Original Turandot’s costumes are up for sale

The British soprano Eva Turner, who was in the Scala audience at the April 1926 world premiere of Turandot, sang the role at the Covent Garden premiere in 1928 and again at La Scala the following year.

Three 19th century Chinese robes and circular peacock feather fan that belonged to Dame Eva have been put up for auction in Salisbury at what looks like a risibly low estimate of £200-300. The items are not yet posted on the auctioneer’s website.

 

(I’d buy it myself, but I’m not her size.)

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  • Nothing on the site suggests that these robes were costumes for her Turandot or for any other opera. It would be surprising if an opera singer kept his or her costumes, they’re the property of the opera company.

    The robes are identified as late Qing dynasty robes that happened to belong to Dame Turner. So either the value of the robes comes from their being late Qing dynasty items, or because they belonged to a famous person, or both.

    Perhaps Dame Turner’s fans can drive up the price, even though we don’t know if she ever wore these pieces or for what occasion. There is no suggestion, much less evidence (photos, drawings, testimonials, etc), that these were related to any operatic performance.

    Anyway, the value of Qing dynasty (1644-1911) robes varies enormously, depending on the textile, colors, design, rank of the original owner, period made. Late Qing dynasty was hardly known as a period of wealth or culture in China.

    • Back in the pre-WWII era (maybe even a bit later), lead singers very often *did* have their own costumes for signature roles, which they took with them from one production to another.

      Probably occasionally led to some odd clashes between sets and costume, though in the old days folks tended to be less picky about such details.

      So Dame Eva *might* have worn these robes on stage. Tho’ I suspect you’re right: their main auction value lies in their age and *who* owned them.

  • I had the privilege of meeting Dame Eva at the opening of the Mermaid Theatre in 1982 , she was tiny and full of fun.

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