What is a classical artist to do when their schedule includes traveling all over the world, living out of countless hotel rooms, performing almost every night of the week, and still trying to squeeze in some personal time. Rebecca Nelsen is no stranger to this lifestyle but somehow she seems to make it look oh-so-effortless.
Currently with the Volksoper Wien, Nelsen has been performing her role as Violetta in La Traviata and is also preparing for the premiere of Beethoven’s Fidelio later this month. Vienna may be city with a rich musical history but the Viennese people also know a thing or two about style. Austrian designer, Lena Hoschek, is just one of many that the soprano goes to when she hunting for the next performance look. With such an intensive schedule, how does she do it?
MC: How do you choose your costumes and do you get help from stylists?
RN: Well, this is a bit of a complicated question to answer. When I am appearing in a fully-staged opera, I rarely get the chance to choose my costume at all. Each production has a leading team, usually consisting of a stage and costume designer, a director and a lighting designer.
The team puts a concept together, including lighting, stage and costume design
that is unified within itself. That being said, I have gotten to wear some
incredible vintage and couture pieces, as well as couture-inspired pieces in various
productions. I have been in vintage Dior and current-season Cavalli onstage, I
even got to help pick the Cavalli dress out, but generally speaking, costumes
for opera houses are either made in-house by the enormously talented
seamstresses in the costume departments or purchased by hard working costume
assistants in regular stores, for modernized productions. When I am singing concerts, however, it is a completely different story. Generally speaking, I get to decide what/who to wear and how to wear it. If you can’t be at a ball, standing in front of a full symphony orchestra in a beautiful concert hall is a great alternative.
MC:When you perform in Europe, do you turn to local designers and could you share some of your favorites?
RN: Well, first and foremost, Marcos Valenzuela and his incredible collection at Tiberius. The house started interestingly enough catering more to a niche market of high-fashion fetish enthusiasts, specializing in leather corsets for example. Marcos has transformed the label into a major haute couture contender, but he often mixes in elements that remain true Tiberius’ origins. Other favorite designers are, of course, Lena Hoschek and Omatu Fulani.
MC: Do you have a designer that you go to all the
time no matter where you are traveling off to?
RN: Not really. I travel a great deal and I enjoy meeting new designers and seeing their work, and of course it is wonderful to present a designer’s work that I find to be particularly gorgeous at a concert, gala or event.
MC: Is fashion important to you as a classical performer?
RN: Well, I am a performing artist – what I do is all about self expression and transmitting feeling and emotion to an audience. I think that fashion is driven by the same force. It is all about expression.
MC: Any tips?
RN: For me, it is not about the price or the name – it is about the look, the fit, the feel… I tend to avoid pieces with a visible brand name or logo and go more for things off the beaten path. I enjoy meeting and forging relationships with individual designers in boutique settings – that way, you get a real feel for the creative genius behind the clothes, the artist. Of course, the most important thing is to have fun! Nothing can ruin a fabulous dress quicker than a bad attitude.