Monday, February 23, 2015

Mastery of Design: "The Queen of Transylvania" Tiara, 1958

Costume Tiara
Cecil Beaton, 1958
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This costume tiara was made for the character of the  “Queen of Transylvania” (as played by Margaret Halstan) in the London production of the musical “My Fair Lady,” at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.  The show opened on April 30, 1958.

Based on George Bernard Shaw's play “Pygmalion,” the music for the famous musical was composed by Frederick Lowe, and the book and lyrics were by Alan Jay Lerner. The production was directed by Moss Hart (husband of my dear Kitty Carlisle Hart), the sets were designed by Oliver Smith, and the costumes were designed by the celebrated photographer Cecil Beaton.

The production starred Julie Andrews as Eliza Dolittle and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins.

This bears a label for Margaret Halstan, who played the Queen throughout most of the London run for My Fair Lady. This is one of several tiaras designed for Halstan for the production.  Photographs from the show indicate different sixed crowns of different weights, allowing the actress flexibility in what she wore each night.  A silversmith made the tiaras, set with fine pastes, based on Beaton’s detailed designs.  

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