16 November 2011

dressing Violetta-Cecil Beaton


Anna Moffo on the set of the Italian film A Story of Love

10 November 1965
5 o'clock. The fitting of our Violetta in her Karinska costumes over. Everyone pleased. (from Beaton in The Sixties)

Cecil Beaton created glorious gowns for the  opening season of the Metropolitan Opera Company's 1966 La Traviata at Lincoln Center-dressed in the reds and golds of the Met.

For the costumes, Beaton said "I wanted the colours to have a gold light-dark but sparkling, scintillating." Karinska made the gowns and headresses-scouring about for old laces, jet, tinsel, ribbons to get the effect -a look of-lushness-a heaviness indicative of 1860 that Beaton desired. Alfred Lunt's stage sets were designed by Beaton as well.

I have the worst ear for criticism; even when I have created a stage set I like,
I always hear the woman in the back of the dress circle who says she doesn't like blue.  
Cecil Beaton 

gown for Violetta by Beaton, worn by Marisa Berenson in Vogue September 1966

In the 1966 production-Violetta was sung by coloratura soprano Anna Moffo.

 Anna Moffo- as Violetta,1966, another Violeta costume, below

Madame Karinska, Russian born costume maker was much favored by Beaton. She had won an Oscar for her work on costumes for  the 1948 film Joan of Arc. George Balanchine spoke to Beaton of her greatness-saying "There is no one like her. When she is gone, it will be finished..."

these images of the Beaton costumes-  from mille fiori here

I can always count of Bart Boehlert to be on the spot of the newest and most exciting exhibits and here is his look at Cecil Beaton: The New York Years" exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York
 the MCNY here
another costume at the Telegraph here


  1. I wonder if he designed them too. Very interesting my dear Gaye.

  2. Once again, your post leaves me speechless. Thank you for broadening my horizons. Mary

  3. Donna, Indeed he did. While photography was his "thing" he designed costumes for this opera and Turandot-the Bart Boehlert link has an amazing image of one of the Turandot costumes. Of course not to forget My Fair Lady the Movie. Superb writer, observer of his day there is Nothing the Man could Not Do. pgt

  4. Mary, Just digging around for those things that interest me and it is so nice to share them here with you. pgt

  5. I owned a lovely book on Karninska, before I moved and sold my library. It's here and it's a goodie:


  6. Wonderful post. Oh, what CB could to with passamenterie--!

  7. What an amazing post. Costumers blow my mind- such unsung heros. Like the people who cast just exactly the right chemical mix of actors to make a movie or play or television show work perfectly.

  8. PVE, enchanting No?

    Dandy, Must find it I googled and it looks wonderful thanks for the tip.

    J&G,So true. Beaton knew what he wanted and I think Balanchine's comment is telling-each genius prefers another. pgt

  9. Loved this Gaye. Beaton really captured a mood in an immersion of the style...I'm reminded of those portraits of the mid 19th c by Ingres; the costumes in the Leopard...he gets the massive and even clunky passementerie just right, and despite the flounces there is nothing "sweet" about it, nothing pretty or simpering, but full on and full proof. Love it, Gaye. Your posts are extraordinary.

  10. Philip, Of course INGRES! and the Leopard, I have told you we make a great TEAM, We have to collaborate again soon. pgt



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