Opéra Garnier Presents Lacroix

PARIS — Puffs of tutus, twinkling tiaras, Cossack costumes and body suits painted with watery greenery fill a series of studios backstage at the Opéra Garnier in Paris. Art collectors of Art Kabinett network know well that fine artists -- Picasso, etc. -- frequently design theatrical sets and costumes. Here, the talents of Christian Lacroix take center stage. “This is my couture,” says Christian Lacroix, before his latest creations took to the stage in “La Source,” a magical realist ballet created in the 19th century and rarely seen since then. These fantastical costumes, mixing folkloric outfits with diaphanous pastel dresses, scattered with sparkling crystal, are for just one among a series of theatrical events across Europe that Mr. Lacroix has worked on since his couture house was shuttered in 2009. The list of his collaborations, for productions from Berlin to Paris, bring the beat of his work schedule back to the pulse of the annual rounds of fashion shows. The costumes for “La Source” (at the Opéra National de Paris at the Palais Garnier through Nov. 12) are indeed created in the spirit of haute couture, in different studios for firm tailoring and fluid dresses. And as the production reaches its climax in a whirl of colorful Caucasian costumes and elfin outfits, set against the classic, sugar-sweet dresses for the corps de ballet, it has all the visual drama of a fashion show. Was Mr. Lacroix always, in his heart, creating his dreams onstage? “I was often accused — when people did not like my work — of doing couture that was too ‘theatrical,”’ said the designer. “Yet when I was a child, I never thought about fashion but only about making costumes.” He agrees that he is to a certain extent continuing the same career, keeping the kernel of the couture he worked on for nearly 30 years. And that he is fortunate in working for grand houses like the Opéra Garnier and the Comédie-Française that allow him to use couture quality fabrics and do hand-tinting and embroideries — but always with the proviso that the dancers have freedom of movement and that sweat-drenched costumes can be easily cleaned. “We even do one-of-a-kind jewels,” Mr. Lacroix said, referring not to the Swarovski crystals scattered like dewdrops on the costume of the star ballerina Laëtitia Pujol, but to another atelier filled with cabinets of crowns and coronets. Mr. Lacroix said that all his visual work is intertwined. And there is plenty of it. First, there’s an impressive list of past, present and future ballet, opera and theater costumes, many for shows in Berlin or other German cities, with the set designer Vincent Broussard. Then there is the decoration of tram cars in the French city of Montpellier; hotel interiors from Paris to Thailand; and his role as artistic director creating coins and medals for the Monnaie de Paris. The costumes for “La Source,” illuminated by Swarovski’s gift of two million crystals, have a touch of the museum show “L’Orient des Femmes” (or “Women in the Orient”), at the Quai Branly museum last year. (Mr. Lacroix was artistic director of the exhibition.) On stage, Odalisques, as if in an Ottoman seraglio imagined by Ingres, are dressed in fanciful harem pants in vivid colors, while the men appear in dense, rustic tweeds. “I wanted a timeless ballet like those in my childhood, with a touch of the ‘Ballets Russes’ and of the 19th century,” said Mr. Lacroix.