Opera Haute Couture

Grand fashion on a grand stage

By Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

Tatiana's dress designed by Joanna Klimas, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Tatiana's dress designed by Joanna Klimas / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Joanna Klimas was the first fashion designer to work for the Polish National Opera. In 2002 she devised costumes for Mariusz Treliński’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Onegin.

'Soon, I realised

designing for the stage requires me to go beyond what I usually do. An opera costume has to look impressive even from the last row. You need stronger colours, exaggerated shapes, or even a parody of historical characters,’ she said afterwards.

Irina Mataeva as Tatiana by Krzysztof BielińskiTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

Onegin's costume designed by Joanna Klimas / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Gremin’s costume designed by Joanna Klimas / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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‘An outfit does not need a crinoline to charm the beholder. A simple dress can make a strong impact if it looks great. Traditionally, a costume had to correspond to the character’s personality and set design. What a fashion designer wants is a dazzling silhouette.’

Tatiana's dress designed by Joanna Klimas by Małgorzata CieńTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

People were captivated

by the greys, which were beginning to replace black on the runways of Paris and NYC. Tatiana’s dress was made of a wrinkled fabric, which was a very original choice then, known only from fashion magazines.

Tatiana's dress designed by Joanna Klimas / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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‘Elegant and glamorous, without any unnecessary embellishments, I could have offered most of the Act 1 costumes to my clients without having to introduce any major redoes.’

Act 2

culminates in a fashion show. The director’s vision was clear: full-on glamour. Abstract forms and unorthodox design solutions.

The fashion show scene by Krzysztof BielińskiTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

A model’s dress designed by Joanna Klimas, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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A model’s dress designed by Joanna Klimas / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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The bright stage lighting revealed scanty lingerie-like constructions wrapped up in tulle juxtaposed with evening wear accessories, stiffened tulip skirts or flowy ones secured with spikes, see-through tops, feather adornments, bonnets and fascinators, strangely geometrical dresses.

A chorus member’s dress designed by Joanna Klimas, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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A chorus member’s dress designed by Joanna Klimas / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Draperies arranged on cage crinolines. A period look combined with a contemporary print: silk fabric in colourful stripes. Unfortunately, the printed effect was not to the designer’s satisfaction, so a few hundred meters of material was painted by hand. The dresses exceeded everybody’s expectations: they became a wonderful example of handicraft.

"Onegin" by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

LA TRAVIATA

designed by Gosia Baczyńska & Tomasz Ossoliński

Violetta's dress designed by Gosia Baczyńska by Paulina Dadas, Marcin ŁabuzTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

Costumes for "Traviata" designed by Tomasz Ossoliński, Paulina Dadas, Marcin Łabuz, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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The characters in Mariusz Treliński’s production of La Traviata inhibit a fast-paced contemporary metropolis. Their looks are inspired by the pop-art style popularised by the guests of New York’s famous nightclub Studio 54.

Violetta’s feather coat and corset designed by Gosia Baczyńska, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Gosia Baczyńska’s task was to style Violetta as a burlesque star. No female lead had bared more than a low cleavage or a bit of a leg on the Warsaw stage before. To give the singer some extra coverage, the designer dressed Violetta in a turquoise feather coat, a clear burlesque influence. It covered just part of the singer’s body, but it gave the singer more confidence onstage.

Violetta’s feather designed by Gosia Baczyńska / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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In the matadors scene

you can see Violetta standing on a platform wearing a black dress. What do do not see is that she is wearing two other underneath.

Joanna Woś as Violetta Valéry by Krzysztof BielińskiTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

Violetta's dress designed by Gosia Baczyńska / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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A sketch by Tomasz OssolińskiTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

‘I made the matadors’ trousers

from the highest quality leather. A synthetic substitute would do the job, but it probably would not feel as good to the artists. On the stage, as in private life, people feel better when they are wearing materials that are pleasant on the skin,’ said the designer, Tomasz Ossoliński

Joanna Woś as Violetta Valéry, Krzysztof Bieliński, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Violetta's dress designed by Gosia Baczyńska / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Violetta’s dress and headdress, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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The featherwork headdress designed by Baczyńska was directly inspired by the world of fashion. After the birds-of-paradise feathers were finally obtained, which was not an easy task, it turned out that the spectacular headdress was to large for Violetta’s coffin. A fashion show is a difficult enterprise but an opera production is an even more complex affair.

Aleksandra Kurzak as Violetta Valéry, Krzysztof Bieliński, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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A sketch by Gosia BaczyńskaTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

Gosia Baczyńska

Gosia Baczyńska is known for her meticulous attention to detail. ‘I cannot and will not ever compromise on quality, that is why I would never give up on precision or handmade adornments.’

A dancer’s jacket designed by Tomasz Ossoliński / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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‘Staging a fashion show and a theatre production has one thing in common. Everything has to be ready down to the last detail on the opening night. An actor cannot go on stage without his scufflings or pocket square,’ says Tomasz Ossoliński

Gaston de Letorières’s jacket designed by Tomasz Ossoliński / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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"La Traviata" by Giuseppe VerdiTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

DON GIOVANNI

designed by Arkadius

Costumes for "Don Giovanni" designed by Arkadius by Paulina Dadas, Marcin ŁabuzTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

‘I treated fashion as a way of channeling my fascination with art,’ says the designer.

‘Digital prints turned out to be the key to translate the baroque style into contemporary design. The prints looked much more vibrant on tyvek than on fabrics. We achieved fluorescent, psychedelic colours.'

Don Giovanni’s costume designed by Arkadius / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Don Giovanni’s costume designed by Arkadius /detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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He used colour to express the characters’ personalities. That is why they are so unambiguous. They rely on elementary symbolism.

Don Giovanni is mainly seen

in a tail coat and hat. The dominant colour of his clothes is amaranth verging on fuchsia, which symbolises love and passion. All of his lovers bear a mark of his desire: at least one amaranth element of clothing, sometimes as tiny as a garter.

Mariusz Kwiecień as Don Giovanni, Krzysztof Szumański as Leporello by Krzysztof BielińskiTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

Sketches by Arkadius, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Donna Elvira’s dress designed by Arkadius / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Donna Elvira’s dress, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Asymmetry was the main feature of his work. He paired baroque corsets with his flagship crosswise lacing and one shoulder puffed sleeves.

‘Both Mariusz Treliński and me,

we wanted to create the wow factor. The tool we used was exaggeration,’ said Arkadius

Donna Anna’s dress designed by Arkadius by Małgorzata CieńTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

MADAME BUTTERFLY

designed by Magdalena Tesławska & Paweł Grabarczyk

Madama Butterfly’s white kimono by Paulina Dadas, Marcin ŁabuzTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

Madama Butterfly’s red kimono designed by Magdalena Tesławska, Paweł Grabarczyk, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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‘Enough of tacky Japanese folklore! We have managed to create something new, fresh, and chic. Together with Mariusz Treliński and Boris Kudlička, we wanted to show Japan in a universal way. Replace the flowery kimonos with a uniform form.’

Madama Butterfly’s red kimono designed by Magdalena Tesławska, Paweł Grabarczyk / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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Madama Butterfly’s white kimono designed by Magdalena Tesławska, Paweł Grabarczyk / detail, Małgorzata Cień, From the collection of: Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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‘I remember working on Butterfly very well. It was very innovative.Contemporary fabrics and looks combined with Japanese aesthetics....

...I remember we used krylon, which you had to soak in intense dye and knead. We then covered it with a layer of very thin interfacing imported from the States. When I saw the costumes on stage, illuminated by stage lights, the krylon, which is a rather cheap material, glinted where it had been creased, looking as is it were God knows what. It took my breath away,’ says Ewa Majewska, head of the women’s costume department.

‘There are many productions that get

a makeover every time they open on a new stage. It is not the case with Butterfly. Nothing changes. The idea was to make it a self-contained universe that does not grow old as time goes by. The approach was heavily inspired b The approach was heavily inspired by fashion,’ concludes Grabarczyk.

"Madame Butterfly", final by Krzysztof BielińskiTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

"Madame Butterfly" by Giacomo PucciniTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera

Credits: Story

Translated into English by:
Monika Tacikowska

Opera Haute Couture  is presented in conjunction with the exhibition (Opera Gallery, Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera, 10 December 2014 – 14 March 2015)
Curator: Marcin Fedisz

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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