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Elizabeth Varnell | Photo: Stéphane Gallois/Contour by Getty Images | April 25, 2013
Azzedine Alaïa stitches seductive designs to spark a day of madness in the opera The Marriage of Figaro.
There will be plenty of skirt chasing at Walt Disney Concert Hall this month. The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music director, Gustavo Dudamel, has once again assembled a dream team of creatives for this year’s staging of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (May 17, 19, 23, 25, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., L.A., 323.850.2000, laphil.com), with costumes by Paris-based fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa. “It’s a game of seduction,” says Alaïa, hinting at the opera’s backroom scheming that turns the wedding day of valet Figaro into an hour-by-hour comedy of errors as his boss, Count Almaviva, tries to lure the bride. The production is the second such collaboration in as many years (last spring’s Don Giovanni brought together architect Frank Gehry and Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte, and the trilogy will be complete after next year’s Così fan tutte). This staging also includes Alaïa’s longtime friend, architect Jean Nouvel, who created the sets. “We are working in the same direction, with the same expectations and demands,” says Alaïa. And just as last year’s audiences were greeted with characters dressed in thoroughly modern looks, operagoers this month will be treated to the Tunisian-born designer’s structured clothes that cinch in all the right places.
No garment nips and tucks the body the way an Alaïa dress can, and Countess Almaviva and her maid, Susanna, who is Figaro’s bride-to-be, both reap the benefits of Alaïa’s technical prowess. All the singers traveled to his famed Paris atelier for fittings with the designer, who has been in business for more than 35 years and is known for cutting his own patterns and sewing samples. For Figaro, Alaïa created versions of his trademark knit dresses complete with fitted bodices and flared skirts that look deceptively simple but magically hug the body to a flattering effect.
Alaïa, who often produces neutral and gray looks, typically wears a uniform of all black when he designs. “It helps me to think about others,” he says. “It allows me time to think about my work; my work is about women.” And though the fiercely independent designer is best known for enhancing the shape of the female body with his dresses, he’s devised costumes for all of the opera’s characters in this production, including the deceitful men. He collaborated with Nouvel and director Christopher Alden to create a color palette that includes touches of gold and silver. “We worked as a team with Jean and Christopher,” Alaïa says. “I needed to align with their vision to achieve harmony. I have to work to the set of rules which the stage imposes, which are not the same as those that exist for the street.” Regardless of any staging constraints, one thing is certain: Alaïa’s women look so enticing that we may even forgive the men for their wandering eyes.