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Fashion and opera have always intertwined, and Matheopoulos’s gorgeously illustrated book shows how ten designers (and in some cases fashion houses) have taken up the challenge of transferring their skills into the lyric arena. Problems abound: making the leap from the intense detail of couture to the demands of the bigger stage; dressing casts who are not model- thin; coping with budgetary constraints. Curious details emerge, such as Missoni’s clash with unions at La Scala. Then there’s the chorus sweating to death in their knitwear, plus the amusing story of security having to be tightened backstage to stop the costumes from walking out with the cast. Most operatically erudite is Karl Lagerfeld, who really engages with the art form. Christian Lacroix’s elegant, expressive designs are becoming a regular feature at the opera, especially in Germany. Zandra Rhodes’s riotously colourful palette has been applied to Mozart, Verdi and Bizet. Other designers, however, seem to have treated the operatic experience as a one-off. In the case of Viktor & Rolf, one hopes not: their Swarowski jewel- encrusted satin and lurex creations for Weber’s Der Freischütz caused a sensation in Baden Baden. Miuccia Prada, on the other hand, appears to be bruised by the Met audience’s reception of her Robin Hood- meets-Mad Max costumes for Verdi’s Attila in New York. The book looks as good as the clothes: it’s great to read and to browse.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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