Ohne Titel Dresses Antony Hegarty for Radio City Music Hall
Last Saturday morning, while most New Yorkers were pulling up the covers to fend off 2012’s first blast of snow, the singer Antony Hegarty was standing in the atelier of Ohne Titel, easing his Gentle Giant frame into a gossamer silk georgette gown. Ohne Titel is the label of designers Alexa Adams and Flora Gill, who created the costume Antony will wear Thursday night in his first-ever concert at Radio City Music Hall.
Antony Hegarty and Alexa Adams of Ohne Titel
Radio City Music Hall! Home of the Rockettes! Antony couldn’t quite believe it. “I started out in the East Village at the Pyramid Club, “ he told Adams as she helped him into the long columnar tunic whose tapered thirties silhouette and billowy sleeves curiously put one in mind of Wallis Simpson. Given that the transgender singer stood 6’2 in his stocking feet and that his dyed black hair fell like a macramed curtain across his face, the effect was striking. “Radio City has always been a dream of mine,” he said. “I’m thinking of calling up all my drag queen friends from the old days and having us do a fan kick.” Antony, who sometimes makes his own clothes, cast an unsparing eye on the gown and the long knit sleeves of the undergarment, examining their seams, neckline, and the way the whole thing moved. He raised his arms on high and starting singing, giving the ensemble a test drive. “That’s the song of the dress,” he joked. “It’s very Isis.”
For his Swanlights performance event, commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art, Antony will sing songs from all four Antony & the Johnsons albums (Swanlights among them) and collaborate not only with his band, the Johnsons, but with a light artist, lighting designer, set designer, and a 60-piece orchestra. A huge chandelier of white shapes—made to suggest quartz crystals—will hang from the Music Hall stage and be lit by swirling nebula-like lasers. Of course, the only special effect needed to sell out all 6013 seats at Radio City was likely Antony’s emotive, unadorned voice—one that moves between a quavering vibrato and lower, gutsy register. Just listen to his haunting rendition of Beyonce’s hit “Crazy in Love,” and you won’t believe it’s the same song.
Dressing an artist for the stage is always a tricky business because both artist’s and designer’s style have to align. The last designer to make a costume for Antony was Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, who, for Antony’s 2009 summer tour, used as inspiration the death of Antony’s cat in creating an operatic jacket studded with skeletal plumes and layered to form the impression of a cat’s head curling around his shoulder.
Lucky for Ohne Titel designers Adams and Gill, Antony fell in love with their signature curvilinear shapes and architectural draping when his friend, the artist Joie Iacono introduced him to the design duo. After he wore one of their oversized draped vests in a performance last fall, they suggested a collaboration, Ohne Titel’s first for the stage. “He’s very specific,” Adams said once she and Antony had agreed to accent the robe’s front tucks to exaggerate its volume and make it less form-hugging. “He knows his aesthetic and his world very well and he’s so aware of how things work with his body and where lines lie.”
“The costume was meant to work in relation to the set, which is inspired by crystal formations,” explained Antony, whose exhibition of sketches and collages just opened at UCLA’s Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. “This dress is super subtle. It’s the opposite of a showstopper. It’s really built to help to immerse me in the environment.”
As Adams put the last pin in place, Antony surveyed himself in the mirror one more time. “It’s a triumph, “ he concluded. “We are satisfied.”
Photos: Darren Hall/ darrenhallphoto.com