Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Muny's Wardrobe Wizard Takes Stock of Lengthy Career

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Muny's Wardrobe Wizard Takes Stock of Lengthy Career

Article excerpt

Looking back on 63 years at the Muny, Peter Messineo has no trouble recalling his toughest challenge.

It was posed by choreographer Gemze DeLappe, who had just come up with a great idea for a "butterfly dance" to be performed by 40 little girls in a production of "Sleeping Beauty."

There was just one problem. When DeLappe told her idea to Messineo, it was Friday. Muny dress rehearsals are on Saturday night.

"I said, 'Gemze, I love you, but I don't know.' That night I didn't sleep a wink. I kept thinking about chiffon, very light chiffon. I thought if the little girls wore unitards, chiffon could turn them into butterflies."

By attaching lengths of chiffon to ribbons on the back of the unitards and gathering the fabric at the girls' wrists, Messineo's midnight design inspiration made a costume that Muny seamstresses could execute quickly, that looked pretty and that filled the big stage with color and motion. To complete the effect, Messineo somehow managed to come up with 40 little tiaras.

The longtime head of wardrobe at the Muny, Messineo, 83, has solved so many problems along those lines that years of performers, directors and other stage artists probably think he was born in his backstage office. A snug little warren filled with notebooks that detail the outfits for show after show after show, it's tucked away in the costume shop behind rows of sewing machines and coat racks hung with costumes.

But when Messineo came to the Muny in 1949, he was a lyric baritone, singing in the ensemble.

It had been his dream for years. A few years earlier, as freshman at St. Louis University High School, he and a pal cut class to audition for the Muny. His parents found out the next day, when the Globe-Democratic ran a photo of the auditions on the front page and saw him right there.

But they understood. His father was a shoemaker, but he loved opera. Their house on Maryland Avenue was full of music, either the radio or, just as likely, the members of the family singing their hearts out. …

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