In February 2011, Italian director Manfred Schweigkofler and set designer Nora Veneri raise the curtain on a new production and contemporary setting for the operatic version of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet at the Opera Company of Philadelphia. The Capulets and the Montagues are shown as major fashion houses in a 21st Century world of glamour, high stakes, and paparazzi. Juliet, in addition to being the daughter of the House of Capulet, is also the face of their label, her face emblazoned across billboards and stylish magazine covers.
As part of this much-anticipated new production, the Opera Company of Philadelphia has partnered with several of the premier design schools in the region, creating an opportunity to spotlight the tremendous design talent being cultivated in Philadelphia. Drexel University's Antoinette Westphal College of Media Art & Design, Moore College of Art & Design, and Philadelphia University were given guidelines by Opera Company veteran costume director Richard St. Clair. The task for their student designers? "To create stunning, color-rich, avant-garde designs to be featured in a runway fashion show within the opera -- with a cheeky wink to Renaissance fashion and tabloid magazines," shares St. Clair. "The director loved the idea of engaging fresh, young talent, showcasing the creativity of many of our area's up and coming designers." The costumes will ultimately become a standing part of the production, which goes to Italy after its premiere here.