Fashion designers at La Scala: flowing ball gowns, sharp dinner suits and neckpieces with enough sparkle to blind

By Teatro Alla Scala

On visits to La Scala, where audiences are typically well-dressed, Milan’s fashion capital status is rarely in doubt. Occasionally, however, costumes flaunted onstage outshine even those seen around the auditorium. Over the years, leading lights of the fashion world, from Versace to Prada to Yves Saint-Laurent, have lent La Scala productions a touch of sartorial flare.

SalomeTeatro Alla Scala

Armani’s costumes and flowers

Is fashion doyen Giorgio Armani the conductors’ fashion designer of choice?
He has certainly worked with musical royalty at La Scala. The first Armani dress on La Scala's stage was worn in 1980 by soprano Janis Martin, the interpreter of Erwartung in a staging that reproduced the original sketches designed by Schonberg. Claudio Abbado conducted.

Oedipus Rex/erwartung/csodalatos Mandarin - Erwartung Op. 17 (1909)Teatro Alla Scala

Oedipus Rex/erwartung/csodalatos Mandarin - Erwartung Op. 17 (1909)Teatro Alla Scala

In 1994 Armani designed two costumes (for Orest and Der Pfleger) for Luca Ronconi's blood-spattered production of Elektra by Giuseppe Sinopoli;

Elektra 1994 Alan Titus nel ruolo di Orest e Gabriele Schnaut nel ruolo di ElektraTeatro Alla Scala

In 1995 he dressed Neil Shichoff’s as Hoffmann in Alfredo Arias' 1995 staging of Les Contes d'Hoffmann conducted by Riccardo Chailly.

Samuel ramey e Neil Schicof Les contes d'Hoffmann 1994Teatro Alla Scala

Lagerfeld’s classical resplendence

Of Karl Lagerfeld’s many costumes for Luca Ronconi, his classical world-inspired designs for the director’s 1982 production of Les Troyens are some of the most memorable. With richly-patterned dresses and tall, bejewelled headpieces, ancient Troy and Carthage was refocussed through a Romantic lense.

Les TroyensTeatro Alla Scala

"The references to the ancient world are clear," said Ronconi to La Repubblica. "Elements of the scenography, especially Karl Lagerfeld's costumes that are suggestive of Phoenicians and Cretans, give life to the antiquity so completely revered by Berlioz."

Les TroyensTeatro Alla Scala

Scottish wool for Pavarotti

In 1983 Luciana Serra and Luciano Pavarotti wore soft costumes designed by Rosita and Ottavio Missoni together with director Pier Luigi Pizzi in a successful production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Missoni recreated traditional Scottish clothing by designing large capes and woolen headdresses in autumnal colours.

Lucia Di LammermoorTeatro Alla Scala

Elegance and punk

Gianni Versace has worked at La Scala more often than any other fashion designer. His characteristically flamboyant bi-chrome costumes for Texan director Robert Wilson's 1987 staging of Salome, evocative of "post-modernist punk", said The New York Times, included a figure-hugging, rippling black frock, and a renaissance-style dress with swirling breast-plate patterning and umbrella skirt.

SalomeTeatro Alla Scala

SalomeTeatro Alla Scala

SalomeTeatro Alla Scala

Ballet with a Mediaeval flavour

In Roland Petit's 2013 ballet Notre-Dame de Paris, principal dancer Roberto Bolle starred as Quasimodo in an Yves Saint-Laurent-designed ecru blouse.

Notre-dame De ParisTeatro Alla Scala

Notre-dame De ParisTeatro Alla Scala

He was joined by Natalia Osipova (Esmerelda), who sported a revealing bustier minidresses provocatively ripped and split at the torso and hips. Mediaeval costumes for the corps de ballet included leather hoods, padded shoulders and tights for the guards. They were "as colourful as a cathedral’s stained-glass windows", reported Vogue.

Notre-dame De ParisTeatro Alla Scala

A catwalk on stage

The first ever catwalk to be seen on La Scala’s stage featured in Davide Livermore's 2018 production of Don Pasquale, conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Costumes were designed by Gianluca Falaschi.

Don Pasquale 2018Teatro Alla Scala

As Norina and her entourage prepared to lure Pasquale, the various roles and postures they must assume - simple, spinster, rascal, a twisted neck, a narrow mouth -- were turned into caricatures acted out in a fashion show.
At the end, the characters struck glam poses for a photographer.

Don PasqualeTeatro Alla Scala

In recent years Dolce and Gabbana have used the stage and the parterre of La Scala for their haute couture shows dedicated to the world of opera.

La Scala Theatre - parterreTeatro Alla Scala

Callas' stylist

Elvira Leonardi Bouyeure (1906-1999), the Milan-based fashion designer and Puccini's granddaughter, helped turn Maria Callas into a fashion icon and global brand.

Portrait of the singer Maria Callas (1923-1977) by Ulisse Sartini (1943- )Teatro Alla Scala

Biki, as Bouyeure was better known, met Callas at a dinner party in 1951. Noting the shabbiness of her attire, she went on to create numerous outfits for the Greek soprano, including a plain black evening cape and wool crepe that Callas wore at La Scala's opening night of the season in 1970, and an elegant floor-length dress with silk satin collar and belt for her 1973 farewell concert at London's Royal Festival Hall.

AlcesteTeatro Alla Scala

Biki and her great-grandchildren would carefully prepare Callas's baggage before trips abroad, briefing her on suitable sartorial combinations to limit the risk of fashion faux pas.

Anna BolenaTeatro Alla Scala

Credits: Story

Credits: curated by James Imam and the Teatro alla Scala

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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