The opening of the opera season at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan is one of the most glamorous social happenings of the European fall. This year, due to the pandemic, the wonderful Scala Theater has not been accessible to the public. The event, therefore, was transmitted online and allusively named ‘A Riveder le Stelle’ (‘To See the Stars Again’) from the famous last verse of Dante’s Inferno (where the two protagonists, Dante and his guide Virgil, come back to see the reassuring, clear and starry sky after their dangerous journey through Hell). An amazing number of people (over 43,000) followed ‘A Riveder le Stelle’ remotely. Tablets, smartphones, and computers have thus made it possible for an unprecedented number of Opera lovers to “attend” what has always been regarded as one of Italy’s most elitist social events.
The performance (which had been especially devised for the web) included performances by today’s most famous opera singers, such as Marianne Crebassa (who sang pieces from Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell and Bizet’s Carmen), Kristine Opolais, and Lisette Oropesa, who respectively interpreted famous arias from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, or Rosa Feola and Eleonora Buratto, who performed pieces from Donizetti’s Elisir d’Amore and Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera. Much attention has also been paid to dance, recitals, and multi-media performances.
Most noticeable – both for us at ISI Florence and for the eager public! – is that the stage costumes have been provided by the greatest names of contemporary Italian Fashion: Armani, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Marco de Vincenzo, and Gian Luca Capannolo – just to mention a few. “We have created a special stage script together with the ‘stilisti’ (Italian Fashion designers) and together with all those people who work in their amazing ateliers” – declared Gianluca Falaschi, the costume designer of the Scala Theater. He added: “A high fashion dress is a sort of second skin for whoever wears it. When it is worn by an opera singer, or by an actor, it becomes a part of the narration in which she or he is engaged, whether this narration is an ‘aria’ sung from a famous opera or a prose passage from a recital.”
This online Scala theater event is further testimony to the long-lasting interaction between Italian fashion and opera, which is built on an original blending of creativity and enthusiasm. As ISI Florence Fashion History students know very well, this fascinating synergy is deeply rooted in the sophisticated culture of the Italian Renaissance. It goes back to the days when the great architect and designer Bernardo Buontalenti created the amazing costumes for one of the most famous early operas, the so-called “Intermezzi della Pellegrina”(interludes for “The Pilgrim Woman). The “Intermezzi” were first staged for the most glamorous event of the time, that is, the marriage of Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici and Princess Christine of Lorraine, which took place in Florence in 1589. Click on this link to hear the music of the final grand ball Oh che nuovo miracolo (Oh What a New Miracle, by Emilio de’ Cavalieri) that concludes the Intermezzi della Pellegrina.
Rita Comanducci, Ph.D
History of Fashion, ISI Florence