Festival profile • Anne Theresia Wanders

Tailor at the Bayreuth Festival since 2018

I was born in …

… Duisburg. Training as a costum dressmaker provided the foundation for me to study Fashion Design. After publishing a book, working as a journalist and as lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg and the University of West London, I spent three years in London as a creative pattern cutter for such major design companies as Tom Ford and Ralph & Russo. Back in Germany, I was employed at Dortmund Theatre as a costume assistant.

Although I am actually a dressmaker by training, …

… I am working here in Bayreuth as a tailor. I am thrilled by the possibility of being able to work flexibly on different tasks. At the moment, I am mainly occupied with sewing trousers for various soloists in the new production of Lohengrin. Working here is completely different from the world of fashion, because we need to do far more by hand, and it requires more patience. Another point is that the costumes have to satisfy different requirements. They need to be quick to alter to fit a different figure, but still feel comfortable, of course; they need to be durable and look great – and the singer has to feel relaxed in them so that he feels at ease in the role and can sing properly. In a fashion collection, for example, you may have three fabrics in different colours. At the Festival, the quality of the material, the richness, the thickness, the drape, are all very varied. I am already looking forward to the dress rehearsals, when the costumes, sets, music and stage directions all come together and it will definitely be easier to understand the overall concept.

For us in the costumes department …

… the fittings with the performers are important. Some performers have already been around to try on their costumes, other fittings are still to come. Arranging times requires a great deal of coordination, especially with the famous singers, whose schedules are very tight. By the dress rehearsal at the latest, everything has to fit, and we hope that nothing will need altering after the rehearsal, but that can always happen, of course.

My work on the Grüner Hügel is unique, because …

… you learn a lot of new things in a very concentrated way. It is only my second experience in theatre and my first time at the festival. When I talk to my family, I sometimes describe it in a quite flippant way and say, it is a bit like a holiday camp with work to do. That does not mean that we do not take our work seriously or that we take things easy – we work very steadily, with ambition and professional pride. Even so, the atmosphere is simply great. Old colleagues are really happy to see each other again, and newcomers like me are immediately made to feel part of the family. There are a few rituals, such as “the music outing” on Mondays, when we go to a rustic pub. You can have a schnitzel there, there is folk music to sing along with, and an elderly lady wanders from one table to another, telling two dirty jokes at each stop. It is just quaint! We would probably never do anything like that at home, but here it is just a fun experience.

A special experience on the Grüner Hügel …

… was of course when our Lohengrin jumped ship. I find it a pity personally, because I sewed his trousers. It must be one of the best moments when a singer is wearing a costume that you have sewn yourself, and you can allow yourself a touch of pride. Now of course, we are presented with an exciting challenge as we produce a complete new outfit for a new performer.

Richard Wagner’s music …

… is something I am still getting used to. In the workshop, we have a television and can hear the music being broadcast from the rehearsals, and I must say that I do find what I hear extremely intense. When I’m working, it can sometimes be too much for me, but I can well imagine being carried away in the rehearsal. I am really looking forward to hearing the special sound in Bayreuth.

When I am not on the Grüner Hügel, …

… I write regularly, passionately, and simply cannot stop: poems, short stories, essays, my blog. I sometimes give poetry readings and am always looking for kindred spirits who would like to join me in turning them into films, for example. It is really more than a mere hobby.

After Bayreuth, I am considering becoming a freelance creative pattern cutter and tailor again; I just love adapting to new situations and places. Perhaps I’ll become a wandering journeywoman. After my apprenticeship, I did not do my journeywoman years, so perhaps I’ll go on my own personal travels now.

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