Renata Tebaldi: style, elegance and passion

Busseto, in the province of Parma, is known all over the world as Giuseppe Verdi’s birthplace. Just outside the ancient walls that surround the village there is an unmissable place: Villa Pallavicino, home of the Giuseppe Verdi National Museum but also of the Museum dedicated to Renata Tebaldi.

The Tebaldi Museum sparks the imagination as one enters the rooms where personal objects of Tebaldi are displayed. The legendary opera singer, whom Michele Dall’Ongaro defined “a walking myth” and “one of the most intensely lyrical voices in the history of music”, is everywhere: there are her school reports and childhood memories, the first contracts she signed, press reviews, letters, objects she loved surrounding herself with, hundreds of photographs that portray her in different moments of her life on and off stage in Italy and abroad, but above all many wonderful stage and concert dresses with matching jewellery and accessories.

Tebaldi was a refined, elegant and statuesque beauty who loved wearing impeccable clothes made by the most exclusive and prestigious tailors. For example, the Milanese atelier of Rosita Contreras made lots of dresses for her, such as the column dress in bright green satin she wore at the legendary concert at the Lewisohn Stadium in New York in 1957 (the dress was accessorised with opera gloves and matching stole). 

In the same year, for the recital at the Manzoni Theatre in Milan, Contreras created a traditional A-line dress with multi-layer tulle skirt, fitted bodice with sweetheart neckline, embellished with sequins and rhinestones.

Firenze 1958, Tebaldi wore a precious dress, still very modern, almost an anticipation of the iconic garment that Balenciaga would have made ten years later – an ensemble made of a long duchesse hooded cape that opens onto a column dress in embroidered rebrodè lace with Swarovski crystals.

In the 1970s Contreras and Hanae Mori created for Tebaldi light and exquisite silk dresses with minimal decorations, made special by beautiful print patterns. To this day it is still impossible to look away from them. Wearing such garments at least once in a lifetime would be sheer bliss.

But Signora Tebaldi’s wardrobe did not only include clothes from the Contreras Atelier. Throughout the 1960s, the Greek designer George Stavropoulos was also highly appreciated by the opera singer (in photo, Tebaldi in New York, 1965). His clothes, inspired by ancient Greek statues, were worn by celebs like Lady Bird Johnson, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand and Maria Callas. His most famous creations were flowing evening dresses made of layers of chiffon in different colours, but he also used rustling taffeta, printed organza and silk crepe fabrics.

There’s a special piece in this roundup of fashion creations: an outfit by the Milanese “seamstress” Biki, who designed many dresses for Maria Callas, Tebaldi’s “enemy”. It’s a short tulle jacket, studded with Swarovski cristals, combined with a long flared skirt in bright green mikado.

Mrs. Giovanna Colombo, president of the Renata Tebaldi Museum Foundation, gives us one final remark about this amazing primadonna: “Renata Tebaldi was a symbol of the Italian style in the world with her charm, her reserved diva style, the perfect union of art, elegance and refinement.”

Photos: Fondazione Museo Renata Tebaldi

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