Milena Canonero

Interview with an iconic costume designer

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MILENA CANONERO'S career is one of the most prestigious amongst the shadow’s artists.
Born in Turin she studies costume creation and Art history, which she believes are closely related, in Paris and London. She admits to being very lucky and modestly she forgets to mention talent.
Her exceptional skills associated with prestigious encounters led her from Opera to Theater by the way of movies for motion pictures that made the movie industry history.
She had the great opportunity to meet Stanley Kubrick at a very young age, in 1969, and he became her mentor in “2001 Space Odyssey”.
She designed the very graphic and futuristic costumes of Clockwork Orange in 1971, got an Oscar for Barry Lyndon’s costume 1975 , Hugh Hudson’s Chariots of fire in 1981 and Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in 2007.
Very much like great Hollywood costumes designers or italian geniuses from Rome's cinecita, Milena Canonero is a “Character designer”who works closely with the directors for the creation of an entity,has an infinite precision for details whose colors reveal the character's psychology, defining the style, the fabrics, the allure to get as close as possible to the roles and functions of even  the last stand ups.
2009 she debuts at the National Opera of Paris with Phillip Boesmans “Yvonne Princesse de Bourgogne” . For this master piece, the director, Luc Bondy, wanted something  simultaneously very realistic and caricatural where each color had a specific function , the costume being a big part of the role , bringing to life the details of each characters.
The plot : Prince Phillippe gets engaged with a little attractive Yvonne. King Ignace and Queen Marguerite reluctantly agree to the union. Yvonne fell in love with the Prince who hopes he will be able to love her back.
Yvonne's presence and behavior at the kingdom are an embarrassment and the Royal Family is ill at ease. Her flaws are a reflection of their own faults and vices. They organize the much cumbersome Yvonne's death  while preserving an air of superiority and majesty.
For this Opera Milena created costumes combining grotesque , absurd and sublime in order to illustrate those eternal themes : vanity, lust and jealousy.
The costumes being a reflection of the characters' personalities, the Prince wears a tie suit with coat of arms, Yvonne who refuse to grow up is a baby doll, very much like Sue Lyon in Kubrick'sLolita”with baskets and over the top lipstick.
The King being the athlete with a winner's outfit is draped in red and gold,  satin robe, red jogging and gold shoes, symbol of power. The runner up Isabelle looks like a pink Flamingo, dressed with feathers and furs. The court is represented as an ostentatious and flashy animal farm with furs and jewelry, closely adjusted satin suits that make them look like superficial and conceited little hens.
Tart suits and surrealist hats with Simone de Beauvoir inspired hair accessories. An over the top chic evocative of the past with a contemporary touch.

Milena in her brilliance and her sense of the unique and her adaptation from head to toe sometimes define the characters better than the lights and decors do. She succeeds one more time  as a diamond  artist in the shadow.
Outstanding career served with awards and master pieces of the history of entertainment.

Awards and Nominations : Charles Shyer “L'affaire du collier”, Julie Taymor's “Titus”, Warren Beaty and Madonna's “Dick Tracy”, F.F.Coppola's “Tucker”, Sydney Pollack's “Out of Africa” , winner of 2 british awards for Coppola's “Cotton's Club” and “Chariots of fire”, nomination for “Dick Tracy” , “Barry Lyndon”, she creates the costumes for Steven Soderbergh' ” Solaris” or “Equilibrium” or “Ocean Twelve”.

Amongst many other prestigious movie, let's mention Warren Beatty's“ Bulworth” and Polanski's “Death and the maiden”, Jewison's “Only you”, Sam Pillsbury's “Love affair”, Louis Malle's “Fatale”, Barbet Shroeder' “Single white female “ or “Barfly”, Coppola's “Godfather”, Tony Scott's “Predators”, Kubrick's “Shining “, Alan Parker's “Midnight Express” and Wes Anderson's “Vie Aquatic”.

Patrick Sarfati translator Carole Denis

Milena, Christine, Lisa and Pierrette


Ruth Walz  /  Yvonne Pincesse de bourgogne


Report & interview by Sabine Morandini


Opéra de Paris
Place de l'Opéra
75009 Paris

Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne

Music Philippe Boesmans

Music director Sylvain Cambreling

Director Luc Bondy assisted by Dörte Lyssewski

Costume Designer Milena Canonero

Choregraphy Arco Renz

Set Richard Peduzzi

Lights Dominique Brugière

Dramatist Geoffrey Layton

Yvonne : Dörte Lyssewski
King Ignace : Paul Gay
Queen Marguerite : Mireille Delunsch
Prince Philippe : Yann Beuron
Chamberlain : Victor von Halem
Isabelle Hannah : Esther Minutillo
Cyrille : Jason Bridges
Cyprien : Jean-Luc Ballestra
Innocent : Guillaume Antoine
Ensemble Les Jeunes Solistes