Spotlight On: Ronell Oliveri


Wigs in the process of being styled by Ronell Oliveri (background), Opera Colorado’s longtime wig and makeup designer. Photo: Jamie Kraus


Ronell Oliveri
Wig & Makeup Designer

After more than twenty years working in theater, Ronell Oliveri’s Durango home is overflowing with the tools of her trade. “I have one whole closet in the house that’s just tons and tons of human hair,” she laughs. “It’s funny, but many people think we just order up wigs for shows. Actually, they are all handmade.”

The process of creating just a single wig takes about forty hours, including carefully measuring every dimension of a performer’s head and creating a perfectly fitted lace cap. And that’s when things get very intricate. Hairs are painstakingly tied into the cap, just a few strands at a time. “It’s intensive,” says Oliveri. “We do about five to six hairs at a time up the back, but by the time we get to the front of the wig, we’re tying in single hairs, one by one, to recreate the hairline.”

Fortunately, a well-made wig can last a long time and be re-styled for many shows—which offers its own challenges.

“Every show brings a new batch of singers,” explains Oliveri. “So you can’t say, ‘This is what I do for every single Barbarina,’ because you’re working with different faces. You have to be able to style the right time period, but you also have to make that individual person look great. What’s going to balance out his body and make him look great? What’s going to flatter her face but still be accurate to the period? It’s never like, ‘Oh, another The Marriage of Figaro.’ It’s always brand new and exciting.”

Opera Colorado’s production of The Marriage of Figaro runs May 4, 7, 10, and 12, 2019. For tickets and information, click here

2 Comments to “Spotlight On: Ronell Oliveri”

  1. I give lots of Backstage Workshop tours of the Opera House and I’d like more information about our Wig department:
    How many other opera companies make their own wigs?
    Do we keep the wigs we make for specific singers? Are they rented to other companies when those singers
    performer with another company?
    Does the Metropolitan Opera ever rent Opera Colorado wigs?
    is there a limit to the number of wigs that can be made for an opera? Is cost a factor?
    How lucrative is it for Opera Colorado to rent its wigs to other companies?

    1. Hi Robert,

      We’ve sent your questions to Katie Preissner, our Director of Production & Artistic Services. She will be getting back to you with all the answers!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *