Valentino's enchanted universe sings opera in Paris
Regal and monastic silhouettes fit for couture arias23 January, 16:01
The show opened with an homage to Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata embodied by a nude-coloured tulle dress with the composer's melodies embroidered in black on the diaphanous skirt.
Lakme', the 1883 Delibes opera set in India was Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli's swan song on the summer couture catwalk with its bold patterns of foliage and wild animals.
In between were Puccini's La Boheme with a silk crepe sheath and cape while Bizet's Carmen was interpreted with an embroidered pleated bronze dress.
The sublime handiwork was as complex and subtle as ever, the message dramatic with the theatrical effect enhanced by an unexpected 'carnival of the animals' with the same element of fun and pizzazz as French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saens's suite.
A lion and a giraffe adorned a silk dress inspired by Verdi's Aida, a gorilla and its baby made floral appliqués of an organza cape come alive.
An enchanted, dreamlike universe breathed through the craftsmanship of a spectacular feast of couture with 1,500 atelier work hours employed to create a cape decorated with verdure and wild animals.
A gown made up of 5,000 metres of silver and gold thread had powerful regal charisma while it took 550 hours to apply feather butterflies to a cape, the show notes said.
A swan dress was entirely created out of hand-sewn feathers.
Another 350 hours were necessary to embroider a snake on a gown evoking a ballerina's tutu.
A number of dresses were designed to give the feeling of an unfinished touch, such as the ballet-like tutu gowns.
The stage-like quality embodied by such craftsmanship and the explosion of exotic wild animals on pieces ranging from a cashmere cape to a refined satin dress were mixed with austere long-sleeved gowns - the monastic together with the regal tone interpreting the designers' signature dual aesthetic.
Overall the bold message of the collection was balanced by the softness of gowns that left the body free to move, suggesting its contours, with a number of back-revealing décolletés.
Rusty hues gave way to grey and beige which pervaded looks of cerebral, ever-changing beauty.
Opera has been a strong inspiration for Chiuri and Piccioli after their visit to Rome's Opera workshop, also contributing to shape the duo's ready-to-wear spring 2014 collection with theatrical emphasis on regal silhouettes and workmanship which took on all the drama of full-on costumes.
And the Valentino operatic creativity did not only bring a happy ending to a virtuoso performance embracing notes of austerity in breath-taking draped silk dresses and rich melodies like a dress with 4,000 gemstones.
It also closed a four-day Parisian couture event dominated by Italian creativity, re-writing a Bel Paese opera with a happy ending.
Donatella Versace, Marco Zanini for Schiaparelli, Giambattista Valli, Giorgio Armani and the Margiela team of Renzo Rosso's group were, in chronological order, the other Italian players who dominated the haute couture event - fashion deacons and new talents who set the tone.