A Propos Opera Props

A couple of weeks ago we had a most interesting email. The prop-master from the Houston Grand Opera contacted us for information concerning their upcoming production of Brittons’ “Rape of Lucretia”. One scene begins with a group of women spinning. Megan had already convinced the director that the women of Classic Roman times would not have used spinning wheels. Her question was what type of hand spindle and distaff would they have used?

After some conversation back and forth it was agreed upon that the women in the scene only had to look like they were spinning while they were singing and acting, and not actually make yarn. (Some of us have issues using a drop spindle and walking, much less remembering lyrics and smiling.) So we came up with the spindle and distaff pictured below.

The simple low whorl spindle has a swivel at the top. Commercial yarn attaches the spindle to the distaff which holds some fluffy, fibery stuff. This permits the spindle to actually rotate but if the “spinner” holds the spindle at the swivel, the twist does not run up the yarn.

The grim model in the picture is attempting to take the pose of the original Venus de Milo as suggested by Elizabeth Barber. I guess it must hurt to be a Goddess.