The Royal Opera today announce their partnership with Balenciaga. The House has selected specific pieces from its Fall 2022 and Winter 2022 collections for the Last Days costumes. 

Based on Gus Van Sant’s 2005 film, Last Days opens in the Linbury Theatre on Friday 7 October 2022, bringing a contemporary existentialist myth to the opera stage. This new work is composed by ROH/Guildhall School Composer-in-Residence Oliver Leith, with libretto by Matt Copson, and is directed by Matt Copson and Anna MorrisseyJack Sheen conducts the 12 Ensemble with guest artists GBSR Duo. 

Created in collaboration with Balenciaga Artistic Director Demna, stylist Patrick Welde and Matt Copson, the costumes mark Balenciaga’s first alliance with an opera house and The Royal Opera’s first costume partnership with a fashion house.  

The costumes for the eight members of the ensemble cast feature sculptural shapes executed in technical fabrics, paired with oversized denim and deconstructed shirting, all drawing on original Balenciaga silhouettes – an aesthetic central to the brand’s DNA. 

Matt Copson said: ‘The opening shot of Smells Like Teen Spirit famously contained product placement – a close-up of Converse shoes, politely tapping along to the iconic riff. We knew early on that we had to move away from costuming a period and into something more paradoxical, that implicated us in the present day. 

Balenciaga was the obvious fit – Demna’s work involves the questioning and distortion of archetypes, the aesthetics of ‘alternative’ and the legacy of the 90s in a disruptive and poetic way. Each character on stage represents a different tribe and our references ranged from the specifics of Mormon backpacks to Seattle teen fashion. We asked ourselves – what do these forms mean to us now and how can we distort these loaded symbols into something poetic.’ 

Last Days opens the Linbury Theatre’s Season – a space designed to showcase trailblazing works by the brightest talents. In November, the ROH continues its Benjamin Britten cycle with a shattering new production of The Rape of Lucretia – staged by Director of The Royal Opera Oliver Mears. January sees the UK premiere of Irish National Opera’s Least Like the Other – a searing portrait of Rosemary Kennedy, a hidden member of the American political dynasty, directed by Netia Jones, with Fergus Sheil conducting Brian Irvine’s explosive score. Woman at Point Zero, inspired by Egyptian writer Nawal El Saadawi’s seminal novel, opens in June as part of Shubbak Festival 2023; and History of the Present – Maria Fusco’s semi-autobiographical, groundbreaking new film-opera marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement – opens in July. Both are also part of the Engender Festival.