Sofia Coppola and Valentino turn their hands to opera in Rome with an innovative staging of La Traviata

La Traviata never looked this modern. The art film world’s darling, Sofia Coppola, and the high fashion world’s emperor, Valentino Garavani, have combined their considerable forces to direct and design the opera anew for the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in Rome.

La Traviata – The Fallen Woman – which debuted in 1853, is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi. It was made famous by the great Maria Callas in the role of Violetta, the main dame. Coppola and Valentino’s collaboration marks the first time the opera is to receive such a large and glamourous fashion focus – and is surely the reason designer Valentino has ended his eight-year hiatus and set out to thrill the world yet again. The fact that this is Coppola’s opera debut only adds to the production’s appeal.

“I started with my sketches and in maybe two hours I did everything,” Valentino told CNN Style TV presenter Derek Blasberg in an interview in June. “I always draw because I love to see [a] silhouette in front of me – new ideas, new dresses. You know, chance has helped me a lot. I had this big chance to dress the most important women in the world… Jackie [Kennedy], movie stars, royal people, and now sopranos.”

Valentino designed the four dresses that Violetta, a Parisian courtesan, wears on stage. The two most dramatic – and beautiful – dresses are an off-the-shoulder tiered crimson dress and a black gown with teal train. Both are worn by soprano Francesca Dotto, who plays Violetta.

“I wanted to bring out the personal side of the French-courtesan, the party girl used to the social scene. It’s a very feminine world that I love,” Coppola told The New York Times.

The black and teal gown took Valentino 800 hours to create. Creative directors of Maison Valentino – Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaulo Piccioli – created the rest of the costumes for the ensemble. According to the theatre, Valentino sees this special project as a “dream come true, since he has always been fascinated by opera and its power to invent fantastic and modern worlds, through wonderful and timeless music.”

British production designer Nathan Crowley designed the sets, with some assistance from Jader Bignamini, associate director of the Verdi Orchestra in Milan, who will serve as conductor. Crowley has been nominated for three Oscars for his work on The Prestige, The Dark Knight and Interstellar.

According to Rome Opera Foundation’s general manager, Carlo Fuortes, Coppola’s ability to balance classical and modern aesthetics was the reason for La Traviata’s film-based inspiration in this new and innovative incarnation.

by Daniel Scheffler

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Collectors Issue #38, pages 100-101.