Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fashion Notes from SFS

I try not to comment on performers' outfits too often; yeah, you're all right that the visuals are part of the experience, but my preference is to focus on the musical, plus there's the complex issue of what women wear (or can wear) versus what men wear (or can wear). Nonetheless, it was an interesting week at SFS.

Sunday matinees are dress down days, with the men in black suits rather than tails and the women....um, dressed the way they usually dress (long black). Last weekend, the star was definitely violinist Leor Maltinsky's brilliant lavender tie. As SFMike once pointed out, he looks like a young Mark Ruffalo to start with. (A web search turned up this portrait of him playing violin in a bathtub.) The tie just added a charming bit of eccentricity to his stage presence.

Then there was Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The pianist is no longer wearing the trademark red socks, I'm sorry to say. Why, oh, why did his obviously expensive jacket have such a weirdly patchy look to it, as though different parts were differently worn? And why did it not seem to fit quite right?

Last night's program - which you should go see tonight if you can - brought us Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki in her San Francisco Symphony debut, along with pianist Horacio Gutiérrez in Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. What a woman should wear while conducting is one of those interesting questions: every one I've seen has opted for long black, whether it was Marin Alsop's plain pants and short jacket, Maggie Brooks's long skirt and short jacket, or what Mälkki wore last night.

She was wearing what I think of as the female equivalent of tails: black slacks and a beautifully cut jacket that fell to her knees and flared slightly, tunic-style, on its way down. It was a rather severe look but suited her well. I understand completely why kalimac jokes that it must have been cold and blustery on stage, because it really did look a bit like an overcoat. That probably is not quite the impression she wanted to make, but I'll tell you, if I could find a garment like hers that actually fit me, I'd buy it in a second.

As for Gutiérrez, sigh. He wore a matching jacket and pants in a sort of dark gray; they were almost shiny, the jacket needed to be pressed, and honestly, the cut was not flattering. He could do better. I mean, tails would have looked better.

(I note that both Thibaudet and Gutiérrez played the hell out of their respective concertos; this is merely about their look on stage.)


sfmike said...

I thought Susanna Mälkki's outfit looked very "The Matrix," which was sort of fun. Gutierrez looked like a bear who didn't know how to dress, but he sure played the piano well. And why does Leor Maltinsky have his shirt on when he's in the bathtub playing the violin? We want to see The Full Leor.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Hahahaha, yes, well, The Full Leor would be a lot of fun.

Zwölftöner said...

Interesting post. I’m totally with you about not making a habit of commenting (I don’t find much ‘what was she wearing?’ among the blogs I read but I’m sure it’s out there). And what is deemed acceptable for women to wear is indeed problematic, like you say. Being one of those gay men who doesn’t give a crap about clothes I tend just to go with the flow on the more unusual choices – when I saw Iréne Theorin earlier this month sporting an open blouse which exposed (sorry but I have to resort to Intermezzo-speak here) a huge bewb tattoo, there was some tutting from the Musikverein audience but I thought it was great that she just didn’t give a damn.

Thibaudet is an interesting case because growing up gay during the 90s I saw him perform a lot, and wearing couture without ever making an insufferable fuss about it, implicitly or otherwise. Non-normative yes, but somehow always normal (and of course it goes without saying that his look then is considered practically mandatory for any self-respecting metrosexual performer wanting to get ahead nowadays, cough, Charlie Siem). And then I saw him a couple of times at the Musikverein recently and he seemed to be toning it down a lot, which I assumed to be because of the Musikverein public, and by extension, a sad indictment of the Viennese (Vienna isn’t such a homophobic town any more, but people here still get away with saying stuff that would be considered beyond the pale in Britain, America, and even Germany). I’d be interested to hear how Thibaudetesque you thought his ill-fitting SF jacket; in Vienna there were no tailoring issues, it just looked boring.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I think Intermezzo got the bewb terminology from Opera Chic! And good for Theorin.

Twenty-odd years ago, I'm reasonably sure that Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg played a concert in SF (Sibeliue violin concerto w/SFS) during which she flashed hairy underarms - very, very unusual.

I don't know enough about Thibaudet's stylistic history to be able to comment on how typical the suit was, alas. Trying to think of which male performers I've seen who seemed especially sharply dressed, without much success. Joshua Bell wore, hmm, tailored pants and a slightly flowing blue shirt of some kind, untucked, in his last SFS appearance, if I am remembering this correctly. Christian Tetzlaff wore a sharply-tailored jacked, I think? or played in shirtsleeves? Tetzlaff played the Lutoslawski and was brilliant and I remember that more than the clothing. I think he was sweating at the end....

Lisa Hirsch said...

Good grief. Tetzlaff played the Ligeti violin concerto.