Toronto fashion designer Rosemarie Umetsu keeps TSO soloists looking as good as they sound

[originally posted in The Toronto Star.  Original post here.  By Trish Crawford]

Special to the Star / Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Soprano Leslie Ann Bradley shows off the Rosemarie Umetsu gown she will wear during the Jan. 15 and 16 performances of Mozart’s ‘Coronation Mass’.

Canucks are loyal.

Three Canadian singers performing Wednesday and Thursday with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will be wearing Toronto designer Rosemarie Umetsu’s creations.

What’s more, Canadian-born conductor Peter Oundjian will also be sporting her styles, being a long-time fan of the ‘shirket’ (a jacket and shirt in one piece), Umetsu created for him to wear at the podium.

With so many designers and labels to choose from, it is unusual to have so many performers on stage wearing clothing from the same house. The fact that they are all Canadian, as is the designer, may be the reason.

Soprano Leslie Ann Bradley ordered her gown especially for the event, which is her debut with the TSO.

“I’m so excited,” says Bradley. “This has been a long time coming and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Bradley was taken to the symphony by her grandparents while growing up in the GTA and says that performing at the TSO has been her top life goal.

She wanted to do something special for the event. So she commissioned a design from Umetsu, who has a reputation of catering to artists, to wear for the performances of Mozart’s Coronation Mass Jan. 15 and 16.

Umetsu, who owns Atelier Umetsu in Yorkville, uses her knowledge of both the artist and their musical strengths to create unique outfits. She quickly decided that the event — and the artist — needed something regal.

“She (Bradley) plays the role of a countess a lot,” says Umetsu who designed a black satin gown with an overlay of tulle dotted with crystal beads.

Two other Umetsu clients are on the Coronation Mass program: Mezzo soprano Lauren Segal; and tenor Lawrence Wiliford.

Segal felt that Mozart deserves designer treatment.

“Mozart’s Coronation Mass, named as such since it was often used during coronation ceremonies in Vienna, is full of elegance, passion and beauty,” she says. “It is a joy to sing.”

Umetsu’s gowns, she says, “are spectacular — their energy, vibrancy and sheer beauty seeps into the pores of anyone who wears them.”

Wiliford has noticed that conductors (including Oundjian) have started to discard the traditional tails. So, when it was time to replace his tails, he opted for a custom-made morning suit.

“It is more loose at the neck, has a full vest, and a coat with shorter tails,” he says.

Traditionally male singers have to “look good enough not to be noticed,” but Wiliford thought it wouldn’t hurt “to be noticed just a little bit for a creative choice.”

He also thinks sartorial splendour and Mozart are a great fit.

“I have been a great admirer of Mozart since I first saw the movie Amadeus as a boy in 1985,” he says, adding they share the same Jan. 27 birthday.

“Mozart operas and arias are some of my favourite to perform.”

Bradley notes that 2014 is starting off as the year of Mozart for her as she will next be performing in Don Giovanni with Vancouver Opera in the role of Donna Elvira. This will be followed by Le nozze di Figaro with Pacific Opera Victoria in the role of Countessa Almaviva.

“It’s hard to do better than Mozart.”

Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, at Roy Thomson Hall, Jan. 15, 16, 8 p.m. Leslie Ann Bradley (soprano), Lauren Segal (mezzo-soprano), Lawrence Wiliford (tenor), Gordon Bintner (bass-baritone). Hilary Hahn (violin), plays Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5.