Technology program at CCM. I would say we are restricted by what we are able to get. Obviously there are time restrictions, as well. I couldn’t ask them to build every single tuxedo, so we purchased tuxedos. I designed Hanna’s costume to look like a mix between Marilyn Monroe and Anna Nicole Smith.

As for the dancers, I actually found these vintage dresses that we had in stock that were specifically dance dresses. Because we are not doing a traditional can-can we can use these really full, floofy skirts with all these sparkles and stuff. In Act II they’re all at Hanna’s house for a garden party and the women take these flowers off of the set and put them on their hats. They are completely ruining her garden, and she totally does not care.

Professor Griffin is incredible to work with. She is so great at letting designers have liberties, while still reining us in or pushing us forward. It is really nice to have all those liberties, to be able to create this world out of nothing and figure out what exists in it.

CK: Is it the same dress design for the two Hanna’s?

GS: Yes, but they are built to fit each performer. The design will be the same, but the fit will be different just because the bodies are.

CK: How much work are you doing outside of CCM while you’re also a student?

GS: Oh, not a lot, because I’m a little busy! I am working on The Little Prince right now for Cincinnati Chamber Opera as the costume designer/coordinator.

I also work for New Edgecliff Theatre. We just closed Frankie & Johnny in the Clare de Lune and we’ll be back in the spring with The Shape of Things.

CK: Have you enjoyed your time as a student at CCM?

GS: Of course yes! I am from Columbus, so I’m not too far from my family. This school is incredible. I love how hands-on it is and how we’re really working as a professional theatre would. We are learning to interact with each other and not just in our own little worlds.

CK: How did you get into costume design?

GS: I am a non-traditional student, so I ‘m quite a bit older. I did theatre in high school. I worked in the costume shop. I did a little acting, but I wasn’t very good! I stitched. I was friends with all of the theatre kids and I really liked it. My grandmother was a dress designer so I would always go play with her dressmaking tools and pocket a few of them. I continued to work in vintage stores for a long time doing alterations for vintage clothing.

I have always been working with clothing, and this made more sense than fashion. I have always really loved the theatre community and I feel like it has a really good turnover. It’s not like “oh, polka-dots are so in right now.” It’s a constant challenge.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.

Maria Lenn built and draped this dashing red and black dress for Jessica Faselt (playing Hanna Glawari on Friday and Sunday) from Greta Stokes’ designs. Lenn is fitting Faselt while Stokes and her assistant, Sarah Red Redden look on as Stokes’ designs come to life. Photo by Steve Shin.


Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow runs Nov. 19 – 22 in Patricia Corbett Theater. Tickets are $31-35 for adults, $20-24 for non-UC students and $18-22 UC students with a valid ID. $12-$15 student rush tickets will become available one hour prior to each performance; limit two student rush tickets per valid ID.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the CCM Box Office, over the telephone at 513-556-4183 or online at ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage/merry-widow.

CCM Season Presenting Sponsor and Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation

Mainstage Season Production Sponsor: Macy’s

Community Partner: ArtsWave

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CCM alumnus Carmine Miranda. Photography by Cody Vickers.

CCM Alumnus Carmine Miranda Releases New Album to Rave Reviews

Album cover for Carmine Miranda's recording of Piatti's 12 Caprices.CCM alumnus and current doctoral candidate Carmine Miranda (BM Violoncello, 2010; MM Violoncello, 2012) is making waves with his latest recording project, which unearths Carlo Alfredo Piatti’s 12 Caprices for solo cello. This Navona Records release is already receiving rave reviews from music critics around the world.

“Piatti (1822-1901) was a renowned virtuoso and teacher whose name had faded into obscurity – except to cellists, who know his 12 Caprices from their studies,” explains Mary Ellyn Hutton in her review for Music in Cincinnati. “Miranda… seeks to return them to the active repertoire, to take their place beside Niccolo Paganini’s Caprices for Solo Violin and Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello and not treated ‘as mere etudes’,” she continues.

Fanfare Magazine describes the album as, “incredible performances of works that should interest every cellist and that should be in the library of anyone who appreciates the cello and hearing it played by a consummate master like Carmine Miranda.”

According to CCN, “at a mere 25 years of age, this recording places Carmine Miranda as the youngest cellist to professionally record and release this repertoire worldwide.”

Miranda’s Piatti: 12 Caprices for Solo Cello is available now through Amazon, iTunes, Classics Online, Spotify and the Naxos Music Library. Learn more about the album by visiting http://navonarecords.com.

About Carmine Miranda
Born in Valencia in 1988 to Italian immigrants and moving to the United States at an early age, Carmine Miranda is a Venezuelan/American cellist, international soloist and recording artist. Miranda began his musical studies at the age of seven at the Carabobo State Music Conservatory in Venezuela, where he studied his first years of Theory and Solfege, finally graduating from the Private Institute of Musical Education or I.P.E.M. He studied cello with cellists Luisa Fuentes, Valmore Nieves and William Molina, at the Latin-American Academy of Violoncello, and the Simon Bolivar Conservatory of Music (the institution that spawned the famous “El Sistema”). At the same time he was a member of the National Youth Orchestra and the Orchestra of Beethoven under the direction of maestro Giuseppe Sinoppoli.

At CCM, he studied with Lee Fiser and Yehuda Hanani, obtaining a Bachelors of Arts in music, Masters Degree and Doctorate’s degree candidacy. He has participated in several music competitions as a soloist and chamber player winning several recognitions and awards at a national and international level.

An avid soloist, Miranda has performed with several chamber ensembles, orchestras and has performed in prominent concert halls and music festivals including Carnegie Hall, the Aula Magna Hall (one of the largest and most important halls in Latin America), Bowdoin Music Festival, Close Encounters with Music Series in Great Barrington, NY, among others. Miranda has collaborated with recognized international artists such as Yehuda Hanani, Awadagin Pratt, Rodolfo Saglimbeni, Spanish composer Luis Serrano Alarcón and Grammy Nominated composer Michael Hoppé.

At the age of 22, Miranda recorded the Six Cello Suites by Johann Sebastian Bach under the label Centaur Records, joining the ranks of the youngest in the world to record the entire work. In 2013 Carmine completed the United States premiere of Nikita Koshkin’s “L’istesso Tempo” composition for cello and guitar. He was also selected to represent the University of Cincinnati as a soloist for a multi-state American tour with the CCM Wind Orchestra culminating with an opening night performance at the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA) National Conference in North Carolina’s Aycock Auditorium. Currently Miranda is a recording artist for Parma Navona Records and plays on a 2005 Jules Azzi cello made in New York City.

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Getting to Know Wesley Fay Yount, CCM Graduating Senior and Stage Management Major

Graduating senior Wesley Fay Yount.

Graduating senior Wesley Fay Yount.

This December, Wesley Fay Yount of Centerville, Ohio will graduate from the University of Cincinnati with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from CCM’s highly selective stage management program. At the age of 20, Yount will be the youngest recipient of a bachelor’s degree in UC’s Fall Commencement Ceremony. Thanks to CCM’s immersive stage management program, she has already gained a wealth of professional experience in her field of choice.

Yount was first drawn to the performing arts through Centerville High School’s theatre program and she found the role of the stage manager particularly intriguing. “Stage management always appealed to me because I saw it as the perfect blend between the artistic and the technical,” she says.

“The stage manger’s task is to take care of the details so that the director, designers and cast can be free to develop the art of the production,” explains CCM Professor of Stage Management Michele Kay. In many ways, the stage manager serves as the logistical nexus for complex productions and is often called upon to think and react quickly in critical situations.

In short, Yount characterizes a stage manager as “a leader, confidant, facilitator, conductor, puzzle-solver, handyman and encyclopedia.”

Coming to UC was an easy choice for Yount. “When I discovered in my college search that one of the top technical theatre schools in the country was less than an hour from my hometown, it was a no-brainer,” she says. “The faculty’s real-world experience and connections, the resources available to students and the scale and sheer number of productions set CCM apart from other BFA programs.”

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CCM Doctoral Student Named Artistic Director of Dayton’s Musica Chamber Choir

CCM student Michael Fuchs will serve as new artistic director for Dayton, Ohio's Musica.

CCM student Michael Fuchs will serve as new artistic director for Dayton, Ohio’s Musica.

Congratulations to CCM doctoral candidate Michael Fuchs on being named new artistic director of Musica, a Dayton-based professional choral ensemble.

Pam McGinnis recently profiled Fuchs for the Dayton Daily News. You can read her feature online here.

Fuchs is pursuing a doctoral degree in choral conducting at CCM, where he also conducts the UC Women’s Chorus and is co-director of the Collegium Vocale.

The UC Men’s and Women’s Choruses open their season on Tuesday, Nov. 5, with a concert of traditional and contemporary choral works featuring Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Gustav Holst’s Two Psalms.

Learn more about Choral Studies at CCM here.

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CCM Students Give Back To The Community With Cincinnati Out Reach Music Project

Cincinnati’s Fox 19 recently profiled the Cincinnati Out Reach (COR) Music Project, an after-school program co-founded and directed by CCM graduate students Deron Hall and Louisa Shepherd.

“COR Music Project aligns my professional arena with my personal arena as far as the things I am most interested in,” Hall explains. “I have a really strong interest in using the arts to change lives.”

Read Fox 19’s feature here.

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Getting to Know UC Cincinnatus Presidential Scholarship Recipients Michael Dudley and Christa Iwu

Two CCM students are among the University of Cincinnati’s 13 incoming freshmen awarded full, $88,000 Cincinnatus Presidential scholarships. Since 1997, UC’s Cincinnatus Scholarship Program has provided different levels of awards for academic achievement, leadership and commitment to community service. As part of their scholarship commitment, each scholarship recipient will perform 30 hours of community service each year. The full, $88,000 awards cover tuition, fees, room and board and books.

Michael Dudley and Christa Iwu recently spoke with UC’s Dawn Fuller about why they chose UC’s College-Conservatory of music to pursue their studies.

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