Friday, 25 February 2011

A Night at the Opera

What do you do if you are going to the opera at none other than the Royal Opera House in London?  You pull out all stops on the outfit front of course!  Between London Fashion Week and the recent flamenco festival I've had a chance to crack out some more outlandish outfits.  However a night out with Mr V. seeing one of our favourite operas, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), calls for an extra special effort.

This marked the debut outing of my Wheels and Doll Baby tutu!  I also couldn't pass up a more perfect opportunity to get my coat tails out again.  I originally wanted to channel Papagena and wear my Topshop feather coat but I found the cut of this coat was better in that it allowed my tutu to peek out cheekily between the cutaway front.  However as you'll see I did manage to find a way to work some feathers!

I have always loved the opera, in particular the works of Mozart.  The Magic Flute was the first opera I ever went to see as a wide eyed teenager with my sister and friends on a five dollar student discount and I remember we got dolled up to the nines for the occasion.

Last night was the third time I had seen it and I was very excited about seeing this version which would mark the first time hearing it sung live in the original German.  Not that I can speak German to save my life but I remember listening to the German version on endless repeat as a young woman and I know the melodies of all the arias off by heart with every note and intonation sung in that language.  It makes a difference!

Even though we had already seen it once together, when considering an opera to book this season Mr V and I chose Die Zauberflöte as a video preview on the Royal Opera House website showed an amazing set and costumes to die for.  It didn't disappoint!  The third time around it was still as thrilling, emotional and funny as the first time.  There is good reason why people still listen to Mozart after more than two centuries!

Penny Dreadful has done a wonderful post complete with photos on the opera's costumes which were truly superb, especially that of the Queen of the Night, who was resplendent in metres and metres of sparkling diaphanous tulle.  There was also some rather wonderful use of puppetry and contemporary dance throughout which made the production quite unique.

Thankfully it has warmed up in London lately so I was able to substitute my normal layers of wool knitwear for something a little more glamorous.  What better to embrace your inner Papagena than a vintage marabou bolero!  Perfect for keeping the chill at bay in the lofty heights of the amphitheatre!

The shoes weren't exactly what I originally had in mind but I ran out of time getting ready and they were the only dressy pair to hand before I had to dash out to get the tube - in ballet flats mind, the heels went in my bag and I changed when I got to the Royal Opera House.  These shoes are from the late Alexander McQueen's last ready-to-wear collection and I found them at the Harrod's sale marked down by seventy percent on a day they were having an additional ten percent off sale items.  It would have been criminal to leave them there!  They scored a compliment from a lady whilst I was sitting in the foyer waiting for Mr V. to arrive.

The only thing that left me a little disappointed in an otherwise faultless production were the costumes of Papageno and Papagena.  I always look forward to the extravagance and fantastical beastliness of these two characters who are more often than not dressed in wonderful feathery confections.  As you may know by now I am more than a little partial to feathers!  While the rest of the cast were dressed in sumptuous eighteenth century opulence, Papageno and Papagena were uncomfortably propelled into the twentieth century by way of their modern costumes.  Papageno was in a bland khaki suit with a stuffed duck stapled to his hat and Papagena was dressed in a leather miniskirt, skin tight top and white stiletto heels for her final appearance.  I was a tad underwhelmed.

My favourite version of the Papegano/Papagena couple appeared in the English National Opera's production which Mr V. and I saw about ten years ago.  Papageno was played by the handsome baritone Leigh Melrose, who also happened to attend the same University college as Mr V, and who was decked out in a beautiful feathered jacket, feathered breeches and an amazing feathered headdress with a giant beak.  His interpretation of the character was so endearing and charming that in the scene where Papageno consults with the audience as to whether he should end it all as there is nobody to love him, he actually had ladies pleading with him not to hang himself.  For the grand finale Papegana descended in a giant birds nest from above, a vision of star studded plumage in a stunning voluminous white gown covered in crystals and feathers.  So much more memorable!

The corset I wore underneath has its own operatic stage story.  I bought it years ago on sale and it remained in my wardrobe unworn for several years afterward until I had to play the role of Bizet's Carmen in a flamenco version of the fight scene for a flamenco show.  But last night marked its first night out offstage so to speak, dressing a member of the audience.

You would think that people in London would dress up more to go to the opera or the theatre but I've been very surprised to find that most of them don't.  I have to say I did get eyeballed a bit by other ladies on the tube and in attendance at the opera, probably because they thought I was way over the top in what I was wearing.  I think it is a bit sad that apart from those going out to fancy nightclubs people don't seem to make the most of opportunities to get dressed up anymore.  Sometimes I wonder where all the people who like to dress up go in London.

Despite that I thoroughly recommend a night at the opera in London.  We really enjoyed the performance and even treated ourselves to a glass of champagne in the interval.  If you book ahead you can get inexpensive tickets with great views and even though we weren't sitting in expensive seats I wasn't going to let that stop me from having fun getting dressed up for the occasion.  Surely the opera is the place to do it and after all, every gal living in a big city needs her Carrie Bradshaw moment in a tutu!

Marabou feather bolero, Vintage to Vogue; Corset, Karen Millen; Tutu, Wheels and Doll Baby; Coat, Just Cavalli; Shoes, Alexander McQueen; Necklace, Banana Republic, Brooch on Coat, Vintage


  1. This is has to be my FAVORITE outfit from you so far! I love the skirt, the jacket, the corset, the shoes - OMG they are gorgeous! Perfect for a night at the opera.

    btw, my favorite opera is Aida. I saw it as a kid (on TV, not in person) and I fell in love with it!

  2. @MJ - thank you! Aida is going to be on here and we were looking at the poster wondering whether to go - definitely going to have to check it out now!

  3. I was thinking to myself the frothy skirt with the tail coat is very McQueen, so the shoes were especially a nice touch! It founds like a glamourous evening, even if the other spectators weren't. I dressed up to go see Cirque in Vegas but in Vegas anything goes from leopard to sweat pants to chain smoking at 7 am.

  4. Oh my. Words fail me so I'll simply say that this outfit makes my eyes very, very happy. Just perfect - from marabou down to McQueen.

  5. Wow, you look amazing! So glad you enjoyed it. I've turned into such a snob, I won't go to the ENO because I want to hear things sung in the original language ;) I actually liked Papagenos outfit, he looked suitably ridiculous. Agree on Papagena though, dressing her up as a tart was a joke that missed the mark.

    On teh dressing up, I wonder if it is simply because so many people must have to go direct from work? That is the thing that usually stops me going all out, I don't have time to get home and out of my office clothes. xx

  6. OMG, I'm with MJ...this is my all-time FAVE look! The corset! The tutu! The bolero! A+++!


  7. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh wonderful!!!!!!!!! Just wonderful! You look spectacular but of that there is never any doubt.

    Alas I am not a fan of the Opera... although yes, I have seen and enjoyed all the popular ones including The Magic Flute, Mariage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, La Boheme, Carmen, Tosca, etc... so um... maybe I am!

    It is Symphonies and the Ballet and other dance productions, which captivate and 'hold' me... my all time favourite symphony is Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. To hear that played live... just to listen to that in any way... reduces me to tears, particularly the 4th and 5th movements.

    I am very embarassing to sit next to... !!!

    As for this;
    "You would think that people in London would dress up more to go to the opera or the theatre but I've been very surprised to find that most of them don't."

    This happens here too... people attending the Symphony at the Opera House dressed in jeans!!! Oh dear God. It's not that I'm a stickler for convention (Me? hell no!) but whatever happened to occasion dressing??? This casual sensibility has spread like a miasmic disease and I believe has led to a breakdown in productivity and manners and social mores.

    Okay. That might be stretching a bit. a lot... but... maybe not...

    I, dress for the Opera. Including floor length Opera capes and gloves and ballgown skirts and the whole shebang. Terrible to admit that I have not attended one symphony nor ballet in the past year... I've been attending contemporary performances, which calls for another style of dress. But never casual.

    Gosh I adore you. And now I just sound creepy.

  8. the tutu is wonderful! Do you require "help" in getting into the corset? I have a bustier (sp?) that the husband greatly enjoys tightening on me as its about the only thing I own that produces any sort of cleavage.

    Sorry to hear that people aren't dressing for the opera. It's been a few years since I've been to one, but even here in middle America people dress for the opera.

  9. I want to go to the Opera too! Drag your single friend along pleaaaaaase!

  10. Oh, yes, this is perfect opera outfit! To be honest I don't dress up for opera anymore but seeing you now I'll absolutely must do that! :) There's a new production of The Barber of Seville in the Opera House, so, I guess here's my chance :)
    I still biting my fingers I didn't see Die Zauberflöte in Vienna Opera when I had a chance! I'm not sure where our minds were as it happens to be one of my favorite operas too :)

  11. You look ravishing, Jon's just crept in behind me and complimented you on your figure. Fabulous outfit and one would imagine terribly appropriate for a classy night out.
    What a sad reflection on our times that people don't bother dressing up any more. More fool them. xxx

  12. OMG I was looking at that tutu on the WDB online store yesterday and you have it!!!! Ga!! I love the combo of the skirt with the corset and tail coat - yay!! I HATE it when people don't dress up - I dress up for the school drop-off and trips to the post office - pathetic eh? Gimme the opera and I would be following you about like a lost lamb asking "Is there anything I can get you ma'am?" I always want to run up and hug anyone who dresses up to the nines for special occasions. I'm so glad you had a lovely time you gorgeous woman!!! xo

  13. Erm. LOvvvve that outfit! The shoes, the tutu, the corset! Yes please. Really enjoyed your coverage of this, I have to live vicariously through others when they attend events like this because we.get. nothing. Yawn, I am living in the wrong city.

  14. I have never seen a more beautiful skirt ever, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.Love, love the whole ensemble.

  15. Oh my God, I am dying here in Brooklyn! This is easily my most favorite outfit post of yours. I am dying on every level, the corset, the skirt, the jewelry, the coat, the feather bolero, and the shoes, holy crap, the shoes! I am not normally into shoes but these are especially divine and I'm glad to know the late Mr. McQueen designed them. I can only think of those crazy Armadillo shoes he created when my brain conjures up images of his work in footwear. I'm surprised too at how many people will not dress up when going to the theater. It's a total joke on Broadway in NYC, people dress like slobs and I've even seen it at Lincoln Center when going to the American Ballet Theatre. Other patrons would be looking at me like I was the freak when I'd be dressed up but I was like, Hello? We are at the ballet, in New York City, these are orchestra seats, and that's Jack Nicholson over there (true story) and HE is wearing a tuxedo, so why do you think it's okay to be dressed like you are going to the movies or grocery shopping?

  16. I agree that it's a shame that people don't dress up more. I would rather be over dressed than underdressed any day (or night) of the week.
    Fay x

  17. WHOA!!!! That is one FABULOUS outfit! Sooooo gorgeous....the skirt is a work of art! ~Serene

  18. I love how modern and elegant your outfit was! I went to the theater in London in 2006 when I was studying abroad. In New York City, you can go to the theater in jeans. I was surprised when I walked into the theater in London to learn, "Not so much."


  19. What a fabulous outfit.. Love the details you applied.
    Oh My...
    Lee x

  20. This is my favourite post so far of you, too! I LOVE this (and I want to catch up later on whatever it was you wrote about a flamenco festival: curious). Came here to say thank you for the comment (I feel the same way, but still am compelled to go thru the photos as I owe a lot of posts as thank you to people who did such nice things) and instead - altho I'm in a rush to come out - I'm drawn into this post.

    We love opera, too - when I finally meet you someday I'l tell you the story. Speaking of - please tell me next time you're coming in to town. Even if it's just a day's notice. I'd love to meet you!

    Better run. That is such a gorgeous look. And I agree: people should start dressing up for events more. Ballet. Opera, definitely. Maybe we could all double date someday! Love The Magic Flute, too, btw.


  21. What a beautiful and glamorous outfit, M! I think the brooch at the lapel pulls it all together so wonderfully.
    I'm a big fan of Mozart and especially the Zauberfloete, too. As a child I always tried to hit the high note of the Queen of the Night... you can imagine the suffering of my 3 siblings and poor parents.
    Great reminder to go to the London Opera (where I've never been).

  22. Opera and black tutu make me think to black swan !

  23. This oufit is simply amazing - it's chic, it's dark and it's so original. I love every single part of it <3
    I also adore The Magic Flute - it always was one of my favorites and arias from this opera are so special to me (as much as Casta Diva from Norma and Nessun Dorma from Turandot). And I've had an epiphany when I was working in concert agency - we were working on the 'Stars of La Scala' project and one of the singers from Germany was singing Arietta di Papageno. So I've had a chance to listen to it from behind the stage))


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