Pittsburgh Opera fashion show featured live opera performers

Guests expect to see fashion models on a runway.

But for a show to include live opera singers’ powerful voices with songs from “Carmina Burana,“ ”Rigoletto” and “Rinaldo”?

That’s not something you see and hear every day.

Friends of the Pittsburgh Opera hosted their annual style event on Monday with performances by resident artists and models showcasing evening dresses and lingerie.

“I am always looking for ways to create interest for the opera,” said Pittsburgh Opera general director and artistic director Christopher Hahn. “I want to reach out to our audience in different ways. In opera, the theatrical costumes are fashion, and there is an intersection between theater and fashion.”

That intersection meshed at the opera’s headquarters — the Bitz Opera Factory — in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The sold-out event for 275 people included a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres and custom drinks made with Quantum Spirits’ grapefruit gin and vodka catered by Mindful Hospitality Group.

The 45-minute show opened and closed with performances by resident artists who sang the “Carmina Burana.” Throughout the night, local tenor Ben Werley sang the lead on “Rigoletto” and Emily Richter sang the lead on “Rinaldo.” The evening ended with the “Carmina Burana.”

Resident artists and Werley wore fashion assembled from pieces in its costume shop.

“It was one of the most dynamic shows I’ve been to,” said guest Peggy McKnight of Fox Chapel. “It was both avant-garde and beautiful.”


Courtesy of David Bachman Photography for Pittsburgh Opera

Pulchra Intimates’ Helen Hoey (left), Studio Booth’s Ron Booth (center) and House of Couture’s Skye Douglass receive a rousing ovation from the crowd at the conclusion of the opera’s “Laced/Unlaced” fashion show on Feb. 13 at the Bitz Opera Factory in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.


The show “Laced/Unlaced” featured looks from House of Couture Designs in McCandless Crossing and Pulchra Intimates in Lawrenceville. Hair styling was provided by Ron Booth and Izear Winfrey of Studio Booth in Pittsburgh’s East End.

House of Couture Designs is a full-service bridal salon owned by Skye Douglass of Sewickley. She has more than three decades of experience in the fashion industry and supplied close to 60 looks for the show, fitting multiple body types. Her garments included bold and sparkling evening gowns and wedding dresses in pink and black hues.

“I want people in Pittsburgh to re-live what fashion is,” said Douglass, a former model. “This is a wonderful event and so well attended, because I think people are anxious to get out and socialize.”


Courtesy of David Bachman Photography for Pittsburgh Opera

Esai Martinez poses at the end of the runway wearing a gown by House of Couture at the opera’s “Laced/Unlaced” fashion show on Feb. 13 at the Bitz Opera Factory in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.


Pulchra Intimates is a luxury boutique in Lawrenceville and owned by designer Helen Hoey of Sewickley.

“I love music and fashion,” said Hoey, who creates some risqué pieces. “I pay attention to detail and create to embellish the body and make wearable pieces that are comfortable. It’s about stimulating the mind. Our bodies are a canvas. Pittsburgh is so accepting of this lingerie because the arts are so strong here.”

Resident artist Evan Lazdowski said this was his first fashion show. He and his colleagues rehearsed once with the models.

“There are a lot of firsts here with the opera,” he said. “And a lot of great first experiences like this one. It was a unique show.”


Courtesy of David Bachman Photography for Pittsburgh Opera

Event co-chairs Melanie Crockard and Michele Fabrizi with Pittsburgh Opera general director Christopher Hahn (center) pose for a photo at the opera’s “Laced/Unlaced” fashion show on Feb. 13 at the Bitz Opera Factory in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.


The event was co-chaired by Michele Fabrizi and Melanie Crockard and sponsored by The James and Melanie Crockard Foundation. Crockard, of Sewickley, wore a black gown from House of Couture Designs, a vintage velvet Betmar hat and jewelry from Diamonds Direct Pittsburgh. Crockard said collaborating with Douglass was a wonderful experience. Douglass oozes style and creates looks that command a room, Crockard said.

She and Fabrizi sat in the front row at the end of the runway and were two of the first guests to give a standing ovation.

“Laced/Unlaced” raised more than $50,000 for Pittsburgh Opera.

“This has become a signature event for us,” Crockard said. “To hear the amazing voices of the opera singers wearing authentic costumes that you see on stage along with beautiful fashions and luxurious lingerie made for a perfect night.”

Hahn said opera often includes extreme fashion and by adding dramatic music and lighting and a runway it created a fun, high-energy different kind of event.

“As a performing arts organization, it’s about giving the audience surprises and a mix of things,” Hahn said. “It was a high-octane evening. We wanted to create a heightened auditory experience as well as a visual one. People are not used to seeing and hearing opera singers on a fashion show runway.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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