One of the premieres that will Salzburg the glamorous city that it is will be Tosca in 2021.
Newly staged by director Michael Sturminger. The plot of Giacomo Puccini’s opera is more topical than ever in the new millennium, as costume designer Renate Martin explains. Her creations subtly tell the story. L’Officiel Austria asked the fashion artist for an interview.
How can you underline the essence of Tosca’s personality with her wardrobe?
Renate Martin: “Floria Tosca is an emancipated, independent but intrinsically apolitical woman, a famous opera singer who only becomes involved in the oppositional visual artist Cavaradossi’s political struggle against the ruling regime through her love for him. We see her in three very different situations, in an elegant coat in a baroque church, later in the magnificent Palazzo Farnese, where she comes straight from the stage after her concert in a large evening gown, and finally in trousers and a leather jacket, fleeing with her lover. Her wardrobe underlines her social position as an opera star, private and public dress owed to the occasion.”
Is there a “Tosca style”?
Renate Martin: “Here in Salzburg, the red evening dress in the second act is in a way almost comparable to the dress of the Boogeyman in Jedermann; depending on the temporal definition of the production, it is meant to dress a particularly attractive woman at the centre of attention in a festive and impressive way, in a self-confident and autonomous way that shows off her beauty without thereby pandering to the male gaze. This can have very different results in different scenic settings, but should incorporate the style of the interpreting singer.”
The painter Adolfo Hohenstein already painted a costume design for Tosca in 1899. As one of the greatest female characters in opera, many costumes have accordingly been devised for her. Was there a new nuance of interpretation that you wanted to contribute here in the costume design?
Renate Martin: “The production that director Michael Sturminger, my colleague Andreas Donhauser and I conceived is set in Italy at the end of the twentieth century. We show a society in which mafia-like machinations reach into the highest circles of state and church, and blackmail and political oppression reign. Tosca only grasps this reality when it is almost too late, she is confronted from her private world with the dark side of power, on which she is also dependent through her profession. We chose this temporal setting because we think that although Puccini’s plot is set in the Napoleonic War, power and corruption, blackmail and sexual coercion, torture and murder unfortunately still take place in our present day. This decision is of course central to the costume design.”
How do the looks change over the course of the opera and how do they “tell” Tosca’s story?
Renate Martin: “We accompany a woman of today through this terrible day, we show that the story of this woman can take place at any time and that power, religion and education in purely male hands always go hand in hand with sexual oppression and coercion of women and children.”
The finishing of the gowns was provided by Swarovski. Surely that’s every costume designer’s dream, isn’t it?
Renate Martin: “I have already worked with Swarovski crystals in the past years for the costume design of Jedermann and achieved very beautiful results. The play of the crystals makes the costume lively and glamorous. For the concert dress of Anna Netrebko’s Tosca, I chose a dark red silk satin on which the crystals were applied according to the pattern of the fine French black lace laid over it last. The design of the dress is simple and body-hugging, but the interplay of the three layers of fabric, crystal, and lace is what makes the design so effective.”
Which outfit is your personal favourite?
Renate Martin: “The three different costumes show Tosca in very different situations. Together they paint the picture of this fascinating figure in confrontation with a brutal world of men. The concert dress, as a stage costume in the play, certainly took the most effort in terms of design work, fabric selection and fabrication; together with Tosca’s two more everyday costumes, the image of this woman develops into our interpretation of her story.”
Interview by Maria Ratzinger for L’Officiel Austria
Photo credits: Thomas Steinlechner; © SF/Anne Zeuner; Marco Borrelli