Obituary: costume designer and scenographer Ezio Frigerio dies at 91

(Credit: © Marasco)

On February 2, 2022, Italian costume designer and artistic director Ezio Frigerio died at the age of 91.

Born on July 16, 1930, Frigerio studied architecture and later went to the theater to design costumes. During his early years he became a pupil of the painter Mario Radice and went on to design costumes for “Casa di Bambola” and “L’opera da 3 soldi”, two plays staged by Giorgio Strehler at the Piccolo Teatro during the period 1955-1956. season. This would be the start of his working relationship with Strechler, with whom he would collaborate for decades.

Together they have collaborated on unique productions such as “I giganti della montagna”, “Santa Giovanna dei macelli”, “Re Lear”, “Il temporal” and “L’Illusion Comique”, among others.

In 1963 he began a long-term relationship with designer Franca Squarciapino and the two began working together in over 400 theater productions.

Both were made for filmmakers such as Vittorio de Sica, Liliana Cavani and Bernardo Bertolucci. He went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for Art Direction for his work on “Cyrano de Bergerac” while Squarciapino won Best Costume Design.

In opera, Frigerio partnered with Strehler on productions of Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”, “Don Giovanni” and “Così fan tutte”. The three operas were produced between 1973 and 1996.

He has also worked on productions of “Médée” by Cherubini, directed by Liliana Cavani, for the Opéra National de Paris; “Elektra” by Strauss, directed by Nuria Espert, for the De Munt Theater in Brussels; “Ernani” by Verdi, directed by Luca Ronconi; “Fidelio” by Beethoven, directed by Werner Herzog for the Teatro alla Scala in Milan; and Bellini’s “Norma”, directed by Piero Faggioni, for the Vienna State Opera.

At the Metropolitan Opera, Frigerio and Squarciapiano engineered the production of Zandonai’s “Francesca da Rimini”, which was later televised and starred Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo.

At the Teatro Real, he designed productions of “Manon” and “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” as well as “Falstaff” and “Madame Butterfly”, among others. Among some of his last productions was “La casa de Bernarda Alba” at the Teatro de la Zarzuela.

In a statement, the Teatro alla Scala mourned the loss of Frigerio noting: “La Scala mourns the loss of Ezio Frigerio, active for more than 50 years in dramatic theatre, opera, ballet and cinema, a model of 20th century Italian culture: a scenographer who knew how to leave his influence on the productions of all the great directors with whom he worked, from Strehler to Ronconi, from Liliana Cavani to Graham Vick, from Bertolucci to Rappeneau.

The company added: “He began his collaboration with Giorgio Strehler at the Piccolo Teatro in 1955 and the same year he made his debut at La Scala designing the costumes for ‘Il matrimonio segreto’ on the occasion of the opening from the Piccola Scala. There followed a very long and fruitful collaboration with La Scala which led him to sign 32 productions, 8 of which inaugurated the Season: ‘Otello’ (1959), ‘Simon Boccanegra’ (1971 and 1978), ‘Falstaff’ (1980), ‘Lohengrin’ (1981), ‘Ernani’ (1982), ‘Don Giovanni’ (1987), ‘Fidelio’ (1990 and December 7, 1999), ‘Otello’ (2001).

He is survived by his life partner Squarciapiano.

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