Costume worn by William Christie.
Long, ivory taffeta tunic topped with gold netting. Back and plastron with a sun embroidered in sequins and gold braid. Puffed sleeves with gold lace “engageantes” (sleeve ruffles). Waist and hem accentuated with gold fringe. Gray silk breeches decorated with gold ribbon.
“Hippolytus and Aricia”: A lyric tragedy in five acts and a prologue. Music by Jean-Phillipe Rameau. Directed by Jean-Marie Villégier with costumes by Patrice Cauchetier, set design by Nicolas de Lajartre, and choreography by Ana Yepes. Paris, Paris Opera, 1996.
“Atys”: A tragedy in five acts and a prologue. Music by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Directed by Jean-Marie Villégier with costumes by Patrice Cauchetier, set design by Carlo Tommasi, and choreography by Francine Lancelot. Paris, Théâtre National de l'Opéra Comique, 1987. Revival in 2011.
Pluton: Costume worn by Nathan Berg.
Very long, foil lamé tunic in turquoise, pink, and black with long, straight sleeves. Jeweled waistband, plastron, and gold lavalliere bow tie. Very long dress coat in violet and black lurex lamé, with lining and front facing in violet and black lurex foil lamé. The bottom of the coat's border is in two-tone green and violet taffeta. Gold crown with topaz and purple stones. Purple lycra gauntlets with gold tassels.
Here, we see one of the sources of inspiration for librettists of the Baroque repertoire—Greco-Roman mythology: the heroes from Homer's “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” in “Ulysses' Homecoming” by Monteverdi, or even Ovid's “Metamorphoses” in Handel’s “Hercules.” The gods of Olympus, identified by their attributes, are frequently found in these librettos. The costume designers chose full shapes and vibrant colors to make them more majestic.
The Parcae: Costume worn by Bertrand Bontoux, Matthieu Lécroart, and Christopher Josey.
A large, hooped, crinoline petticoat for the three performers. Large, purple lamé skirt with underskirt attached in violet and green taffeta, decorated with identical braid and fringe for all three performers. Three purple lamé bodices with three front panels in bright violet lamé. Three mauve and beige silk guimpes with black crepoline attached to the bodice. Three ruffs. Three fontange headdresses.
Italy was the birthplace of opera, which emerged out of a desire for the revival of ancient tragedy among Florentine artists in the 17th century. In its early stages, opera borrowed themes from mythology and followed the structure of the Greek tragedies.
Greco-Roman antiquity is revisited in two pieces with very different aesthetics: the traditional one presented in “Il Tito,” with Roman breastplates that are given the theatrical treatment and painted to look like metal, and the contemporary aesthetic in “The Coronation of Poppea,” with its very glamourous, haute couture evening gowns. The costume designer turns the characters into human beings who, whilst of course historical, are also timeless. These lustrous costumes give the characters a sense of majesty with the scale and light that they create.
Costume worn by Joseph Cornwell for the role of Polemon in “Il Tito.”
Long, long-sleeved, red-brown linen tunic with gold motifs and cashmere overgarment. Supple, molded, red leather armor decorated with braid. Apron belt in black and gold printed cotton. Wide, puffed cotton trousers. Turban headdress. Black shield with gold metal decoration.
As well as Greco-Roman references, opera also draws inspiration from religious subjects, as in “Il Sant’Alessio” (Saint Alexius)—a musical drama created in Rome in 1632. The legend of Saint Alexius is popular in Rome, where there are two churches dedicated to him. William Christie chose to cast only male singers, in accordance with contemporary Jesuit customs. The director, Benjamin Lazar, used candles for the lighting. The set was evocative of a palace in the classical architectural style, with three mobile, wooden wings that could be used to change the scene. The costume designer, Alain Blanchot, designed 148 costumes requiring 1,224 m of fabric. The style of the costumes and set was inspired by a text by Jean-Jacques Bouchard, who had been in the audience at the first performance in the 17th century. The characters of the story are mixed with allegories: Good—virtues represented by religion—and Evil—vices represented by the Devil.
Roma (Rome): Costume worn by Terry Wey.
Large, white underdress with trim at the bottom of the sleeves. Long, sleeveless, red damask dress. Skirt with large pleats and appliquéd circular motifs at the bottom, which the costume designer painted in black on yellow fabric. These represent the emblems of the seven hills of Rome.
La Sposa (The Wife): Costume worn by Max Emanuel Cencic.
Large white shirt. Hooped petticoat. Yellow-gold skirt with shell-shaped cut-outs at the bottom, trimmed with gold braid and tassels, allowing the red and gold damask underskirt to be seen. Blue stole. Fawn cloak, embroidered with a plant motif in sequins and colored tubes.
The costumes on display are from one of the major works in Purcell's repertoire: “The Fairy Queen,” based on William Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” which was written in London in 1692. This production by Les Arts Florissants in 1989 was the first time the piece had been performed in its entirety in France. Sorcerers, spirits, and fairies populate the lyrical sets as a pretext for song and dance.
Chinese Woman: Costume worn by Sandrine Piau.
Puffed trousers in striped orange and gold satin. Fitted jacket in tailored lamé, with long coat tails with gold braid and finished with yellow fringed tassels, open sleeves over puffed sleeves in bronze crystal, shoulders with fins, and a high collar.
On loan from the town of Aix-en-Provence.
Lyric tragedy, or musical tragedy, is a specifically French musical genre created by Lully to differentiate his work from Italian opera.
It blends the musical forms of Italian opera, court ballet, and tragedy. A harmonious mix of singing, dancing, entertainment, and recitatives unfolds on stage. The work that brought about the renaissance of Baroque opera in France at the end of the 1980s, and brought the work of William Christie to the attention of the general public, was Lully's “Atys.” In this historical performance, the costumes and sets were given a 17th-century aesthetic. Aristocratic wigs, designs, fabrics, and decorations came to life on stage thanks to the first collaboration between Jean-Marie Villégier and Patrice Cauchetier. The costumes on display in the exhibition are from the dream scene. Patrice Cauchetier imagined this tableau in golden hues.
Long dresses in jersey, lycra, acetate, and muslin voile with fraying along all of the edges. The effect is that of wet folds clinging to the body, inspired by Greek statues. The fabric is dyed and gathered with traces of fluorescent pink, orange, green, and yellow paint. Acetate is used to create a crumpled effect at the waist. Bustier bodices with shoulder straps, cut low in the front and back. Over the dresses, short vests with one or two sleeves, in dyed gauze with a patina of fluorescent paint.
NCSC collection / Donated by Les Arts Florissants.
Handel's “Theodora” and Marc-Antoine Charpentier's “David and Jonathan” are two works from the end of the 17th century inspired by biblical and religious tragedies.
They are set against the backdrop of two opposing communities: Pagans against Christians in one, and Israelites against Philistines in the other. Mythological subjects are replaced by moral principles and conflicts between love and duty, persecution, and tolerance.
Costume worn by Pascal Charbonneau for the role of the adult David in “David and Jonathan.”
Puffed breeches with braces in gray wool and white elastic straps under the feet. Braces made from leather and gray fabric. Beige shirt with thin brown stripes. Chestnut waistcoat with a brown and beige chevron pattern on the front, lined with beige brocade, with green fabric and a metal clasp on the back. Moth-eaten and stained military pea coat in gray wool lined with beige brocade. Dusty, dirty, moth-eaten, and stained military coat in dark-gray wool. Leather belt. Military cap in gray fabric with leather visor. Boots.
Work of the director Robert Carsen, who has collaborated with Les Arts Florissants for 30 years.
For Handel's “Alcina” and Lully's “Armide,” the librettists took inspiration from the poems of Tasso and Ariosto. Their heroes are knights and magicians. Robert Carsen moved away from historical references to the 18th century: the performers in “Alcina” and “Armide” were dressed in 20th-century costumes and evening gowns. The story of “Les Boréades” (The Descendants of Boreas), based on the antinomy of Good and Evil, inspired the director to cultivate this dualism in his choice of subtle tones of white, gray, and black. The women wore structured dresses inspired by Dior’s “New Look” fashion of the 1950s.
The story of “Les Boréades” (The Descendants of Boreas), based on the antinomy of Good and Evil, inspired the director to cultivate this dualism in his choice of subtle tones of white, gray, and black. The women wore structured dresses inspired by Dior’s “New Look” fashion of the 1950s.
Boreas: Costume worn by Laurent Naouri.
Black, woolen, roll-neck pullover. Gray woolen pants. Long, black leather coat. Black, waxed-linen scarf. Classic, black leather gloves.
On loan from the Paris Opera.
A Borean woman (structured): Costume worn by Marie-Bénédicte Souquet.
Skin-colored, waisted corselette. Black, woolen, roll-neck pullover. Straight, gray woolen skirt. Three-quarter crinoline cage. Single-breasted coat with three-quarter length sleeves. Long, black leather gloves. Necklace with six strings of large gray beads. Pendant earrings with large gray beads. On loan from the Paris Opera.
The last three rooms of the exhibition pay homage to the French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau.
His first opera, “Hippolytus and Aricia,” is one of the few works from this era to revisit a subject previously handled by Racine—“Phèdre.” In it, the thwarted love of the two protagonists becomes the driving force behind the action, and Phèdre's guilty passion takes a back seat. Dramatic unity is replaced by the coexistence of two worlds: tragedy and entertainment. The costumes were adapted scene by scene, depending on the role that they were playing, and were differentiated by their fabrics and colors.
Huntress: Costume worn by Jeannette Wilson. Corset. Petticoat.
Off-white shirt in a fine fabric with a jabot, a black velvet bow, and some mauve velvet on the cuffs. Faux-fur Brandebourg waistcoat with gold braid and gold buttons. Long Brandebourg jacket in purple velvet with gold braid and buttons, and faux-fur cuffs. Purple velvet skirt. Small, black tricorn hat with gold braid and a purple and white aigrette. On loan from the Paris Opera.
“Rameau, maître à danser” (Rameau, the Dancing Master) was the title of a show put on in 2014 for the 250th anniversary of the composer's death. William Christie revived two underappreciated works, plunging the spectator into the world of the “fêtes galantes” (a genre of painting). All of the performers in this production wore costumes that were designed like dance costumes, making them light and easy to move in.
The characters are not princes or heroes, but villagers and shepherds, although the gods and high priests are present at the denouement.
The High Priest: Costume worn by Arnaud Richard.
Long tunic with a train in distressed, light-beige cotton canvas. Maxi coat in distressed, light-beige canvas decorated with a natural and black raffia weave and fringing. Tall, fringed raffia headdress adorned with two plaits. On loan from the Théâtre de Caen.
Costume worn by Virginie Thomas.
White, cotton blouse with long sleeves tied with red ribbon. Laced corset with cotton apron attached, with a sprayed-on floral pattern. Pink skirt in Toile de Jouy fabric. Green tights. Pink shoes tied with blue ribbons. White and red choker. Red and black parasol.
On loan from the Théâtre de Caen.
During the exhibition, the last room recreated the stage of the Paris Opera, with pieces from the set of Rameau's masterpiece, “Les Indes galantes” (The Gallant Indians), used in the 1999 production. In the time of Louis XV, exoticism was a favorite subject for librettists. The spectator is plunged into a festive atmosphere with a series of introductions to four different cultures: Turkey, Peru, Persia, and North America, linked by a theme presented in the prologue—love. This journey, punctuated by luminous panels and large pieces of set, symbolizes the four introductions, which are illustrated by costumes in shimmering colors.
Costume for the role of a Peruvian in “Les Indes galantes.”
Purple dupion dress coat with pink trim, brown sleeves, and a hoop in the hem of the coat. Breeches in brown dupion with gold feather anklets. Cloak in shades of pink, red, and fuchsia with printed silk-screen designs. Long-sleeved, brown silk shirt. Brown tights. Cone-shaped headdress in imitation hammered gold. Gold leaf ankle bracelets.
Costume worn by Nathan Berg for the role of Huascar in “Les Indes galantes.”
Two-tone green and orange silk plastron, trimmed with long, black horse-hair fringe on the front, back, and sleeves. Two-tone orange and green silk pants and tunic. Beige silk cloak with silk-screen prints of animals in brick red, orange, and black. Gold cap with a plume of yellow and black feathers.
Costume for the role of a Flower Woman in “Les Indes galantes.”
Multi-tone flower dress in green, mauve, purple, and ochre taffeta with sleeves formed of organdie petals. Puffed, colored drawers gathered at the calf and decorated with black tassels. Wig helmet in black plastic. The dancers wore the same costume, but with a headdress made from a plaited cap with long petals made from stiff tulle, supported by piano wire to form orchids.
Costume worn by Nicholas Cavallier for the role of Osman in “Les Indes galantes.”
Three-quarter-length tunic in green silk, decorated with colored moons and snaking stripes in gold lamé. Puffed pants in green silk. Long kaftan in orange silk, decorated with colored moons and snaking gold stripes. Orange handkerchief. Green tights. Large, blue silk taffeta turban with appliquéd colored moons.
Costume worn by Anna Maria Panzarella for the role of Emilie in “Les Indes galantes.”
Blue costume with red lacing on the bodice. The bottom of the skirt is inlayed with wavy purple, black, and blue bands. Orange apron with a black and gold silk-screen print of a boat. Blue breeches. Transparent blue tights. Handkerchief.
Costume for the role of Spirit of America in “Les Indes galantes.”
Dress made from plastazote, foam, and lycra painted in shades of blue, white, and yellow; ochre, yellow, and gray; yellow, white, and grey; and, finally, red, white, and black. Yellow, white, and black striped skirt. Yellow plastazote chaps with black marks. Mask in the shape of a sunflower, a small, round pumpkin with ears, or even an ovoid mask with a colorful crest of fake feathers.