Congratulations Talking Pointes Podcast, awarded bronze medal for Best Arts & Culture Podcast! Listen here
Eleonora Abbagnato and Friedemann Vogel in “Nuit Romaine” by Angelin Preljocaj. Photograph by Fabrizio Sansoni

Dior at Rome Opera Ballet

Rome Opera Ballet presents “Serata Preljocaj”

Performance
Rome Opera Ballet: “Serata Preljocaj”
Place
Teatro Costanzi, Rome, Italy, September 13-18, 2022
Words
Valentina Bonelli

Since Eleonora Abbagnato has been Ballet director at Opera in Rome, glamour as well has entered the theatre. A popular figure in Italy for her features on TV, married to an ex-football player, with her beauty and elegance the former Paris Opera étoile has found a way to attract a new audience to ballet thanks to collaborations with a top fashion brand: Dior. Always a muse for Italian fashion designers, Abbagnato has found in Maria Grazia Chiuri her ideal designer as they share a similar history as Italian women, who both worked very hard to reach their goals, remaining rooted in their own country (from Palermo the first, from Rome the second) having at the same time success in France.

The first time they worked together was in 2018 when Dior’s artistic director designed the costumes for a new ballet commissioned by Rome Opera, from Sébastien Bertaud, a Paris Opera dancer with ambitions as a choreographer. “Nuit Blanche,” the elegant but not so memorable choreography he conceived, was embellished by the snappy costumes worn by 16 dancers and Eleonora Abbagnato. The long evening dresses, “corolla” like quoting the iconic Christian Dior silhouette, were shaped with many tulle layers, hand painted and embroidered, covered with fabric flowers, multicolored powdery nuances for the corps de ballet, in light ivory for the étoile. The avant-premiere, invitation only, was attended by fashion, TV, sport celebrities and became an event in the Italian fashion world. A beautiful party signed Dior ended the evening in one of those unique venues in Rome: an old scenography warehouse with a view on the Circus Maximus.

On that occasion Chiuri declared her longtime passion for dance, raised since she was a girl especially seeing Pina Bausch’s performances in Rome. In the meantime, her collaborations with dance increased after meeting Sharon Eyal. In her Spring/Summer 2019 collection the Israeli choreographer organized the movements of the fashion show, crowded by her dancers swaddled in skinny overalls. This kind of costume, with glamourous variants, has become the uniform of Lev’s dancers in pieces as “The Brutal Journey of the Heart.”

Continuing their collaboration, in the meantime Chiuri created beautiful dresses (not costumes) for Abbagnato’s special occasions, like a long tunic plissé in golden yellow for a videoclip set in Ravello or a floral, silky dress for a photoshoot in Nervi. The angelic beauty of our ballerina, a fair blonde with green eyes despite her Sicilian origins, inspired the lightness of her dresses, while her strong temperament gave them a defined character. This kind of dress, conceived as a tunic, on the model of the ancient Roman chiton, was the basis of the costumes created for “Nuit Romaine,” another choreographic night, this time by Angelin Preljocaj, one of Abbagnato’s favorite choreographers.

Dancers of Rome Opera Ballet in “Nuit Romaine” by Angelin Preljocaj. Photograph by Fabrizio Sansoni

The entire collection of 90 pieces was already presented in the homonymous film directed by Preljocaj himself, showed on various platforms on the International dance day last 29th May (the film is still available to view here.) It was set in the magnificent halls of Palazzo Farnese, an elegant palace by Antonio da Sangallo with an intervention of Michelangelo, and inspired by the history of the aristocratic family and their mythological frescos, paintings, statues. A gallery of tableaux vivants, recalling the ancient Roman life, as imagined by a stranger, contemporary artist.

Eleonora Abbagnato and Friedemann Vogel in “Nuit Romaine” by Angelin Preljocaj. Photograph by Fabrizio Sansoni

Both in the movie and in the stage version, Eleonora Abbagnato as Nox, the Queen of the night passes through the entire ballet, wearing a chiton realized in plissé silk with dégradé shades grey and cream, evening dress length for the screen, shorter for the stage. Another short chiton, covered with a rain of little pearls tinkling, was created for Abbagnato in black and for another dancer in white for a female duet with classic port de bras, développés, arabesques. A black bodysuit in a precious fabric was the costume worn by our étoile for dancing with a mythological divinity of statuesque beauty, Friedemann Vogel, frequent guest at Rome Opera from the Stuttgart Ballet, who danced only in black, precious pants. For them Preljocaj created a love duet in his best style: sensual and tender, recalling touches and balances from his masterpiece “Annonciation,” also presented in the program.   

Alessandra Amato, Rebecca Bianchi and Francesca Manfredi of Rome Opera Ballet in “Nuit Romaine” by Angelin Preljocaj. Photograph by Fabrizio Sansoni

For the female soloists Chiuri designed rich bodies in gold or glittering colors, as for the voluptuous trio danced on the top of three jars or the gracious duo of cupids with wings inspired by Raffaello’s angels, both quoting previous Preljocaj’s ballets: “Les Nuits” the first, “Roméo et Juliette” the second. If the purple costumes with tiaras inspired by the portrait of the Farnese pope seemed to belong to a real Dior collection and lent distinction to the sinuously ambiguous trio, the ensemble wearing white t-shirts, trousers and sneakers appeared less original, both in style and choreography. While the choreographic tableaux with the corps de ballet wearing fluffy long tutus in powdery colors, without difference between women and men, came off to great effect—not only a style choice by Chiuri and by Preljocaj as well, who seek to define a new concept of femininity and masculinity, in fashion and dance.

Attended by Rome’s high society and by an international audience, “Serata Preljocaj” was a sweet Roman evening, both for glamour and art, a preview of the appealing ballet season that Eleonora Abbagnato has conceived.