Thursday, October 30, 2014

Love at First Sight

Roberto Cavalli's Fall 2014 Collection glided down the runway at the Dallas Opera's First Sight Luncheon on October 23, 2014 inside the Winspear Opera House (photos: Cynthia Smoot)

I have always been a fan of opera and classical music. The love affair started early listening to Mozart and Beethoven as background music for my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons and I delighted as Alfalfa crooned to his beloved Darla arias from Figaro in The Little Rascals. The first opera I ever saw was Pirates of Penzance when I was 10 or 11 years old at the Music Hall at Fair Park and I was hooked. The pageantry and extravagance combined with the theatrics and beautiful music was not lost on me and opera has held a special place in my heart ever since that outing so I was thrilled to attend the First Sight Fashion Show and Luncheon chaired by Elizabeth Kimple held at the Winspear Opera House on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

This annual event kicked off the Dallas Opera's 2014-15 "Heights of Passion" season and the featured designer was Roberto Cavalli, a luxury boutique that offers the Italian designer's lifestyle brand of women's ready to wear, accessories, handbags, shoes, and sunglasses. Roberto Cavalli is synonymous with joy and optimism, with glamour and success. It was a perfect pairing for The Dallas Opera. The fashions presented at the luncheon were from the 2014 Fall Collection and included sensational evening wear selections. Cristiano Mancini, Director of Marketing for Roberto Cavalli International was in attendance to introduce the show. In addition to the Cavalli presentation, this lavish event, co-chaired by Lynn McBee and Nicholas Even, also include six custom-made gowns created by internationally renowned designers inspired by each of the operas presented this season:

Designer Elizabeth Anyaa walks with the model wearing a gown she created inspired by the opera La Wally. Designer Michael Faircloth walks with the model wearing a gown he created inspired by the opera Iolanta. Photos: Dallas Opera

Textile and Fashion Artist Elizabeth Anyaa creates timeless, ethereal, sensual, contemporary textiles that are exquisitely organic, and spectacular to observe. She designed a gown inspired by the opera La Wally. "The design represents the clarity of Wally's desire to be herself in the face of being manipulated and abandoned by her father for refusing to fulfill his wishes. The dress celebrates Wally's strong independence and determination to have the last word in the way she lived, loved and died - her way. The fabric includes a mixture of silk, wool and other natural fabrics. Colors include white and various shades of gray representing the avalanche that she hurls herself down to her death and a touch of red (on the model's lip) for passion."

Over the past three decades, Michael Faircloth has become a leader in the arts and fashion communities in Dallas. He received national attention in 2001 for his design of Laura Bush's red Inaugural gown, which is now a permanent installation in The Smithsonian Museum. His task was to conceive an idea for his gown from the opera Iolanta. "The evening coat is of black silk duchess satin, which signifies Opolanta's life being enveloped in darkness. The coat opens to reveal a white silk lining, which speaks to Iolanta's purity or heart and gentle nature. I made the evening gown of red silk with paillettes  so the audience would remember the red roses's association with beauty and perfection, while the sparkle of the paillettes reflects Iolanta's newfound love and, of course, sight."

  Designer Abi Ferrin walks with the model wearing a gown she created inspired by the opera Salome. Designer Khanh Nguyen walks with the model wearing a gown she created inspired by the opera La bohème. Photos: Dallas Opera

Designer Abi Ferrin’s unique and versatile designs are not the only element that set her apart. While her designs are sold nationwide, its her philanthropic work through The Freedom Project that put her on the map in the hearts of many. In this opera, Salome has a romantic obsession with John the Baptist. At the end of the opera Salome wants John the Baptist beheaded because he won’t get involved with her or kiss her. Ferrin says for her inspiration she "focused on the compelling and dramatic scene, Seven Veils." She incorporated elements of biblical times using braided belts, textured elements throughout the garment and the styling of the piece which focused on the ethereal flow and drama of the Seven Veils.

Khanh Nguyen, Fashion Designer, is the award-winning Creative Director and Designer of her own label, Nha Khanh, consisting of designs that focus on modern glamour, inspired by art, architecture, and most importantly, nature. Her task was to design a gown inspired by one of the world's most famous opera's, La bohème. This story is the tragic tale of two bohemian lovers. "Their love was frayed by Rodolfo's guilt and inability to provide apt medical care for Mimi's tuberculosis. The glimmer upon the ribcage highlights the source of their tragedy. The color of the gown is derived from the symbol of their affection, the pink bonnet Rodolfo bought Mimi and kept after they parted. The transition from blush to pale ivory embodies Mimi's health deteriorating throughout the opera. The slight separation between the bodice and the skirt portrays the two different lifestyles she led as a bohemian seamstress and later as the partner to a rich man."

Designer Edo Popken walks with the model wearing an outfit he inspired by the opera Everest. Photo: Dallas Opera 
Designer Nicolas Villalba was inspired by the opera The Marriage of Figaro. Photo: Cynthia Smoot

Edo Popken is a Swiss International Designer known for his limited-edition dress shirts, colorful fashion approach, love for detail and eco-friendly and ethically correct craftsmanship. Popken’s fashion for men was based on the opera Everest. "Images of the majestic Mount Everest, I saw the meaning from the perspective of standing on the top of the mountain. Looking at the sunset. The bright orange is the sun, the velvet reflects the snow, the repeat of the orange on the herringbone wool cot puts this meaning together perfectly. Life is short... Dress up for it!"

Nicolas Villalba, Couturier and Fashion Designer is the international award-winning owner and principal designer of Nicolas Villalba - COUTURE. His task was to create a gown inspired by The Marriage of Figaro. He chose to base his design as "a modern take on the classical wedding. Palest white with the boldness of black. A stark contrast that mirrors the comedy interplay of this opera."

The opera-themed gowns were also presented on the red carpet for the opening night of The Marriage of Figaro and will later be auctioned individually by international auction house Heritage Auctions as a fundraiser for the Dallas Opera. This event was being sponsored with the generous support of NorthPark Center, Haynes and Boone, LLP, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and Heritage Auctions. For more information about how you can attend performances at the Dallas Opera, visit