Bold and Beautiful: The Creative Vision of Ann Church

A new acquisition capturing the creative vision of Melbourne born designer Ann Church joins Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection. In a career spanning the late 1940s to the early 1970s, Church designed the set and costumes for companies such as the National Theatre Ballet, Victorian Ballet Guild, The Australian Ballet and the West Australian Ballet. This new acquisition  features set and costume designs, notebooks, photographs and newspaper clippings that provide a valuable insight into our early dance repertoire.

Set design by Ann Church for Les Belles Creoles, National Theatre Ballet, 1949 Gift of the Estate of Ann Church, 2017. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Reproduced courtesy of Mrs Collins.

There are vibrantly coloured set and costume designs for one of Ann Church’s earliest commissions for the stage, Les Belles Creoles. Presented by the National Theatre Ballet in 1949, this production was choreographed by Australian dancer Rex Reid and was the first of many ballets on which they collaborated.

Church continued to design for the National Theatre Ballet’s following seasons.  A selection of costume designs from Margaret Scott’s production of Peter and the Wolf (1950) and the full-length version of Swan Lake (1951) are also represented and show the designers bold use of colour. They capture a sense of movement that makes her designs so in tune with the needs of dance.

Notebooks compiled by Ann Church during the 1950s and 1960s. Gift of the Estate of Ann Church, 2017, Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Reproduced courtesy of Mrs Collins.

Notebooks containing fabric samples and working drawings provide a rare glimpse into the creative process Church followed when developing new designs. In some we see whimsical ideas for future  ballets, while other pages tackle the practicalities of fabric selection, measurements and garment construction.

Set design by Ann Church for Melbourne Cup, The Australian Ballet, 1962. Gift of the Estate of Ann Church, 2017 Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Reproduced courtesy of Mrs Collins.

The costumes designed by Ann Church for the production of Melbourne Cup were donated by The Australian Ballet in 1998, as treasured pieces from the company’s inaugural season of 1962. This recent acquisition provides further representation of Melbourne Cup through a selection of set designs that formed the backdrop to these costumes. Based on the very first running of the famous horse race in 1861, Melbourne Cup presented a number of challenges for the designer. One of these was to capture the historic setting of the event on stage. A carefully compiled scrapbook of newspaper clippings and articles reveals the depth of research she conducted to recreate this spectacle. The scrapbook also includes photographs that capture the magical journey from page to stage.

Margot Anderson
Curator (Dance and Opera)

 

 

Kylie’s ‘Folies’ Live On …

Kylie Minogue on stage during her 2011 Les Folies/ Aphrodite Tour. Costume designed by Dolce & Gabbana and donated to Arts Centre Melbourne's Performing Arts Collection earlier 2015. Photographer unknown.
Kylie Minogue on stage during her 2011 Les Folies/ Aphrodite Tour. Costume designed by Dolce & Gabbana and donated to Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection earlier 2015. Photographer unknown.

We all love a costume that speaks to the diva within and no-one does it better than Kylie. But what happens to those elaborate stage costumes once the lights go down and the road cases leave the stadium? Enter the textiles conservator. Costumes such as this black-feathered full-length gown designed by Dolce & Gabbana for Kylie Minogue’s 2011 Les Folies/ Aphrodite Tour are designed to dazzle the eye and to withstand the rigours of nightly performance. They are not designed with long-term storage in mind. Lay them flat and the elaborate boning under the skirt will warp, hang it and the skirt will lose its shape as gravity kicks in.

The solution? A custom-made aluminium pannier.

Conservator making a custom-made aluminium pannier. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Conservator making a custom-made aluminium pannier. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection

The pannier is placed over the all-important gold bodysuit around which the entire suite of costumes was designed …

Custom-made aluminium pannier. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection.
The pannier is placed over the body suit. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection.

Et voilà!

Skirt with attached black vinyl bodice is placed over the bodysuit and pannier. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Skirt with attached black vinyl bodice is placed over the bodysuit and pannier. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection

The Oscar Award Winning John Truscott

You may have heard about the new documentary on Australian film designer Orry-Kelly but did you know that he was not the only Australian to win multiple Oscars? In addition to designing for the theatre, John Truscott, designer of Art Centre Melbourne’s interiors, won two Academy Awards for costume design and art direction for his work on the critically acclaimed film, Camelot in 1967.

Costume designed by John Truscott for 'Camelot', J.C.Williamson, 1963 Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Costume designed by John Truscott for the stage production of ‘Camelot’, J.C.Williamson Theatres Ltd, 1963
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

Find out more about the career of John Truscott here.

The Many Facets of Anne Fraser

Helmut Newton, Portrait of Anne Fraser, c. 1950 Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996 Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Helmut Newton, Portrait of Anne Fraser, c. 1950
Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

Anne Fraser (1928 – 2005) was born in New Zealand and came to Australia at an early age. She began her career as an advertising designer before working with the National Theatre in Melbourne. In 1955 she became the first full-time designer for the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC). In this role she designed the original 1956 production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and its subsequent London and New York seasons.

After leaving the MTC, Fraser worked for a short time for the South Australian Theatre Company in the late 1960s, before being invited to become Head of Design at the Old Tote Theatre Company in Sydney in 1971. She worked with the company for six years, spending a year in Europe and the United States during this time.

In 1977 Fraser began working as a freelance designer. She again designed many productions for the MTC, including The Doll Trilogy (1977), Ring round the Moon (1977), Electra (1978), The Man who came to dinner (1980), Amadeus (1981) and The Real Thing (1984).

Costume design from the 1981 Melbourne Theatre Company production at the Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996 Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Costume design from the 1981 Melbourne Theatre Company production of Amadeus at the Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne.
Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Costume design by Anne Fraser for the 1981 Melbourne Theatre Co. production of Pete McGynty and the Dreamtime at the Athenaeum Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996 Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Costume design by Anne Fraser for the 1981 Melbourne Theatre Co. production of Pete McGynty and the Dreamtime at the Athenaeum
Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

Fraser also designed for ballet and opera companies. Her work for the Victoria State Opera includes productions of The Return of Ulysses (1980), Die Fledermaus (1981), Eugene Onegin (1983), La Traviata (1992) and set designs for My Fair Lady (1988). In 1985 Fraser worked on Capriccio andCountess Maritza for the State Opera of South Australia. For The Australian Ballet she designed the productions of La Sylphide (1985) and Don Quixote (1993).

Preliminary sketch for set design created by Anne Fraser for the Australian Ballet production "Don Quixote" first performed at Arts Centre Melbourne, 1993 Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996 Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Preliminary sketch for set design created by Anne Fraser for the Australian Ballet production “Don Quixote” first performed at Arts Centre Melbourne, 1993
Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Set design for Swan Lake, Borovansky Ballet, 1957 Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996 Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Set design for Swan Lake, Borovansky Ballet, 1957
Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

Fraser won several Green Room Awards for her designs throughout her career and in 1993 was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her services to the arts as a theatre set and costume designer. Anne Fraser passed away in Melbourne on 20 October 2005.

Collection Holdings

In 1996 Anne Fraser donated material relating to her career as set and costume designer. The Performing Arts Collection now holds over 2,000 objects in the Anne Fraser collection. Her extensive collection ranges from miniature dolls that a young Fraser created of favourite stage and screen performers whilst a student, to letters, contracts, catalogues, programmes and many hundreds of set and costume designs. After her death in 2005, an additional 146 designs, including working / preliminary drawings for various productions, were donated to the performing arts collection on her behalf by Blair Edgar.

Miniature doll of Renee Asherson as 'Katharine' in "Henry V" made by Anne Fraser c.1940  Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996  Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne  As a commercial art student at the Melbourne Technical College, Anne made miniature dolls of her favourite theatrical performers. She said she would be so impressed by their performances that she "just had to do something about it".
Miniature doll of Renee Asherson as ‘Katharine’ in “Henry V” made by Anne Fraser c.1940
Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
As a commercial art student at the Melbourne Technical College, Anne made miniature dolls of her favourite theatrical performers. She said she would be so impressed by their performances that she “just had to do something about it”.
Early design by Anne Fraser as a student Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996 Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Early design by Anne Fraser as a student
Gift of Anne Fraser, 1996
Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

The collection reflects the designer’s work with many of Australia’s performing arts companies including The Australian National Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, The Australian Opera, The Victoria State Opera, The State Opera of South Australia, Playbox Theatre Company, The Australian Ballet and the Old Tote Theatre Company.

Free Exhibition Floor Talks

Hugh Jackman as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, 2006 Photograph by Jeff Busby
Hugh Jackman as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, 2006. Costumes designed by Roger Kirk.
Photograph by Jeff Busby

Looking for something cool to do during this hot Melbourne summer? Join us for a series of insightful and engaging free talks in Gallery 1 at Arts Centre Melbourne! Hosted by All That Glitters curator Margot Anderson, these talks are a rare opportunity to learn about the art of designing, making and performing in stage costume.

The Stage Wardrobe of Dame Joan Sutherland
Trish Butterworth, Costume Maker, Opera Australia
Wednesday 22 January, 1pm

The Boy From Oz and Beyond
Roger Kirk, Costume Designer
Friday 24 January, 1pm

Costume and the Dancer
Juliet Burnett, Senior Artist, The Australian Ballet
Wednesday 5 February, 1pm

These events are presented by Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the exhibition All That Glitters.
All That Glitters will be on display in Gallery 1 until 23 February 2014.