It should be noted that not everyone was always so cool about fashion designers being invited by theaters to design costumes. Back in the day when designers were first being offered the position of costumiere, traditionalists like Italian opera director Franco Zeffirelli made quite a stink. Zefirelli called the collaborations "shameless" (and now, twenty-five years later, Franco's still cranky).
Last March, when Emanuel Ungaro was invited to design costumes for a production of Berlioz's Faust in Naples (above), he first had to reassure the public, "Non sono abiti sfuggiti ad una sfilata!" ("There won't be dresses that escaped from a runway show!")
Of course, the opera and fashion worlds are now regular bedfellows. Here, Opera Chic's guide to the fashion world's most passionate opera fans.
The Missoni clan are among La Scala's most loyal patrons, arriving from the family's via Durini headquarters—often with their adorably stylish grandkids—to their private palco (box). The Missonis have a long history with opera; in the mid 1950s one of their first big orders came from Biki, the Milanese stylist who dressed Maria Callas. The Missonis have designed costumes for Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor and Strauss' Elektra at La Scala, and Mozart's Cosıı fan tutte for London's Royal Opera House.
When La Scala was turned into a foundation in the 1990s by the Italian government, Armani joined the board as one of the original directors. The designer even recently wrote an op-ed in Corriere della Sera, the country's leading daily newspaper, to give style advice to opera-goers. One of his long-time partners in crime is American opera director Bob Wilson (above right), who's designed fashion shows for him, as well as his 30-year retrospective exhibition at Milan's Triennale gallery space.
When Valentino Garavani retired three years ago, he said that he was happy to finally have time to design costumes for ballet and for his favorite opera, La Traviata. This past New Year's day, the ballerinas for Vienna's New Year's Concert Gala were tutu'd in Valentino, although unfortunately, his Traviata for the Bolshoi in Moscow has been postponed due to the financial crisis.
This past summer, the budding film auteur designed the costumes for the Santa Fe Opera's world premiere of Paul Moravec's noir-style opera, The Letter. Ford clothed the singers in understated creamy linens and airy, frothy organza, appropriate for the setting of humid, early 20th century British Malaysia.
Viktor & Rolf
The Amsterdam-based art school heroes Viktor & Rolf moonlighted as costume designers at Baden-Baden's opera house. Last May, they dressed Carl Maria von Weber's Romantic fairytale Der Freischııtz. Vibrant costumes adorned with mountains of Swarovski crystals competed with clean, white costumes (including, of course, lederhosen).
Although Christian Lacroix's couture house is (sigh) no more, his longtime commitment to opera hasn't flagged. The designer, who created many of American soprano Renee Fleming's looks for The Met's 2008-09 season (a breathtaking, curve-hugging gold gown for Massenet's Thais, an extravagantly ruffled Act II's "Di Provenza" gown for Verdi's La Traviata), has most recently designed costumes for the premiere of Handel's Agrippina (above and below) at the Berlin Staatsoper on February 4. We can't wait.
Look for regular dispatches from our favorite (and anonymous) opera blogger, the Milan-based Opera Chic, every Wednesday.
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