Inside the Houston Symphony

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Dressing Robert

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Photo credit: Jami Lupold

For today’s blog post, our education department wanted to share something that has become near and dear to our hearts — dressing Associate Conductor Robert Franz in off-the-wall costumes for each of our Weatherford Family Concerts. If you ever wondered how those costumes came to pass, now’s your chance!

After a recent Weatherford Family Concert, Robert Franz encountered a patron in the lobby who remarked, “I can’t believe they make you wear all those crazy costumes!”  To which Robert replied, “Yeah, I know.  Can you believe it?”

If they only knew that under the feathers, beneath the pirate hat, and below the animal fur lay Robert himself – it is all HIS doing.  Believing that family concerts should be as child-centered as possible, Robert’s imagination goes all out to make the theme of the concerts pop.  While he dreams up these wild things, it falls to Carol Wilson, Francine Schiffman Lumia, and Roger Daily to make them go from idea to reality.

Here are a few recent examples of the conductor’s imagination, and the resulting attempts to dress Robert.

In February, Beauty and the Beast — Robert as, guess which one?  A jet black sorceress wig was teased and sprayed into the mane of the Beast. Minutes prior to the conductor/Beast going on stage, black fur was furiously pinned around ankle and wrist cuffs, and out the top of his tuxedo shirt. As the Beast conducted, some fur flew from his wrists, threatening to land on a music stand.

In costume for  Aladdin and the Arabian Nights in April 2009, Robert’s head bore a large chair-cushion of a turban – so big he could barely walk straight, much less conduct.  For the feet, we found long, pointed slippers, which he chose not to wear for fear he wouldn’t be able to ascend the podium!

Pirates of the Symphony – Ahhrrrgg.  In October 2007, Robert and his orchestral mates took a Caribbean journey.  No one had to walk to the plank; in fact most pirates don’t have so many friends.  Our neighbors at the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet and Alley Theatre supplied most of Robert’s booty, including treasure chests and boats which decorated the stage.  Sword and pistol aside, the crowd went wild as he stepped on stage in his ragged attire, baton pointed to do battle with violists’ bows.

Photo credit: Jami Lupold

May’s Carnival of Animals concert was all about the underdog of the animal kingdom: the chicken! There was talk of building a nest from which Robert would conduct, but instead the podium was converted into a coop with chicken wire and hay.  There were very specific needs for the chicken costume. The feet couldn’t be too big so he could easily move around the podium, the wings had to have exposed hands so he could hold the baton, and the head piece could not cover his entire face, so he could see the entire orchestra. This was a serious matter when trying to find the most comical of costumes and much debate about feathers, etc. ensued.

All went well except for Robert having to spit the feather boa out of his face numerous times during the concerts.  As for the big chicken feet – bigger than the Aladdin shoes – problem solved when Robert jumped on the “coop” podium with both feet.

Make sure to join us next season for the Weatherford Family Concert Series. Ghostbuster? Snowman? Lion? Astronaut? Who knows what Robert will dress up as next! Visit us online at for more information.


Written by Houston Symphony

May 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. This is unrelated to the topic of dressing up a conductor, so I hope it’s appropriate to post here…

    I was listening to the broadcast of the HSO performance of Beethoven’s 9th symphony with Louis Langree. I was at the performance myself, and was blown away by it– and by the recording.

    So, I’m just wondering, is there any way I could get a recording of it? Is it not sold anywhere, in any shape, form, fashion, manner, means, etc?

    John Smith

    May 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm

  2. Ah, Robert. How we miss thee here in Buffalo! 🙂


    June 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

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