In a departure from our usual Puccini’s Chronicles STYLE article, this month we will be focusing on the fashions of a particular character who must be played by an operatic soprano: Carlotta Guidicelli from The Phantom of the Opera.
I despise the Andrew Lloyd Webber crapfest Love Never Dies for more reasons than I care to list, and one of its (MANY) problems is the lack of the most interesting character from the original: the Prima Donna. Originated in London by Rosemary Ashe, boasting a Tony-award winning Broadway turn by Judy Kaye, and captured onscreen by a lip-syncing Minnie Driver, Carlotta Guidicelli is infinitely cooler than Christine Daae and arguably has more swagger as well.
Pictured: Patricia Phillips and Evan Harrington in the Broadway show, Minnie Driver in the movie, and Judy Kaye in the original Broadway production. Look at that swagger.
Phillips is wearing Carlotta’s first outfit, a sparkling gladiator-like costume for the fictional Hannibal opera. Dangling the head of an unlucky person from her fingertips and producing High Cs like nobody’s business alongside the tenor Piangi, we instantly get a strong first impression of this character from her gold-adorned head to her glittering red bodice. She is commanding, a powerhouse, and unafraid to be bold for her art.
Driver sports the costume Carlotta wears in the fictional Il Muto opera before disaster strikes. This is probably one of my favorite looks in the show, next to Christine’s “All I Ask of You” dress. Anyway, while she is playing a role, this little number still says a lot about Carlotta herself. It is draping and gaudy, a physical manifestation of the character’s vanity and pride, and the wig immediately tells you what period this ensemble is from- the Mozart era. The shades of pink in the dress and wig are also gorgeous to look at.
Finally, Kaye is rocking the more subdued garb that Carlotta is seen with during the “Notes” sequence. Though the colors of this outfit are not as bright as the other two, the style of the garment makes just as profound a statement about her. A black parasol in hand and fur wrapped around her shoulders indicates that although Carlotta is belligerent and not a force to be messed with, she’s a lady first and foremost. The layered draping on the skirt is particularly beautiful, and I also really like the elegant cap atop her head.
What do you think of Carlotta’s costumes in Phantom? How does the clothing of the other characters in the show measure up?