20th century costumes at the Paris Opera exhibition
From Charles Bianchini to Yves Saint-Laurent, Fernand Léger to André Masson, Marc Chagall to Carzou, the greatest artists of the 20th century designed costumes for the singers and dancers of the Paris Opera. In an exhibition at the Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera and the Bibliothèque nationale de France Retrace the odyssey of stage costume through the Modern-Day World.
The passion for theatre costume is nothing new. On the contrary, it was already the rage throughout the entire 19th century. In 1878, the Universal Exposition devoted some of its exhibition spaces to costumes. Then, in 1880, in a major work, the music critic Adolphe Jullien traced their history. At that time, the (costume and set) workshops of the Paris Opera were famous throughout Europe and new productions displayed a splendour that no other theatre could match. The great works of Gounod, Wagner, Verdi, Massenet and Saint-Saëns were the occasion for the craftsmen of the Opera to show off their incomparable savoir-faire. Throughout the 20th century and its aesthetic revolutions, the workshops would adapt to new fashions, new methods, and new technologies. Without a doubt, one of the great changes under the directorship of Jacques Rouché (1914-1945) would be the arrival of painters in the workshops. After Léon Bakst, it was Fernand Léger, Giorgio De Chirico and Paul Colin who would project their aesthetic worlds onto costumes. It was no longer just a case of showing off the singer or dancer by dressing him or her sumptuously, but rather, the costume itself had to fit into an all-encompassing scenographic vision: often the costumier was also the set designer. After the Second World War, it was the turn of the École de Paris to offer a new vision, with Jean Carzou, Roger Chapelain-Midy, Georges Wakhevitch and Jean-Denis Malclès. Even so, the Paris Opera’s directors commissioned the Italian Lila De Nobili to create the sets and costumes for the Opera’s première of Carmen in 1959. Some of her sketches form admirable pictures highlighting her incomparable ability to integrate costumes into scenography. Her collaboration with the stage director Raymond Rouleau foreshadows today’s productions created by closely-knit teams of costume designers, set designers and producers regularly working together. As of the 1960s, fashion designers would begin to complement the painters. Roland Petit would ask Yves Saint-Laurent to design the costumes for Notre-Dame de Paris and Robert Wilson would entrust the costumes for The Magic Flute to Kenzo. Indeed Christian Lacroix has made stage costumes an essential part of his work and, thanks to the virtuosity of the workshops, he has succeeded in bringing them to the level of haute-couture. Throughout this long history, the workshops of the Paris Opera—currently run by Christine Neumeister—have lived up to every challenge from designers.
This exhibition will be divided into two main sections: a retrospective of this history in the exhibition areas of the Opera’s Museum-Library and a tribute to the workshops in the public areas of the Palais Garnier.
Mathias Auclair, conservateur en chef à la Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra
Christophe Ghristi, directeur de la dramaturgie à l’Opéra national de Paris
Christine Neumeister, directrice des costumes à l’Opéra national de Paris
Delphine Pinasa, directrice du Centre national du costume de scène de Moulins
Conseillère Patrimoine :
Christine Vargas, chef du service Patrimoine costumes à l’Opéra national de Paris
Exhibition L’étoffe de la modernité 20th Century Costumes at the Paris OperaBibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra, Palais Garnier June 19 through September 30, 2012 Daily, from 10 AM to 5 PM (from 10 AM to 6 PM from July 16 to September 5) Curator: Mathias Auclair, head curator of the Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra, Christophe Ghristi, director of dramatic arts at the Paris Opera, Christine Neumeister, director of costumes at the Paris Opera, Delphine Pinasa, director of the Centre national du costume de scène in Moulins. Scenography: Gilles Modolo