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San Francisco Opera Moves Costume Sale Online to Raise Funds for Opera House Staff

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- The San Francisco Opera has been silenced by the pandemic but, over the weekend, they've offered their fans something special -- a way to own a piece of the pageantry of the art form they love.

For the first time in six years -- and the first time ever virtually -- the San Francisco Opera hosted an online costume sale to benefit the cast and crew of the War Memorial Opera House.

Costumes for the San Francisco Opera

"Opera is the culmination of all the great art forms together," said San Francisco Opera costume shop manager, Jai Alltizer. "You have dance, you have singing, you have orchestra and movement. And so, grand costumes help to tell the stories of those characters on the stage."

Those costumes are stored in a nondescript building south of San Francisco. With casts of up to 100 players, the outfits number in the thousands. So, to make room, they staged a little shopping spree.

"What we've seen, especially in the last 24 hours, is our digital costume sale has really exploded," said Alltizer on Saturday.

Five hundred costumes were snapped up on Friday, leaving only about 60-70 left for sale. Most of the items came from three shows, Die Fledermaus, The Merry Widow, and the fantasy drama Tannhauser.

Alltizer said people sitting in the balcony may not notice but costume designers go to great pains to create quality garments with intricate detail.

"Even though a lot of them are seen from quite a distance, a lot of detail goes into these costumes to make sure they're historically accurate," he said.

For example, the chain mail on a knight's outfit looked like steel but was actually plastic, produced by the same company that outfitted the Lord of the Rings movies. A spokesperson said the opera costumes are particularly popular with those who attend Burning Man. The costumes are built to be sturdy -- enough they so they can be worn in the real world off-stage as well.

"I think you can actually wear most of the stuff we have, anywhere from parties to costume balls," Alltizer said. "You can dress your children up as peasants!"

The pandemic has offered up an operatic tragedy of its own. All S.F. Opera shows have been shuttered and this year's sale will raise funds to help the workers who normally make their living building sets and sewing costumes.

"Our opera administration has been really incredible about supporting everyone through this time," Alltizer said. "To keep busy, to keep working and to be creative in searching for other ways to make opera happen."

The latest production, Beethoven's Fidelio, has already been prepared and is just waiting for the time when the pandemic is over and the doors can reopen.

Prices of costumes ranged from $35 up to $1,000 and there wasn't much left but, to view them online, go to: San Francisco Opera Costume Sale

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