Beyond the Fourth Wall
Theater. It’s an elegant word, and an even more unique place. When we go, it’s a happening … an excuse to dress well and go out to dinner afterwards with someone special; a captivating space where the hard work of actors, set and costume designers, directors and stage hands converges to transport an audience to any place or any time without ever leaving the room.
In short, theater is magic, which is exactly why I was so excited to meet Elena Bianchini, a young Florentine artisan and founder of the in-house Costume and Set Design Atelier at Florence's iconic 17th Century Teatro della Pergola Opera House.
Elena has already spent the better part of 10 years working in the theater world. After completing her university studies in Art History, she felt compelled to recreate what she had spent so much time researching and began sculpting faces and bodies borrowed from the greatest masterpieces in Italian Renaissance art. It wasn't long before her talent was noticed and she was commissioned to sculpt a series faces for a local adaptation of Antigone. The rest is history ... Elena began working alongside some of the greatest names in the theater world.
After recently creating the in-house Costume and Set Design atelier in Teatro della Pergola, Elena has transitioned into the driver's seat. She provides creative direction to a team of seamstresses and craftsmen for operatic productions, incorporating her artistic perspective and penchant for in-depth research to recreate history.
Her golden rule is simple: sustainable quality. Her sculptures are made from paper mache, and it is not uncommon for her team to utilize household objects (even rags!!) to replicate 18th Century frocks. The gem, though, is that unless she told you, you'd never be able to tell the difference. For Elena, the quality of the final result is just as important as the sustainable means she uses to attain it.
This practice fits into her larger philosophy to capture through her costume design a magical world that she experienced each Summer as a little girl: Sicily. She spent some evenings watching productions of Greek tragedies, and others observing Feast Day religious processions through the winding streets of Siracusa. Vivid colors and elaborate baroque details of saints and icons carried by worshipers were juxtaposed by Sicily's arid landscapes and the monochromatic dress of the elderly local women.
The result is a manifestation of Elena's world, a place where common, everyday objects are transformed into the epitome of elegance. Baroque statues are stripped of their adornments and bare a minimalist expression that communicates boldly with any onlooker. It's a magical world, befitting to transport any audience to any place, or any time.