It was April 25, 1926 when, at Milan’s famed Teatro alla Scala, the curtains opened on the final, incomplete opera by Giacomo Puccini: Turandot.
Turandot is one of the most famous works by the great Tuscan composer. Its artistic genesis was rather complex, and the story of the costumes especially so. Luigi Sapelli, known as Caramba, was the house costumer at La Scala and he created the costumes for the opera. Puccini had chosen the artist Umberto Brunelleschi for this job, but for organizational and strategic reasons, those sketches were not used in Milan, but rather to make costumes for a subsequent show in Rome at the Teatro Costanzi.
Caramba transformed Puccini’s dream into reality with sumptuous robes inspired by the Far-East, which was very much in style at the time. With time, some of these costumes were lost.
An amazing find
One morning last April, we at the Museo di Tessuto in Prato, Italy, received an unexpected phone call: someone was asking if we might be interested in the contents of an old trunk that had belonged to the Pratese soprano Iva Pacetti. Inside, apparently, were some old clothes, wigs and costume jewelry. We had to take a look.
When we opened this trunk at the Museum, two robes immediately jumped out at Chief Curator Daniela Degl’Innocenti for their particularly precious manufacture. Further analysis confirmed that they were two costumes from Caramba’s set made for Turandot, which were thought to have been lost!
A precarious state of conservation
The two costumes are in very bad shape. Time, fragile materials, frequent use and incorrect storage have taken their toll on these important historic pieces. Both costumes need major restoration in order to be able to be shown to the public. The Region of Tuscany has provided funding for a part of this restoration.
In order to complete the restoration of the Turandot costumes, we need your help. The second costume is even more delicate than the first, and will require months of highly specialized work.
The dress is made entirely of woven and textured fabrics, with gold-coloured metal brocade. The latter stands up on the surface of the entire dress. On the right shoulder and underarm there are holes and lacerations, and the end of the sleeves are highly compromised with dirt. The interior of the sleeves is lined with a woven fabric in pink, orange and green that has small circular decorations in metallic thread that is coming off at various points.
There are many steps in this restoration, which can be summed up as:
Vacuum cleaning the whole item
Removal of past, badly executed darning
Stain removal using a low-pressure technique
General consolidation and insertion of supports where necessary
Fixing the metal decoration and covering it with protective tulle.
Restitution through exhibition
When they became part of the Museo del Tessuto’s patrimony, these costumes became everybody’s partrimony.
We want to give these two costumes back to the public in their original splendour through an exhibition about Puccini’s Turandot planned for Spring 2020.
Research for this exhibit will help us reconstruct the fascinating history of these costumes, from their creation to their rediscovery in the wardrobe of Pratese Iva Pacetti.
We want to make this exhibition a collective project, made with the contribution of our community. With your help we’ll bring back into the spotlight a precious piece of the history of costume, of opera and of Italian theatre.
We have developed a number of rewards for our crowdfunding supporters, which you can choose on the right of this page – or see the complete description of each reward on the relevant page. Please note that, unless otherwise indicated, all rewards are to be picked up in person at the Museo del Tessuto in Prato. However, if you do wish to receive a particular item by post, please contact us and we can arrange something for you.
In addition to what is listed, ALL donors to this campaign will be thanked with their name on a panel in the upcoming exhibition at the Museo del Tessuto dedicated to Turandot.
Below, please find the description of some of the items that you can find in the “prize packages” we have developed.
Museo Del Tessuto water bottle
An aluminium water bottle decorated with an image of one of the most beautiful textiles in our historical collection. Bring art with you everywhere while also being environmentally friendly.
Museo del Tessuto Foulard
This made-in-Prato square scarf (100% modal, 140x140cm) is available in three models, inspired by textiles in our permanent collection.
A limited edition, light and colourful scarf (100% micromodal, 140x200cm) created in collaboration with the association Kepos and Fondazione Claudio Ciai, inspired by designs created by otherwise-abled adults during artistic workshops.
Project created by
Museo del Tessuto
The Museo del Tessuto of Prato is a cultural hub dedicated to textiles. The permanent collection is complimented by temporary exhibitions, various activities, programs for schools and children, events, and restoration.