Opera Hair and Makeup Tutorial

It’s all in the details! I’m not talking about the thousands of notes that go into every opera production. I’m talking about all the work that goes into styling each performer to make their character believable and help make their story come to life. This summer the San Francisco Opera is presenting La Bohème and I got to go backstage in the dressing rooms and get a tutorial on Mimi’s hair and makeup with expert stylists, Jeanna Parham and Ashley Joyce.


To give you a background on Mimi’s story; she is a seamstress who lives next door to the main character in La Bohème, Rodolfo who is a poet. When she knocks on his door and asks for him to light her candle, they instantly fall in love – love at first sight!

(You may be familiar with the Broadway hit RENT!! Yes, this is the original Rent and the inspiration behind the famous song “Light My Candle“.)

Mimi is sick with tuberculosis. The two are very poor and can not afford medicine so her sickness becomes worse as the story continues. Rodolfo feels so guilty about not being able to provide her with the proper medicine that he leaves her out of fake jealousy so that she will find a wealthier suitor. Will they end up back together? Will she live? Well, my friend, that is for me to know and for you to find out at the San Francisco Opera this summer.

Now on to the tutorial…



When I walked in the door of the dressing rooms, I was greeted with a full spread of makeup brushes, lipsticks, rouges, and eyeshadows. A lot of their products were from MAC – a personal favorite! I was surprised to find out that the San Francisco Opera stylists personalize makeup kits for every singer and chorus member, even the men. That’s a lot of makeup!

They started off the transformation by pinning up my hair in tiny pin-curls and then putting a net over my hair to keep it out of my face. Next, they began to do a base layer with a primer and powders to shape my face and get “the canvas” ready for all the colors!


The most expressive parts of the face are the eyes and the mouth, so to emphasize the drama and the character’s mood they highlight these features with shadows and liners. The way the artists looks in the dressing room is different from how they look under the stage lights so Ashely and Jeanna watch the dress rehearsals to make sure each performers makeup and wig are accentuated from the audiences’ point of view.


With dark crease lines on my eyelids, filled in eyebrows and eyelash extensions, my eyes were starting to POP! To continue this bold look, Ashely lined my lips with a darker lip liner so that my mouth would be easily seen, even from the balcony. She then filled in my lip color with a lighter tone to create contrast. Lip gloss is not typically used in opera because it reflects too much light from the stage and is not appropriate for La Bohème’s time period.



To finish off the look, they revealed this fabulous wig (made by Jeanna) that was hand tied with real hair. I was shocked to hear that each wig takes up to forty to sixty hours to make! That’s two and a half FULL days of work… for ONE wig. Nuts. When they placed the wig on my head, the complete vision of Mimi came to life. To keep the wig from coming off, they used bobby pins to secure the wig onto my pin-curls. Sometimes, performers will even wear a mic that’s tucked in their wig that can hardly be seen at the top of forehead.

I had so much fun becoming Mimi and being styled by the expert stylists Ashely and Jeanna. If you’d like to watch the full transformation that was entirely filmed on Facebook Live, click here!

To see some more of my backstage experiences, click here. To claim your tickets to San Francisco Opera’s summer performance of La Bohème, click here.

The Fashion of Opera

Fashion doesn’t just live in the stores. It exists on the stage! One of the many reasons I love going to the opera is living vicariously through the characters and admiring the costumes that depict the fashion of various time periods. This week I joined San Francisco Opera for an exclusive Facebook Live tour with the talented Assistant Costume Director, Christopher Verdosci!


The San Francisco Opera is celebrating their 50th Anniversary for the U.S. Premiere of The Makropolous Case. This erotic drama is about the alluring prima donna, Emilia Marty that is played by the beautiful Nadja Michael. Her character wears stunning dresses and gowns throughout the entire performance. My eye was drawn to a vintage gown she wears in Act Il.


Seeing the costume up close with Christopher was a moment I’ll never forget because he revealed the inspiration of the design from the archives! This French painting of a pierrot gave Emilia Marty’s emotions a whole new meaning to me. The Director gave her this costume to represent a sad metaphor of her feelings that made me want to break out singing, Send in the Clowns. She was just going through the motions as an avatar, trying to find her purpose after living so many lifetimes, aging at 337 years old (think The Picture of Dorian Gray!).

For quick changes, the costume has snaps behind the decorative handmade buttons and the ruffles are tailored with multiple layers to give it that poof at the ends.  I was amused to find out that her fabulous sparkling hat was actually made from the whimsy designer Betsy Johnson!


In the performance she wears a selection of shoes and because I am such a shoe lover, I had to find out more about these stunning pumps. In the 1950’s, ultra thin heels that were 4 inch high was all the rage. These white satin pumps were designed by Badgley Mishka who has been hailed by Vogue as one of the “Top 10 American Designers”!


The jewelry was treated to look like recreations of Cartier because it was customary to have inherited jewels reset into a fashionable piece for the new decade. Who knew!


It was such a treat to spend the afternoon with Christopher in the costume shop. Christopher has worked at the San Francisco Opera for sixteen years. Christopher earned his degree in Design at International Fine Arts College in Miami. His incredible work has been seen in many theaters throughout San Francisco, including The Brava, Intersection for the Arts, Theater Artaud, The Victoria and ODC.

To find out more about Emilia Marty’s timeless attire, click here. Now that you know all about the costumes, it’s time to head to the San Francisco Opera to see The Makropolous Case! Click here for tickets.

Photography by Trisha Leeper

What You Don’t See at the SF Opera

Red Curtain Addict

Going to the opera is such a lavish event. The lights, the set, the costumes, the music…  It really is quite the experience. But what’s often overlooked is the crew, technicians and musicians working like crazy behind the scenes so these productions are seamless for your experience. So I thought I’d get a little more insight into what really goes on behind the curtain.

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Recently, I took a backstage tour with the Stage Manager, John who drives this huge “ship” making sure that every light is cued, every rope is pulled and every artist is in place for the show to go on. The cool part was, his father was the Stage Manager before him. Since John was a boy, he learned a ton of secrets about this stage and knows the inside and out of the War Memorial Hall where the SF Opera performs. First, he walked us backstage to show us where the crew loads in their beautiful props and set (that sometimes come from Europe).


Did you know that 50-75 people work behind the stage for a single opera production? I didn’t either. These people are either a part of the prop department, the grip department (the carpenters), the electricians, the sound department, the hair and makeup department, the costume department and so much more. So next time when you clap at performances, make sure you include a standing ovation for these incredible people that make these performances a possibility. Here’s what it looks like standing on stage and backstage…


As an oboist, one of my favorite parts of the tour was going inside the orchestra pit. The musicians (ranging from another 50-75 people!) who support the opera are definitely vital to a successful performance for the singers, especially the Music Director who truly drives the entire show. I just couldn’t resist seeing what it felt like sitting in that seat. You have no idea how excited I was to take this picture!

Next week I’ll be sharing more of my backstage tour taking you up inside the iconic chandelier, the creepy attack and the basement of the War Memorial Hall. Did I mention this will include a real phantom of the opera story that happened right here in San Francisco? Oh yes.

What is your favorite design feature of the War Memorial Hall? Do you wish there could be anything different? What are some of your favorite venues that you’ve visited?

Click here to see more about the San Francisco Opera’s upcoming season!

The New Way to “OPERA”


And you thought seeing opera was for the old people with squeaky hearing aids… Not in San Francisco! The SF Opera has started a new event called SF Opera Pop-Up Lab featuring their fantastic singers but in a new and “out-of-the-box” way.


Last Friday, over 300 people gathered at the Chapel in the Mission, yes the Mission to see opera. With drinks in hand we stood and faced the stage as if a DJ was about to play our favorite jams. But the night had so much more in store for us. A round of young operas singers came out in casual jeans and t-shirts to sing famous opera pieces including my all time favorite, Nessun Dorma. (See a clip on my new facebook page)


I have to say, my favorite part of the concert was their HILLARIOUS memes that played in the background as the singers performed. I don’t think a lot of the performers were aware of what was behind them. Many times they would turn around and burst out laughing after they saw these “supertitles”. Everyone was cracking up and lifting up their glasses with approval. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.


From incredible arias to duets and love songs, this group impressed us all and made each person fall in love (or validate their love) for opera. By us, I mean everyone, even those that have never been to an opera. Not only was this a great way for people to meet the arts, but it was a brilliant way for the arts to meet us in our current and modern society with humor, light-hearted fun and visuals that made their way on every Snapchat account in the room.


Yup, that’s me capturing the pictures and loving every minute of the event. After the concert, the room turned into a dance party where I personally toasted to a great night with each and every artist that performed. Now that’s what I call a fantastic and memorable experience. What events have you seen recently that have inspired you?

P.S. Welcome to my new blog! I want to give you the opportunity to see and understand the truth in what you’re watching; the discipline, dedication, devotion, history and the hard work that goes into showcasing the brilliance of timeless stories and cultural performances. Follow me on my journey as I get raw footage of dress rehearsals, backstage interviews and private tours and get the inside scoop within the arts community.

My Surprise Engagement!

I’ve dreamt of this moment since I was a little girl. I didn’t know what it would look like, when it would be or who it would be with but I’m so glad it happened like it did with my best friend (and now fiancé) Parker. One of my favorite nights out in the city is the San Francisco Ballet’s Opening Night Gala. l like to call it the “grown-up prom” because you get to dress fancy in beautiful gowns. But little did I know, this night was going to be so much more!


We started the night out at Sauce in Hayes Valley (a great place that accommodates groups and just a walk away from the ballet!). As we’re all catching up and admiring each other’s gowns and tuxes, a tray of champagne arrives and Parker gets up to toast. Since this is kind of a normal occurrence, I don’t think twice about it but the toast quickly turned out to be the most important speach of my life. Before I knew it, iParker got on one knee and asked me to be his bride. Of course I said YES! (Sidenote: 3 years ago on that very night, we went on our first date. Let the “Awwws” begin. )


I can’t get enough of my engagement ring! I find myself just staring at it getting lost in its beauty and meaning to us. I love the dark blue sapphire because it represents sincerity, purity, constancy and truth which is the perfect jewel to symbolize our love. It was actually the original engagement ring before diamonds became so popular in the 1930’s. My favorite part is Parker had it custom made with intriget details including the diamond that’s on the bottom of the band. It’s one of a kind made specially made for me! #proudbridetobe

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To be honest, I could hardly focus on the ballet with such a surprise but each dance was beautiful. The Opening Night is a preview of what’s to come in the upcoming season. This year’s line up is going to be amazing! Swan Lake (that will be on stage from Feb. 19 – 28) and Chopin’s Swimmer (March 16 – 22) are definitely the “MUST SEE” performances. My recommendation is getting on The List, to an invitation to  exclusive performances designed only for a handful of fans. (You have to be age 21-39 so it’s a great place for young professionals to meet!)


This year’s SF Ballet Gala was called Provocative with pink and purple lights, chandeliers, overly sized mirrors and bright pink furniture scattered through the City Hall. I decided to match the theme by wearing a lavish hot pink sequined dress with a low-cut back and long trail accented by a silk bow. Since I’m a HUGE fan of 1950’s fashion (and movie stars) I decided to go with a fifties wave that was expertly created by the magicians at Drybar.

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There’s always great night of dancing with both live and DJ music but I think my favorite was the Silent Disco on the balcony that looked over the entire party. Such a magical scene! All and all, I would say this was a pretty good night. 😉 Now, let the wedding/party planning begin!

See more of my adventures in the arts here.

Continue reading “My Surprise Engagement!”

The Red Curtain Addict


walking with red dress

I want to lift the red curtain to reveal what the arts has NOT shown you. There is so much more than what meets the eye. I want to give you the opportunity to see and understand the truth in what you’re watching; the discipline, dedication, devotion, history and the hard work that goes into showcasing the brilliance of timeless stories and cultural performances. Follow me on my journey as I get raw footage of dress rehearsals, backstage interviews and private tours to get the inside scoop within the arts community.

The Glass Door of Opera

When I tell friends or co-workers that I’m going to the opera, the typical response is, “….”. Dead silence. But once I tell them about the custom designed costumes, the set that was flown in from overseas and the champagne that is waiting for me at intermission, their reaction turns from silence to interest.


There’s a HUGE misconception about opera but what the real “miss” is not even giving it a chance. A few weeks ago I attended Les Troyans, an opera that was first opened in Paris in 1856. The last time it was performed in San Francisco was over 47 years ago because of the size of the production and the magnificent amount of cast that is involved.


Within the first act, I was blown away by this incredible 23 foot tall trojan horse head that took over a year to make that was welded with old weapons, battle debris and bits of war junk. It moved about stage nodding and turning, then it’s mane ignited, projecting heat and amazement throughout the theater. It was like nothing I had ever seen.


The set was beyond exquisite with layers of singers throwing confetti and there was a beautiful woman portraying Dido with a voice of angel. Now this is something you won’t experience when you’re sitting at home and mindlessly scroll through your social media.


Don’t wait for an invitation to give this a try. Make it your own special occasion or go round up your friends to experience the art that has memorized millions for centuries. Get dressed up, even make it a date night! I promise that this is an experience you’ll always remember. Make a change and do something different.