|1. A sample of puppets from La Gioconda,
Madama Butterfly, and Lohengrin make a rare appearance together on the set for La Rondine.
4. Fosser and his assistants operate puppets on rods,
pulleys, and rings. To keep their hands in shape for their work, they squeeze rubber balls between performances.
2. Extraordinary detail is the rule for puppet costuming as this Lohengrin puppet shows.
3. William Fosser rehearses a scene from
La Rondine. The rod puppets are worked
from below the stage.
Bill Fosser was fortunate to be a member of the world renowned Kungsholm Miniature Grand Opera. Eventually he became its artistic director. Until now he had maintained his own miniature opera as an avocation, working primarily in theatre and motion pictures as a set designer. Some of his work may be seen in Ordinary People, Home Alone, Backdraft and Omen II.
William B. Fosser's Puppet Production OPERA IN FOCUS presents fully staged scenes from well known operas in performances that run about one hour in length. Each performance may offer between three to five scenes, depending on the length of an individual scene. A narration of the action by the well known actor TONY MOCKUS precedes each scene. A demonstration of the operation of the puppets and a tour of the highly technical backstage area follows each performance.
The puppets are manipulated from below the stage floor and are capable of very life-like action and dramatic gestures for which opera singers are so famous.
All the puppets are costumed by master puppeteer and co-producer PAUL
MARK BOUDREAU, a staff member since our opening, is also a master puppeteer.
WILL HARDER creates rear screen projections and manipulates our conductor, TOSCI.
Although the puppet opera takes place on a stage only five feet wide and two feet deep, the illusion of live opera prevails. The puppet opera performances are capable of charming a wide range of audiences - from the lover of opera to the adult or child simply fascinated by the fine art of puppetry.
A YEAR-ROUND OPERA SEASON IN MINIATURE
[ 2000 Repertoire ] [ 1999 Repertoire ]
The creator of this theatrical magic is Chicagoan William Fosser, former director of the famed Kungsholm Restaurant's puppet opera theater. While Fosser works primarily in television and film he was set decorator on Academy Award winning Ordinary People - his first love is puppetry.
In 1955, he patented his designs for fully three-dimensional puppets that operate on a series of rods, pulleys, and rings, and are worked from below the stage on which they appear. He took his sketches to a tool and die maker who made the metal plumbing from which the puppets were cast. At that time, each puppet cost $650 to make. Today, Fosser's 32 puppets are insured by Lloyd's of London for $6,000 apiece.
Except for their hands and feet, which are made of metal to give weight to their costumes and grace to their gestures, the 16-inch puppets are cast of polyester resin. Fosser carves their faces with dental picks, and then paints, bewigs, and costumes each of his miniature opera stars. Unlike the Kungsholm puppets which could only tilt their heads and move their arms, Fosser's puppets can sit, bend, kneel, bow from the waist, and make the dramatic gestures for which opera singers are famous.
Fosser also designs, builds, paints, and decorates the sets used in his puppet operas. And he does these tasks with the same attention to minute detail that he put into designing his puppets. Their elaborate period costumes are bejeweled under a magnifying glass. A tiny electrified chandelier for Boris Godunov was strung, from fine Czechoslovakian crystal. Set decorations for Faust include a tiny telescope and sexton as well as a miniature spinning wheel powered by a motor to make it spin.
Although The Puppet Opera takes place on a stage only five feet wide and two feet deep, the illusion of live opera prevails. The Puppet Opera performances are capable of charming a wide-ranging audience - from the lover of opera to the adult or child simply fascinated by the fine art of puppetry.