Gianni Versace costume for Strauss' Salome, 1987.


MILAN Fashion designers have cast their spell on theater costumes. “Incantesimi. I costumi del Teatro alla Scala dagli anni Trenta ad oggi [“Spells. La Scala Theater’s costumes from the Thirties until today”] is a concise yet visually compelling retrospective of costumes that trace history across nine decades.

Hosted in the Sale degli Arazzi or tapestry rooms of the city’s Royal Palace, the exhibition, which runs through Jan. 28, comprises 24 costumes organized in chronological order and explores the relationship between performers, directors, sets and costume design.

Sported by the likes of Maria Callas, Carla Fracci and Rudolf Nureyev among others, the costumes show the skilled craftsmanship of La Scala Atelier’s seamstresses and tailors as well as the “history of costume design itself which was more and more related to the sets and scenes,” said curator Vittoria Crespi Morbio.

A section of the exhibition also explores the relationship between fashion designers and the Milan opera house, focusing on the work of Gianni Versace and Karl Lagerfeld.

During the Eighties, Versace designed costumes for Robert Wilson and Maurice Béjart. “The theater influenced Versace’s work as a designer quite a lot. Thanks to Béjart he understood the dance’s movements while with Robert Wilson he himself said he got to know the value of simplicity,” Crespi Morbio commented.

Lagerfeld, instead, created the costumes for director Luca Ronconi’s adaptation of “The Trojans,” which debuted in Milan in 1982. A fringed ivory and tangerine gown is displayed as part of the exhibition.

A sketch of Karl Lagerfeld's costume for Ronconi's "The Trojans"

A sketch of Karl Lagerfeld’s costume for Ronconi’s “The Trojans.”  Cortesy picture.

The costumes were donated by La Scala and restored by Atelier Brancato with the support of Associazione Amici della Scala or “La Scala Friends’ Association,” a cultural organization born in 1983, which promoted the exhibition.

The Associazione Amici della Scala also published the exhibition’s book, which features sketches, old photographs, performers’ portraits and some costumes’ close-ups.

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