ROME — “I’m wondering if she should go for true love or not. What do you think?” mused Francis Ford Coppola speaking of the main character Violetta during the first intermission on Sunday evening of “La Traviata,” directed by his daughter Sofia.
Of her first foray into theater direction, he said he “loved the simple and classic” approach she took. The Coppolas, joined by other family members, will now head to the Southern region of Basilicata to luxury resort Palazzo Margherita, owned by Coppola senior. “Sofia likes to rest there, that’s whtraviataere she got married,” he added.
Silvia Venturini Fendi said the direction of the opera “reflects the character of Sofia. She is very refined and I can see her way of thinking in every act.” Asked about the ongoing relevance of this opera, the designer said “there is nothing more current than the pains of love, actually we should talk about them more.”
“It’s beautiful to die for love, no? But it doesn’t happen anymore,” said Monica Bellucci, who may have been taking tips for her next role — an opera singer. She was mum on the film’s details, though.
“Fabulous” was Elizabeth Hurley’s comment, adding that she loved Sofia Coppola’s “fresh take. “Sometimes it’s more exciting to listen than to watch, but in this case, it’s nice to do both.”
“Awesome,” echoed Kanye West, adding that that was all he would say. “My husband always takes me to the opera — we love to go,” said Kim Kardashian. “This is our second anniversary, with Valentino again.” Diane von Furstenberg, who came expressly for the event; Frida Giannini and her husband Patrizio Di Marco; Luke Evans; Fendi chief executive officer Pietro Beccari; Vanessa Beecroft and Keira Knightley were among the guests, who gave Sofia Coppola, Valentino Garavani, Giancarlo Giammetti, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli a standing ovation as they took a bow on the stage. Knightley’s husband James Righton was expected to perform after the dinner held by the couturier and Chiuri and Piccioli at the Roman Aquarium.
The Teatro dell’Opera on Friday presented its own “dream team” ahead of the debut of the performance on Sunday — a production by Valentino and his longtime business partner Giammetti. The couturier was flanked by the director Coppola, and Chiuri and Piccioli, creative heads of the Valentino brand.
The unique conjunction of music, fashion and the cinema has already worked wonders for the theater, which as of Friday had rung up 1.2 million euros, or $1.3 million, in ticket sales against a total cost of almost $2 million for the production — way before the first aria had even been sung — and drawing requests for tours to Japan and Valencia, according to the theater’s superintendent Carlos Fuortes.
No matter. Valentino had less prosaic issues at heart. “We hope the opera can be less intimidating. I have nothing against rock concerts, but this is much more romantic and visually beautiful,” Valentino said. “Ever since I was a child, I loved the music, the history, how the performers were positioned on the stage.”
“Fashion and the movies can bring a new, young audience to the opera,” Chiuri said. “They may find it difficult to approach it, it’s like with haute couture — but you can end up loving what you don’t know,” she said, admitting she and Piccioli were latecomers to the genre, discovering it only in 2014. “And now my daughter is curious about it.”
Piccioli remarked: “Cinema, fashion and opera, together they can bring something new with different points of view.”
While details of the looks were asked to be kept under wraps on Friday, Valentino did say he designed four gowns for Violetta, the main character, “in one hour and a half,” and “not entirely inspired by the Victorian period,” when the opera is set. He revealed there would be “a touch of red, it’s logical, it’s my color,” he said with a smile.
Chiuri and Piccioli designed costumes for Flora Bervoix, Violetta’s friend, and the chorus, for a total of 1,200 looks. “We wanted to interpret them from Sofia’s point of view. We liked that Sofia wanted to enhance the character of Violetta, and make her more contemporary,” said Piccioli. “She wanted a less solemn and more personal tone. It’s a work of subtraction, taking away what is redundant in the historical context of the 1800s.”
Describing their efforts to get Coppola on board, Valentino said he and Giammetti “really wanted” the director, her “fresh, new approach.” The designer recalled “the power she injected in [the 2006 movie that Coppola directed] ‘Marie Antoinette.’”
For her part, Coppola confessed her initial reluctance. “It was a completely different world from what I was used to, and I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I didn’t have the courage, but then I realized what an incredible opportunity this was. They motivated me to do something scary and unfamiliar,” she said, remarking proudly that she was “a distant cousin” of Italian conductor Riccardo Muti, and that she came from a family of musicians.
“I approached ‘La Traviata’ keeping the focus on the beautiful music and costumes, trying to find a part of the character [Violetta] I can relate to and connect to, creating something that I would want to watch,” explained Coppola.
Giammetti underscored that this was “the first cultural operation” for the Fondazione Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti. He revealed projects in the pipeline with friend Eleonora Abbagnato, director of the Teatro dell’Opera’s ballet. “We have a dream for the foundation, we are looking for a location in Rome to house a Valentino museum,” Giammetti said.
“La Traviata,” directed by Jader Bignamini, with scenes by British production designer Nathan Crowley, whose previous work includes “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” will be open to the public from Tuesday to June 30.