Sunday, November 28, 2010

Meeting Roberto Alagna

Somehow, in the 1960's, we all became groupies. We'd head backstage like detectives, seeking out our heroes of the rock music world, or the theatre world, or the poets of our young dreams. We'd stake out hotels, lobbies, even sometimes airports (remember the Beatles:::???!!!), to catch a glimpse of a mythic guitar player. Life was good. Backstage was where it was at. No waiting in lines at the front door, to get into a concert; we knew doormen, bouncers, body guards. We got in. It was a life behind the velvet ropes, all through the New York disco years, too. While the b&t hordes (that's bridge and tunnel to those who don't remember) flaunted polyester and gold chains to be admitted to the hallowed grounds of Studio 54, or some other club of reckoning, we tromped past the crush, with a wave to the doorman, and waltzed in. Everywhere. No lemmings we. Never followers, rather we forged ahead of the pack, and found an empty seat on a sagging sofa in the dressing room, and camped out with our heroes. While some were there for sex, others were just there to revel in the glory of the moment, and the glow of someone so talented that magic music emanated from their very souls. Ah, life was sweet.
On Monday night I had a flashback moment. A group of French opera lovers came over to see Don Carlo at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, with their much loved Roberto Alagna singing the star role. Apparently, they go everywhere to see his performances: Monte Carlo, Vienna, anywhere a plane, train, or car will take their Roberto- loving selves. Adorable, really. They're all friends from Facebook , so thank you! technology.
Imagine the Met, fraught all year with new construction, so that everything is in a different place. Finding the Stage Door, and sailing past the waiting fans was different, when in the wake of the French Cadre. They knew where, and how, and almost made it into the vestibule, when the guard couldn't find all their names on the list. My job, at that point, was to use all those years of groupie experience, and make it happen. As the translator (ahem), I informed the guard that they had flown all the way from France, and were friends of Roberto. Definitely not as much resistance as backstage with the Rolling Stones.
Roberto was in the vestibule , just in front of his dressing room, already showered, changed, dressed, and as charming as he could possibly be. The sea of short , frosted hairdos stretched in front of us, as we waited for our turn at the altar of Roberto. He , with Marcel (secretary, bodyguard, personal assistant,manager) by his side, talked to everyone. Signed everything. Posed for any and all pictures....Roberto is a one man pr firm, spreading good will and smiles to all.
Yes, I even got my picture taken with the sainted one.....and as soon as my friend downloads it and sends it to me, I'll get to relive that instant.
Not quite like the 70's, but pretty darn close, I'll tell you.

Poster thanks to my Facebook friend, Solange Van de Vyvere ,who graciously gave me permission to use this latest creation of hers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Thinking Man's Opera

In the new production of Verdi's Don Carlo, the Metropolitan Opera has given New Yorkers what they love the most: an intellectual production. This current 5 hour long redux, lifted from the Royal Opera House (indeed, done as a co-production) offers the opera- going public something to chew on. With Simon Keenlyside, reprising his astounding Rodrigo, and the darling of the opera world, Roberto Alagna, interpreting Carlo, the musicality of this Italian version is firmly entrenched. Although Roberto Alagna has said that it took Peter Gelb a few years to convince him to do the role, we are so very happy (thank you, Mr. Gelb!) that he finally agreed. Perhaps a bit strenuous on his lyrical tenor voice, the role of Carlo gives Mr. Alagna an opportunity to sing outside of the aria clad formulae of other Verdi scores. The sweeping, poignant orchestration gives bent to the character of the princeling, fueling his destiny and carrying him to the end. The end, of course, wait for it: his dying onstage. Our Roberto does a really, really good death scene. (Carmen, for instance).
The grandeur of the Met's stage is used for immense soaring columns, and an awe inspiring tomb of Charlemagne, but not as well put to use for the poetic opening scene in the forest of Fontainbleu. This is where the girlish Elisabetta (Marina Poplavskaya) falls in love with the dashing and charming Carlo, and should add a bit less of austere to the mood at hand. Okay, so we're put upon from the onset to grasp the designer's intent.
Notwithstanding the rigors of the Inquisition, the time chosen for the historicity portrayed, the sets are not autocratic, but do leave a bit to be desired. What can I say: I'm a Zeffirelli kind of girl. The costumes give us that lush element, with Roberto in boots and pantaloons, and Marina in sweeping gowns that add the breath of color to the characters in play. As Philip II, Ferrucio Furlanetto grabs centerstage in an unprepossessing manner, using his superb bass notes to capture us and prove kingly, indeed. Once Elisabetta is wed to Philip instead of to Carlo, the new royal couple appears in bloodred garb, dipped in the raw essence of their time.
Ah, drama. Gotta love opera. Try and get a ticket. Immerse yourself in this magnificent production at the Met,and revel in the Don Carlo moment. It's history, truly, made flesh.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time to Start Shopping for a Hat

Spring is designed, and will be available any minute now. Good thing, since Kate and Wills have announced the inevitable, and are now planning for a Spring/Summer wedding. And oh, does Kate love her hats. If you're going to the wedding, MUST HAVE HAT. So start now, or else the Kentucky Derby ladies will knock you out of the park.
Kate Middleton has been seen wearing leather hats, fur hats, felt hats, but the British millinery "industry" has lately reported that 85% of their sales are "fascinators" . See Kate in lots of those little sprightly, feathery things? That's a fascinator. America is catching up, so you can find a fabulous bit of frippery over here in the colonies now. Ellen Christine Millinery introduced them a while ago, and has been concocting high ones, low ones, wide ones, and yes, even occasionally, a flat one, for over a decade. We advise our clients to shop for the hat first, and work your way down to the rest of the wardrobe with hat in hand. The hat will be the primo inspiration for the ensemble, and help you to get a handle on a mood. It will help create the magic of the moment, and make the search for the perfect dress so much easier.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Henri Bendel Christmas

Henri Bendel, at their flagship Fifth Avenue store, has just unveiled their Christmas windows. Seasonal decoration is a big, big deal in New York City, and attracts thousands of tourists year after year, who come to look, open-mouthed, at the gorgeous displays.
This year, George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker" is the theme for the fantasy, and today is the premiere of the windows!
All throughout the store, there are decorations that astound! On the main floor, amid the cosmetics and potions that help make a girl a girl, is our display.
Seated high atop an ostrich is a fair damsel, wearing an Ellen Christine Millinery riding hat. Her twin sits across from her. All in white, in fairy princess mode, and ready to come alive at any moment, the mannequins watch, and ponder the Christmas crowds at Bendel's.
Come and see our girls!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kooky Chic with Ellen Christine

Glamour Magazine's 20th Anniversary Issue is a whopper. Two decades of "Women of the Year" alone would make this a collectible issue, with Julia Roberts, Donatella Versace, and Cher named among the title holders. But it's the December issue, too, so every page reads glossy, colorful, exciting ,fashion. And advice. Glamour has become one of the leading young ladies' advice mags, with tips for man-handling (how to handle that guy), make-up sessions (hot new colors for the face, what else?)and not left behind, fashion.
Ellen Christine Millinery made it onto page 136, in a line-up called: "How to do the New Kooky Chic". Of course we did. A headband we designed just for this issue, in hot, hot pink felt, can be found exclusively in the Chelsea store. One of our favorite editors, Anna Dello Russo, was cited as an example in the spread, so we couldn't be happier.
It's a headband, it's a cocktail hat, it's a memory maker, indeed. come and get it!
And thank you, Glamour, and Conde Nast! We love this issue!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Glamour's Anniversary Issue

We did Elle Magazine, and Ebony, both for their star-studded celeb filled anniversary issues this year! And now, we're in the pages of Glamour Magazine's 20th Anniversary Special Issue. run and buy this one, people.
How it happened: Buki came to us with a story, and asked for a selection of pieces that would work. The operative word was : "kooky". Not far from the center of my universe, that. He came to the shop and we reviewed a colorful selection of possibilities. They all went back with him to the magazine, and got shot. As in shoot. For the story. No guns involved.
They chose one of the headbands! A wild little looping of felt, mounted on wire, and a base...all placed neatly on a comfortable headband for your accessoried pleasure. We did one in black, as well, but the story ran the hot pink. what a wow piece! Light up any outfit, or holiday room with this little showstopper,and you'll start to shop just for the headpiece to go out more.
Here in the Chelsea store, we have variations, covered in rhinestones, too! Sparkle plenty, and love every minute of the spotlight.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ellen Christine at Henri Bendel Fifth Avenue

Henri Bendel is in the midst of it's Friends and Family sale. Now you, fond reader, can take advantage of this, and run up to Fifth Avenue and shop. Just until Sunday. Oh, and on Sunday morning, I'll be there to fit your hats and chat.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

the Big Boys of Opera

Four of the world's favorite operatic talents sat down on Monday to discuss the Met's new production of Don Carlo. The conductor, Yannek Nezet-Seguin, the bass, Ferrucio Furlanetto, the baritone, Simon Keenlyside, and the tenor, Roberto Alagna.
As a diehard Roberto fan, I was there to hear about the production, and to see how Roberto kibitzed in person.
At the outset, Sarah Billinghurst warned the audience that Roberto would be recording "La Navarraise" in the evening, and so would not be speaking so much. Ms. Billinghurst moderated the panel discussion, and we watched, listened, laughed, and enjoyed the scintillating repartee of these four. Each of the gentlemen were asked a question, and they all answered, sometimes all at once. Roberto is a card, and jokes at every given opportunity in a charmingly accented English. Apparently he and Simon have a running joke between them, and it made the conversation sparkle. And Roberto chimed in whenever he could, happy to be part of the bantering, and not at all worried about his voice.
Ms. Billinghurst asked about their preference in language (this new Don Carlo is mounted in Italian, but the original was written in French). Roberto proposes that the French is more romantic, and the Italian more dramatic.
When asked about this performance (he hasn't played the role since he was 32) Roberto mentioned that Peter Gelb wouldn't take no for an answer, that he wanted him to play Don Carlo, and so he learned the score in just two days. That became one of the running jokes. r Gelb practically met him with a piano player at the airport, and installed in NYC just two days ago, he got the part down.
When the questions circled around the different acting requirements of the various roles of this very deep play, the performers all had something to say. Mr. Furlanetto replied that the voice of the character comes from the mental sphere, but the capability of performing their parts comes from the ability to act...
Roberto feels that the characters themselves are all prepared within the orchestration. It's Verdi's composition that clarifies the roles, and with the addition of a clarinet, or a basson, so many layers are revealed.
All four men are deeply intellectual about their craft, and probably, about life itself. Not a chance went by to turn a pretty phrase, or add a bit of psychology to the insight. Simon noted that life is just like art, and the beauty is in the details.
We all have to "find the right color", as Simon says.
Don Carlo will be at the Met through January, and in December, the HD version will be broadcast in theatres around the world.