BY MIGNON A. GOULD

Desert Botanical Garden and Ballet Arizona have collaborated to meld nature and art. With Ib Andersen at the helm as artistic director, the collaboration produced an unforgettable experience that pushes emotional boundaries, first with “Round,” then “Topia” and now “Eroica.”

The world premiere of “Eroica” runs through June 2 set against the beautiful desert backdrop and featuring Beethoven’s Third Symphony. Complementing the powerful performance, stunning scenery and classical composition are the contemporary costumes, which were constructed and embroidered specifically for this production. The simple lines and minimalistic fabric with metallic embellishments may appear to be about form and function, but more significantly, follow the immersive theme of the performance—soulful and emotionally revealing.

We recently caught up with costume designer Fabio Toblini, who has costumed productions such as “Hamlet,” “My Fair Lady,” “Amadeus” and “Kiss Me, Kate,” for an exclusive interview to learn more about his design work and how the Garden served as inspiration for costuming “Eroica.”

“More than the shapes of the landscape, temperature influenced my design the most.
This is why the costumes are very minimal and leave much of the skin uncovered.”

Ballet dancers at Ballet Arizona EroicaCan you take us through your process when it comes to designing costumes? Designing costumes for the stage is a collaborative effort that involves directors, producers, designers, artisans, technicians, performers and—even if in our case not a living one—a composer and/or a writer. My process has to accommodate for the relationships that blossom with all my ever-changing collaborators and their work.

How did you get started designing costumes for ballet productions? It was actually Ib that called me in 2005, asking me if I was interested in designing his new production for “The Nutcracker.” I had never designed for ballet before, but Ib wasn’t deterred by that. He loved my take on color and my aesthetic and that seemed to be enough for him. He was looking for a designer that would approach ballet from an original perspective. Needless to say, I have learned a lot from Ib and his dancers. I’d like to mention Natalia Magnicaballi, who in the past has been a muse for my work at Ballet Arizona.

What research have you done in preparation for Ballet Arizona’s “Eroica”? The “Eroica” symphony is a political piece deeply tied to the time it was written. Ib chose to perform it now because many of the themes that inspired Beethoven to write it have become quite current. That’s how I decided to look back at the ‘empire’ style of the beginning of the nineteenth century.

You visited the Garden for inspiration. How did the Garden’s landscape impact your design process for the production? More than the shapes of the landscape, temperature influenced my design the most. This is why the costumes are very minimal and leave much of the skin uncovered.

What impact do you want your costume designs to have in helping to tell the story? For this ensemble piece, with such abstracted narrative, I chose to develop a minimal design and let the choreography and the dancers’ bodies take center stage.

For more information and to purchase tickets to “Eroica,” visit balletaz.org.