"I cannot clothe them! I need models!" --> Miuccia Prada's famous battle cry aimed at The Metropolitan Opera's supernumeraries in the run up to a starry Verdi Attila that bowed in February, 2010. In her opera costumier debut, the Italian fashion designer was (apparently) horrified at the discrepancy between the teenage Amazon models, lithe & light as air, who she sends down the runway twice a year (excluding resort collections) and opera professionals who frankly can't subsist on a model's diet of Starbucks & Marlboros & Veuve Clicquot & fruit salad to crank out four hours of unmic'd (we hope) Strauss.
Although Prada's outburst could have been taken straight from the pages of a modern rom-com -- the eccentric, Ivory-towered fashion designer scandalized by seam-sabotaging curves of real women -- it doesn't mean that opera singers are banned from couture. Performers have been upping their games (since Maria Callas and Biki/YSL) through relationships with couture designers who understand the physique of classical music artists -- Lacroix, Viktor & Rolf, Zandra Rhodes and the late greats Gianni Versace and Gianfranco Ferrè.
Young (hawt) performers like Charlie Siem, Ray Chen and Vittorio Grigolo play dress-up with Giorgio Armani, whose been cultivating classical music stars well before he premiered as opera costumier at the ROH in 1995 for a modern-day Jonathan Miller production of Cosi. But what about the girls? DiDonato goes with Westwood and Renee's a couture cowgirl. Italian soprano Carmen Giannattasio relies on Alberta Ferretti -- although Ferretti's never designed for opera, she creates for real-world, independent women and Giannattasio perfectly fits the bill, like in the photo above.
For classical music artists, there's no better time than now -- along with the rapidly-changing landscape of 21st century opera that increasingly assumes sartorial savvy, the fashion world's changing, too, with an egalitarian shift, a new power paradigm that invites bloggers as first row ambassadors shoulder to shoulder with the great taste-makers of the industry. Fashion is accessible, but when anyone can get backstage without credentials, it's no longer aspirational/exotic/elite (choose one), so OC predicts that fashion will bolster & buttress with arts and culture. And we've always needed fashion for its raw swerve. So what do you say we go get our symbiotic swerve on? Start here with OC's latest piece for Sinini Music on the Giannattasio/Ferretti partnership (including a little lesson from Leyla Gencer).