Dressing Maria Callas

MedeaTeatro Alla Scala

In the few years of a relatively short career Maria Callas has transformed the way of conceiving opera as a form of art and its cultural function in a time when melodrama was sometimes considered simply as a popular art or a social occasion. Gianandrea Gavazzeni observed the "singular episodes that have occurred in our time only for this personality: the interest of men of culture, of men of letters".

La VestaleTeatro Alla Scala

Callas had revived the great singers of the nineteenth century and with them their repertoire, restored to its dramatic and musical truth. This cultural operation saw around her musicians like Bernstein, Gavazzeni and Giulini, directors like Visconti and Wallman but also costume designers who were able to interpret her royal attitude and her dramatic force.
Maria Callas' costumes were restored by the Amici della Scala and presented at the Palazzo Reale in Milan in the exhibition “Incantesimi” in 2017, 40 years after Callas' death.

MedeaTeatro Alla Scala

Medea 1953-54 by Salvatore Fiume

To revive Medea, Luigi Cherubini's neoclassical masterpiece, La Scala had called two Americans: Leonard Bernstein and the new diva of Greek origin, Maria Callas, who had married the Venetian industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini and appeared on the poster with a double surname. The show, directed by Margherita Wallmann, had sets and costumes by the painter Salvatore Fiume.

Medea, costume by Salvatore FiumeTeatro Alla Scala

For Medea Fiume conceived an abstract, archaic dress, devoid of precise historical references except for the colours white, red and black that refer to Greek vases.

The workmanship of the dress is in itself very simple, with the tempera pattern painted by hand on the silk satin fabric.

Don CarloTeatro Alla Scala

Don Carlo 1953-54 Nicola Benois

In 1954 Maria Meneghini Callas played Elisabetta di Valois in a production of Verdi's Don Carlo directed by Otto Erhardt and conducted by Antonino Votto. The recording of the aria "Tu che le vanità" remains one of the most touching testimonies of Callas' art.

Elisabetta di Valois, costume, Don Carlo by Nicola BenoisTeatro Alla Scala

Sets and costumes are signed by Nicola Benois, director of the stage design of the Theatre and son of the famous Alexandre Benois, artist and set designer of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre.

The dress for Elisabetta is among the best designed by Benois and shows an accurate historical research.stones.

It is made in black velvet with embroidery and ruby mirror stones.

The technique of embossed wire cords dates back to the 1920s and was often used by the great costume designer Caramba.

It is a unique piece, according to the use of the time, with the collar and cuffs of lace sewn at the hems of the dress.

Fedora / Matinees Et Soirees Musicales - FedoraTeatro Alla Scala

Fedora 1955-56 Nicola Benois

Gianandrea Gavazzeni was the main ensign of the composers of the so-called "young school". In 1956 he conducted Umberto Giordano's Fedora with Maria Callas and Franco Corelli. The direction was by Tatiana Pavlova and sets and costumes were signed by Nicola Benois.

For Princess Fedora Romazoff, costume by Nicola BenoisTeatro Alla Scala

For Princess Fedora Romazoff Benois designed a dress that was not particularly original but of solid craft and theatrical effect thanks to the precious materials.

The dress is made of ivory and gold brocade with the central baton embroidered with geometric designs with glass and crystal beads with bezel, pailettes and gold cabochon.

A white lapin shawl collar rests on the shoulders while the hem of the skirt is completed by ermine tails.

The dress is completed by a white lapin hood lined in pink satin with ermine tails and a lapin sleeve also with ermine tails.

Anna BolenaTeatro Alla Scala

Anna Bolena 1956-57 by Nicola Benois

The importance of Maria Callas in the history of opera is also due to her ability to restore dramatic effectiveness to the bel canto repertoire by recreating the legend of the great nineteenth-century performers. This is the case of Anna Bolena, conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni who shared his birth in Bergamo with Donizetti, and staged by Luchino Visconti with sets and costumes by Nicola Benois.

Anna Bolena, costume by BenoisTeatro Alla Scala

Callas still divided the audience and her enemies were ready to boo her. Gavazzeni wrote: "On the ridge of an abyss Maria was sublime for pathetic violence and lyrical decantation".

The costume designer confirmed her theatrical qualities by creating a dress in satin and blue cotton velvet decorated with stones and large glass beads on the bodice.

The blue cotton velvet cloak is lined with red velvet and edged with fox fur.

Credits: Story

Teatro alla Scala

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