Thursday, May 28, 2009

CULTURE: Oscar-Winning "Romeo and Juliet" Costume Exhibition – NYC

by Staś Kmieć

Poland's Italian Queen Bona Sforza (1494–1557) was a patron of Renaissance culture and influenced fashion. As Polish women adopted their queen's sense of style, the Court began wearing jewels, gold chains, and beaded coifs. Fabrics such as lush velvets, silks, satins, brocades and gold cloth came into vogue.

During that period Italy was known as the fashion capital not only for dress, but also for dance and music. For a century, everything from the church choir (capella) to poetry, to speech, to food made an impression because it was Italian.

An understanding of the dress style in Poland imported from Italy during this period is on display in New York City as part of Tuscana in New York.

The Oscar-winning original costumes for the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet designed by Danilo Donati are currently on view to the public in an exhibition at Time Warner Center. Through May 31 cultural enthusiasts can delight in the folds of fabric and design that authentically recall the extravagance of the Renaissance period.

In brilliant color and unique texture the costumes lent character to the richly figured tapestry director Franco Zeffirelli had woven in this retelling of Shakespeare's classic tale. Even through no music was playing, seeing the costumes again and in such close proximity evoked the strains of Nino Rota’s iconic score.

Zeffirelli created an unforgettable blend of beauty, elegance, sensuality, adventure and action. He captured the very texture of time and place, creating a 15-century Verona white with the heat of a blazing sun, aglow with rich and courtly costuming, and ablaze with earthly passion.

The meticulously researched and constructed costumes and all aspects of the production were voluptuous and sensuous.

In the film, the splashing reds, oranges, rich browns and greens contrasted well with the chaste blacks and whites and pastel shades used in some of the more intimate and dramatic scenes. They were the avenue for color and richness that entered the frame, which was otherwise filled with gray and ochre stones and the colors of nature.

Donati also received a British Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The film received additional Oscar for best cinematography, and was nominated for best picture and director.

At the opening of the exhibit Ambrogio Brenna, Minister of Economic Development for the Region of Tuscany, welcomed the guests to the two free art exhibits (the second being Italian Art Codex) celebrating the region’s literature and its many manifestations in art and culture worldwide. He relayed that the twenty Romeo and Juliet costumes were on loan from the Cerratelli Foundation in Tuscany.