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
‘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.’
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.
‘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.’
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
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.
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
designed by Gosia Baczyńska & Tomasz Ossoliński
Violetta's dress designed by Gosia Baczyńska by Paulina Dadas, Marcin ŁabuzTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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.
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.
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
‘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
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.
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.’
‘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
"La Traviata" by Giuseppe VerdiTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
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.'
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
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
designed by Magdalena Tesławska & Paweł Grabarczyk
Madama Butterfly’s white kimono by Paulina Dadas, Marcin ŁabuzTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
‘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.’
‘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
Translated into English by:
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