Der Schuhmachermeister

When new to an opera company, one usually expects a trip to the Wardrobe Mistress in order to be measured before any work starts on the costumes. However, I have never been sent to the shoemaker!

The Staatstheater Kassel is lucky to have its own resident team of shoemakers. They occupy the prime part of the opera house, their studio sitting at the top of the building with views across the Fulda river and the valley beyond. Today a fine drizzle blurs the panorama as I ascend the stairs for my appointment with the Schuhmachermeister (the Master Shoemaker). I am met first by the aroma of wood and leather, and then by the sight of a main room full of little wooden feet on shelves. The  Schuhmachermeister is bluff and grey and beckons me into his office - a room alternately lined proudly with artisanal diplomas and pairs of wooden lasts. I am to take off my shoes and socks, roll up my trousers, and come and stand on the photocopier. I look down at my feet as they are scanned and measured and wonder what they can make of this sudden special treatment.

Joseph Scholz, 1840,  colour lithograph (The German Shoe Museum, Offenbach am Main)

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