Even if you’ve never seen the opera Rigoletto, you are most likely familiar with the Verdi work by its famous, hummable aria, “La donna è mobile,” heard everywhere from TV commercials to Italian restaurants. While I had the chance of watching a Rat Pack, neon-bedecked, “Vegas” Rigoletto during the Met’s free streaming at the time of their shutdown, I still felt the need to see the opera “in person” at the theater, this time set in the Weimar Republic of the 1920’s. Talk about a departure from 16th century Mantua !
What struck me the most about the new Bartlett Sher Rigoletto were the parallels to Sher’s Met production of Otello: blocky sets that felt closed off to the audience and gave the appearance of hazardous movement among the singers (watch out for the columns !). Another exasperating comparison was the inability to distinguish the lead characters from the rest of the crowd. Both the Duke in Rigoletto and Otello wore the clothes of their compatriots, with little, insufficient distinction. The costumes for the men looked to be the same in both productions ─ perhaps the budget was snug ? Overall, I felt the Weimar production was too garish and dark and was left questioning… “What’s wrong with 16th century Mantua ?!”
I always knew what I would wear before I ever had a 20’s themed opera to attend. A few years back, a friend gave me a vintage black cashmere sweater with a cream fur collar and rhinestone buckle at the waist. The tag indicated its pedigree: “100% Cashmere, Made in Scotland.” It was an instant love affair. Musing over the garment brought to mind the Silent Film era and its actresses I had seen in movies. My vision of a pale pink charmeuse gown and a black wool cloche was the surest way to bring the sweater’s former glory back into the limelight. A flapper would agree…
Since I knew that I was going to wear a cashmere sweater, the last thing I wanted was a long sleeve dress. That narrowed down the field of patterns. Ultimately, Folkwear’s Tango Dress fit the bill of a sleeveless, Art Deco design for my Silent Film Star look. Mary Pickford, here I come !
Silk charmeuse and a gorgeous wool suiting tangoed their way to 1920’s perfection ! This was my first time making a real hat, not one out of cardboard or headbands, and Elsewhen Millinery’s pattern was just perfect. A silk taffeta band decorated the supple cloche. With expensive fabrics and elegant finishes, these garments and accessories definitely classified themselves as ‘Couture’ pieces.
The hardest part was working on my 1920’s “slouch.” (Ouch !)
Bundled in the warmth of the sweater, I was set for the cold January day. Only my feet were chilled. To fashion a Mary Jane style shoe, I safety pinned sewn strips of black linen to the inside of my regular black pumps. Effective, cheap, and temporary ─ no need to buy new shoes !
Nearly everyone I meet fawns over the fan purse I crocheted specifically for this opera. And the best part ? The cotton lining material is printed with opera glasses ! How neat is that ?!
An Art Deco Rigoletto allowed me to venture into a decade that has never suited my fashion tastes. But as with most bouts of historical costuming, I gained an appreciation and greater attraction to the bias-cut drop waist dresses of the time. I can’t say that the same treatment applied to Rigoletto was as appealing.
Toi, Toi, Toi,
Cast and Credits:
Rigoletto ─ Giuseppe Verdi (1851)
Live in HD air date: January 29, 2022
Rigoletto ─ Quinn Kelsey
Gilda ─ Rosa Feola
Duke of Mantua ─ Piotr Beczała
Maddalena ─ Varduhi Abrahamyan
Sparafucile ─ Andrea Mastroni
Conductor ─ Daniele Rustioni
Production ─ Bartlett Sher
Set Designer ─ Michael Yeargan
Costume Designer ─Catherine Zuber
Lighting Designer ─ Donald Holder
Live in HD Director ─ Gary Halvorson
Host ─ Isabel Leonard
11 thoughts on “Art Deco Rigoletto”
The Art Deco style suits you! The combo is very authentic looking and the cloche really sets it all off!
Mary Martha, I really enjoyed seeing this and think this might be one of my favorite costumes of yours! I love the Art Deco fashions and that dress, sweater and hat are lovely. You never cease to amaze me! Outstanding look❣️
Sent from my iPad M. Lynne Hulen
Love, love love ! As usual you have outdone yourself in design and execution. Every detail is wonderful from head toe. The purse is absolute perfection, as well. Can’t wait to see your next creation !!
What a great look for you ! It looks so authentic, wonderful job !
Well done yet again MM! You have an endless amount of talent. Love all of the accessories, especially the purse.
You are the very PICTURE of 20’s elegance! Well done. I think you need to add one more to your list of talents; Opera Reviewer.
You are amazing. I have been sewing since I was 10 years old. I am almost 80 years old. I have made 16th century costumes but you do me so much better.. I loved your review of the opera and the costume situation it presented.
Thank you ! Get ready for Don Carlos in March — 16th century Spanish costumes at their finest !
This looks so incredible! May I ask–is there a pattern for the crocheted purse? I would love to make one to add to my own Art Deco wardrobe!
Thank you, and yes ! I used How To Do Fashion’s pattern for the purse. Here is the link: https://www.howtodofashion.com/shop/the-chrysler-bag-crocheted-bag
Wonderful! Thank you!