If you’re seeking a high production performance that embodies elevated cultural refinement, look no further than a night at the opera. Few art forms are capable of combining music, theatre and fashion into a poignant drama with such grandiosity, magnificence and resonating power. Themes usually focus on vulnerability, love, betrayal, and ultimately tragedy. Think La Bohème, Rigoletto, Tosca or La Traviata – none of these masterpieces conclude in happy endings because the lead soprano usually dies of a romanticised illness. As unfortunate as this is, they always look absolutely ravishing during their last breaths, usually clad in gorgeous gowns.
Fashion is an integral part of an opera’s impact and visual gravitas, so it comes as no surprise that there would be a long history of collaborations between major fashion houses (especially Italian ones) with famed productions. Here are four of the most captivating costumes that deserved our resounding ‘bravo!’
Versace x Capriccio (1990)
Capriccio by Richard Strauss is a rare, lighthearted opera within an opera indulging on the importance of music, poetry and art. Lead character Countess Madeleine, played by Kiri Te Kanawa, contemplates this while plucking the harp and looking devastatingly exquisite in a glimmering, beaded dress by Gianni Versace, which features a motif reminiscent of stained glass windows. This costume was created during the height of Versace’s fame and reflected his flair for flamboyance.
Viktor & Rolf x Der Freischutz (2009)
Leave it to Viktor & Rolf to create a fairytale fantasy world for Robert Wilson’s staging of the romantic opera Der Freischutz by Carl Maria von Weber. The forward-thinking designer duo outdid themselves by creating a vibrant, blossoming bouquet of an oufit for lead soprano Agatha, played by Juliane Banse. There is a sort of Alice in Wonderland quality to the narrative of the opera’s costumes, which were adorned with almost one million Swarovski crystals. It was a painstaking effort that truly paid off in spades.
Prada x Attila (2010)
Miuccia Prada was one of the later star designers to jump on the operatic bandwagon. It wasn’t until she was approached by architectural duo Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron (masterminds behind London’s Tate Modern) that she felt it was time to lend her innovative designs to a Giuseppe Verdi opera – Attila. The story is about the fall of the Roman Empire during the invasion of the Huns, so Prada created post-apocalyptic, war-torn costumes with an emphasis on worn-in, tattered coats for both male and female cast members. The most striking piece of the bunch was the shimmery gold dress warrior woman Odabella wore as she slayed her enemies. It’s calamity couture at its best.
Valentino x La Traviata (2016)
Last month, the latest rendition of Verdi’s famed story La Traviata premiered at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Sofia Coppola (director of Lost in Translation) made her operatic debut as the lyrical director to tell the story of tormented courtesan Violetta, who is forced to separate from her lover. Francesca Dotto as Violetta certainly looked stunning in three dresses by Valentino. One of these was an elegant and refined black gown with a long peacock-inspired train, while the voluminous white dress had a graceful beauty and ethereal quality to it. However, the most alluring piece was a signature Valentino red gown, which exemplified the fashion house’s vitality and spirit for drama and suspense.