ON SET

Sofia Coppola Takes You Inside Valentino’s “La Traviata”

La Traviata

Sofia Coppola made her operatic debut Monday night in Rome as the director of a new staging of Verdi’s La Traviata conceived by none other than Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti. The Oscar-winning filmmaker was enlisted by Valentino to join his production, staged in collaboration with the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, after he saw her 2006 film Marie Antoinette. Coppola was part of an all-star team of fashion and film experts for the project: Valentino designed Violetta’s costumes (the production’s lead heroine), Valentino creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli did the costumes for Flora and the chorus (with help from the theater’s costume workshop), and Nathan Crowley (famous for his work with Christopher Nolan, including The Dark Knight) took on set design. Here, Coppola offers an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at how it all came together.

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We begin at the Valentino atelier in Rome.

Coppola: “I love what a perfectionist he is and his great love of beauty. They had to shorten the train of this dress for Violetta’s entrance because it was too long for her to walk in. There was a lot of discussion about this train!”

Chiuri: “It was a real challenge trying to find the exact shade of color Mr. Valentino wanted.”

Piccioli: “Are we sure we want to shorten and decrease the tail? Never big enough for Violetta’s entrance.”

Unless noted, all photos courtesy Valentino SpA.

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Violetta’s much discussed train.

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An opera is an intimidating undertaking, and there is many competing elements to consider for “La Traviata.”

Coppola: “Valentino was really involved in every detail, and it was great to see how Maria Grazia and Pierpaolo worked with him so that all the costumes worked together. I tried to keep the focus on the music, the costumes and the character of Violetta – being her story. Nathan and I wanted the sets to support the costumes, not compete with them.”

Chiuri: “We have shared with Mr. Valentino the spirit of the costumes for La Traviata. They had to be timeless and at the same time loyal to the spirit of the opera.”

Piccioli: “Moodboard: Hues of turquoise, rose, lace and red. Of course, a timeless Traviata.”

Valentino Garavani: “The inspiration board in the ateliers. I wanted platform shoes…had to discard them later because the soprano couldn’t walk very well in them.”

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On the one hand, there’s sets to build, all in the opera house’s famed workshops, the Laboratorio di Scenografia del Teatro dell’Opera.

Chiuri: “The laboratories ove viewing the Circo Massimo are a magical place for Pierpaolo and I, we love this place.”

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But then, there’s also tiny touches that no one except the actors will likely notice. Coppola: “Craftspeople painting the vases for Flora’s party scenes, which are based on de Gournay wallpaper.”

Chiuri and Piccioli: “Maurizio Varano at work. Since we met in 2014, we have been accomplices.”

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Luckily, the best of the best are hard at work: Coppola: “Great to see how their costumes all worked together. Maria Grazia and Pierpaolo have such respect for Valentino and the Couture tradition. I love how they embrace this and add a modern feeling to it.”

Piccioli: “It takes two to tango, three could be better.”

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The A-Team gets down to the nitty gritty.

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Their commitment to craftsmanship is on vivid display throughout the process.

Coppola: “Violetta’s dress for her party scene—which I love—a great cape made of black tulle.”

Piccioli: “White is the color of couture, black is our colour.”

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The role of Violetta is one of the greatest in opera, once played by the legendary diva Maria Callas and in this production by Francesca Dotto. As the show’s lead, her costumes, seen here, receive lavish attention.

Chiuri and Piccioli: “Basically, this dress has occupied Antonietta’s laboratory for three months.”

Valentino Garavani: “The Couture ateliers at work day and night..hours and hours of work.”

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Coppola: “The incredible couture details by the women who have worked there for many years. Pierpaolo told me they started a school there so they can carry on the tradition.”

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Coppola: “It was nice to hear that a lot of young people are interested to learn this craft.”

Chiuri: “They are not only costumes, they are Haute Couture dresses.”

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The other major female role is Flora, Violetta’s friend, typically played by a mezzo soprano, Anna Malavasi in this case.

Coppola: “This is Flora’s dress designed by Maria Grazia and Pierpaolo. I love the dresses they did for this scene—the ball of Flora with masks and everyone in sheer black.”

Chiuri: “Pierpaolo and I are a ‘Noir’ generation, therefore this dress and this scene, with the chorus all in black, is cherished by us as it reflects us perfectly.”

Piccioli: “Flora and the choir all in black. Doing opera costumes is rock.”

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Even the footwear is up for debate.

Coppola: “Francesca, was worried about walking in very high platforms. Valentino wanted her to be taller… they found a compromise.”

Chiuri: “Finding a compromise between the requirements of the theatre and fashion spirit that resides in each one of us has been the most challenging and funny aspect.”

Valentino Garavani: “With Sofia, Maria Grazia and Pierpaolo chatting with Francesca Dotto to be sure she was comfortable in the dress.”

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The A-Team approves of the process so far.

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Act 1, Violetta’s Party. Coppola: “Nathan made that staircase because I wanted her to make a dramatic entrance. This is also while we worried about her being able to walk in her shoes! That’s Flora in the white dress next to Violetta.”

Chiuri: “We wanted for Flora and for the chorus dresses in light and impalpable colors, in order to define the festive beginning of the story.”

Piccioli: “Layers and layers of dyed pastel tulle for the chorus to create harmony and lightness to make Violetta shine.”

Photo by Yasuko Kugeyama.

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A scene from “La Traviata.”

Photo by Yasuko Kugeyama.

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Coppola: “This was a possible red cape for Flora’s party scene, but Valentino preferred a cinnamon tulle cape in the end.”

Chiuri: ‘With our rebel spirit, we proposed to Mr. Valentino an alternative to Violetta’s cape, more theatrical and dramatic, but like in the past, his firmness won!”

Garavani: “That red theatre coat ..I changed it later for a tulle gold cape.”

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A scene from “La Traviata.”

Photo by Yasuko Kugeyama.

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A scene from “La Traviata.”

Photo by Yasuko Kugeyama.

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Almost a decade after he stepped down from his namesake label, the maestro has not lost his touch.

Coppola: “Amazing to see Valentino at work! This is the costume for Act 3—Violetta’s death scene. The set is all dark blue and she stands out alone in pale pink.”

Chiuri: “We know very well Mr. Valentino’s attention to detail, and to those who ask us how it was working with him we answer: nothing has changed.”

Piccioli: “Hidden faded roses in the puff sleeves. We love them faded, he loves blossoming.”

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A detail on a costume for “La Traviata.”

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The whole gang ends up at the historic Teatro dell’Opera Di Roma.

Coppola: “It’s a beautiful theater and was so great for me to get to work there!”

Piccioli: “Dream team!”