Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inspiration of The Met Collection: The Divas

One of the most frequently asked questions of a designer is: where do you get your ideas? Most of the people asking are not artistes, but appreciate and marvel at the things designers do.
Part of "The Met Opera Collection: The Divas", that we did for The Met Opera Shop came from the intense performances on that huge, vast, and impressive stage. The voices that we are privileged to hear interpret roles after role each season, as Mr. Gelb forges a new world of opera lend themselves to dramatic inspiration. The new production of "Carmen", with Roberto Alagna, quintessential Don Jose , and the best Carmen in the opera world, Elina Garanca, influenced the design of the Ellen Christine fascinator in blood red, and black. The headpieces drip in the way the gown in the death scene falls from Carmen's body as she lay dying.
Armida, all pinks and poppy red, gave us the idea for the bandeaux we made for the collection: petals, floating with sprigs of ostrich, sit lightly on the head, as lightly as the spells of the sorceress, as sung by the fabulous Renee Fleming.
The crown of the collection, made just for the launch party, is the "Armida". It's a huge picture hat, covered in more than 300 silk blossoms. The flowers are made by Schmalberg here in NYC, who also did the flowers for the set of Armida. We used the same petal formation, and the same shades of pink and red from the costume and set design, for this hat. The surprise is that it was inspired by a photo that Solange Van de Vyvre, from Belgium, shared with us . The Floralies, a world famous event in her home town of Ghent, takes place every 5 years or so. The installations at this show are made completely with plant materials and flowers. Our Armida hat was inspired by a gorgeous shot that Solange sent us.
Inspiration is all around us: see the magic, and art.
Photograph : Sandy Ramirez

Ellen Christine at the Met

The Metropolitan Opera Shop invited us to do our launch of the new collection there yesterday, St. Valentine's Day, for Fashion Week Fall 2011. Because the inspiration of the show revolves around the Met's current productions of Carmen, and Armida, the setting was appropriate. Breathtaking, the Shop sits ensconced just beyond the ticket windows, a glowing draw for the opera lovers of the world. Lit by original fixtures designed for the Met's opening , the inviting space pours out into the foyer, and celebrates the art form with pieces that allow the public to participate in their favorites through music, books, and now, fashion.
Ellen Christine , and The Diva Collection, designed in collaboration with the Met Opera Shop geniuses, will be in residence, affording headpieces that lend a romantic note to every head. Rich reds, taken from the heartbeat of Carmen, dance in a flowered accessory that sparkles with the light of Alagna's "La fleur que tu m'avais jetee". The tonal pinks of Fleming's Armida ride on a bandeaux of silk petals. The Diva herself, the centerpiece of the collection, is scattered with pieces of broken Swarovski crystal, capturing the magic of the Met's Austrian chandeliers.
Be part of this exciting Met Opera Collection: feathers, flowers and light to draw you in and fascinate.
Exclusively for The Metropolitan Opera Shop, Ellen Christine Diva Collection, for Fall 2011, available now, and by special order in the Shop at Lincoln Center.

photo: Sandy Ramirez

Friday, February 4, 2011

Opera, Not Hats

Where may the hats have gone to, you may say.........for me, Ellen Christine, it's all tied into design theory. Like music theory. Like dance theory. Like art theory.
The Metropolitan Opera gives us grandiosity, and thus, inspiration. And for the production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, it was all old school. The sets: involved. The costumes: lush. The singing: grandiloquent. And the conducting, ah, the conducting!!!!!superb. It was opera 101 for some, and an indulgence for others, with the sets leaning more towards opulence than modernisme. The velvet, the brocades, the fur, the armor.......ah, what a delight for the costume freak in all of us. Lame done as armour. Armour done as armour. Lord, I love a guy in a skirt. Help me, but I do. When that guy is Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and it's a full-length coat/dress/robe......heaven. Somehow a Russian draped in fur, singing his heart out, is a natural. That's because Dmitri makes it all seem so easy. Except for the first act, when he appeared in a blonde/brown wig, his stage presence is nothing short of noblesse oblige. Not an actor, but a remarkable baritone, he sang the role in an emotive, languid spellbinding manner. No, his enunciation isn't Alagna-esque, but that voice of his carries, and moves the soul of a non-believer.
The berry -reds in the wardrobe echoed the tones of Simon's predicament, and the lamentable situation unfurling in the cold palace. Warm shades of red to match the redolent voices. Furlanetto is deep, rich brocade, if he is a fabric. Maestro Levine carried the orchestra as if the music flowed from his very hands.
The set felt like a Maxfield Parrish print come to life: soft, deep lighting, ably set the stage for those voices, those costumes, that music.
We fell in love with Furlanetto in Don Carlo, and can only weep at his vocal ability. Every duet sung perfectly. The casting included Barbara Frittoli and Ramon Vargas. Whenever any of the cast sang together, it was magic: voices melded and supporting each other. My only problems with some of the singing was in Frittoli's high reaches. Vargas played a noble part, and he wears the armour well. His stage presence lacks the magic of some Met performers, but he holds his own, and stands true as a tenor.
Act II gained applause at the set, and Frittoli reigned supreme in her trill in court. The second act filled in the holes, and provided distance , and gained momentum in the singing. the Met delivers once again!