Best Dressmakers and custom Tailors in NYC

The wonderful Linda Dyett originally wrote this article for the online magazine NY City Women from which I have excerpted here.

suit and dresses by Elizabeth Cannon

suit and dresses by Elizabeth Cannon

 

Custom-Made Womenswear

New York City’s couture-dressmakers, tailors and custom-fitters are on the rebound. Here’s a guide to 10 who make the cut.

by Linda Dyett

We consumers—especially midlife and older Americans—are paring down our wardrobes and shopping less and less these days—but we’re also spending more for higher-quality wearables that express our individuality and suit us to a T. And after a decade of online point-and-click purchases, a lot of us are also eager to return to hands-on service in brick-and-mortar surroundings. 

Enter custom-made—the artisanal antidote to fast fashion. Long the province of moneyed elites, celebrities, and mothers of the bride, custom dressmaking and tailoring are today also attracting regular women, who aren’t necessarily in the market for a dress to wear to a black-tie event. These new customers are ladies with style intuition, who know the cuts, fabrics, and colors they want when they see them. And with dozens of hours of pattern-making, cutting, sewing (sometimes by hand), and intricate multiple fittings, custom-made confers an optimal fit that disguises a bulging waist, out-of-shape hips, thighs, and arms, droopy breasts, posture slump, spinal curve, and other figure flaws.  

Of course couture dressmakers and tailors come at a price. While I’ve located one who’ll work up one of her off-the-rack $100 to $400 dresses in a different size for no extra fee, most charge $240 and up for custom-made blouses and shirts; $500 and up for made-to-measure  (a widely used industry term referring to garments derived from a standard pattern); and $1,500 and up for made-to-order dresses and suits. These are hardly bargains, but they compare so favorably with higher-end, A-list designer ready-to-wear that plenty of women, once they’ve tried New York couture, won’t switch back.

Here’s a rundown of some of the city’s most celebrated as well as off-the-beaten-track dressmakers and tailors who excel in couture and made-to-measure. Just keep in mind: what they offer isn’t seasonal fashion; it’s all about personal, individual style that you can hand down to your daughter or granddaughter, who’ll cherish it as much as you do. Appointments are essential almost everywhere, and finished garments take at least a month—sometimes several—to produce. 

Elizabeth Cannon

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Ensconced in a ground floor London Terrace studio, Elizabeth Cannon is that impossible-to-find accessible couturière whom stylish, independent-minded New York women dream about. Having honed her trade making costumes for the Paris Opera Ballet, her inspirations ranging from the Commedia dell’arte to Cocteau, she’s been designing made-to-order one-offs with a lyrical urban edge (starting at $1,200 for dresses, $500 for blouses) since 1980. Her clients? “Very decisive” artists, musicians, gallery owners, and entertainment executives, as well as members of the Trisha Brown Dance Company. “Nothing has ever fit me so perfectly,” says one delighted customer. “It’s as if Elizabeth were channeling Schiaparelli,” says another. 

Cannon does couture by the book, using custom-padded dressmaker forms, muslins (initial mock-ups in an inexpensive fabric), and sometimes interior boned corsets. She also offers a signature collection of off-the-rack casual day- and eveningwear ($500 and up, though prices can plummet to $100 at frequent sales) that can be altered to fit. Outstanding items: A New Look-style silk shantung dress and jacket for a mother of the bride ($3,500); a silk-cotton blouse and heavy silk floral-print skirt with reinforced corseted yoke for a mother of the groom ($2,800); an African wax-print summer dress ($750); a belted, striped men’s shirting chemise, ($575, readymade; $750, made-to-order) that riffs on the frock Francoise Gilot wore in an iconic 1948 photo strolling along a French beach with an umbrella-wielding Pablo Picasso. Elizabeth Cannon Couture, 460 West 24th St., 212.929.8552.   

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the full article appears here

 

 

 

Changing Seasons

Although it may still feel like summer, Fall is here and I am looking back and thinking forward.

Summer was an intense work period of costume reconstruction for the Trisha Brown Company.

I was privileged to work  with the artist Terry Winters in recreating his costumes for Groove and Countermove (debut Sept. 2000) for which he also created the sets.  

checking the pant hems in the rehearsal studio

checking the pant hems in the rehearsal studio

I found some luxurious bamboo knit in luscious colors for the leotards and then went to Dynemix to have them dye the cotton/lycra twill for the pants to match the tops.  They did an amazing job and were delightful to work with on the short deadline that I gave them.

Bamboo knit jersey 

Bamboo knit jersey 

Groove pants ready for fitting

Groove pants ready for fitting

The piece was performed in August at Jacob's Pillow along with another piece for which I  did the reconstruction of my original designs  "L'Amour Au Theatre" 

These pieces will also be performed at the Joyce theatre in NYC in Dec. 2017.  To see the calendar of upcoming events and performances click here

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Groove and Countermove    photos:  Christopher Duggan

Groove and Countermove    photos:  Christopher Duggan

L'Amour Au Theâtre       set :  Trisha Brown    photo;:  Brooke Trisolini

L'Amour Au Theâtre       set :  Trisha Brown    photo;:  Brooke Trisolini

This past March marked the passing of our beloved Trisha Brown who I have been so honored to work with over the past 15 years and through whom I have met and worked with so many amazing dancers and collaborators.  Through Trisha I was able to create costumes at the  Paris Opera, both the old Garnier and the newer Bastille , and worked in a castle in Germany and the famed Aix-en-Provence Opera as well as creating costumes for Trisha herself in her duets with Steve Paxton and Elizabeth Streb.   

This summer a beautiful memorial was held for Trisha at the Whitney Museum.

A still from the film "Slow Dancing" by David Michalek     dress: Elizabeth Cannon

A still from the film "Slow Dancing" by David Michalek     dress: Elizabeth Cannon

New costumes for "Geometry of Quiet" originally designed by Christophe deMenil

fitting in dance studio of Geometry of Quiet one-piece jumpsuit

fitting in dance studio of Geometry of Quiet one-piece jumpsuit

Also this summer I created another Batmitzvah Dress, a niche I am happy to say I have been acquiring some experience.  Like wedding Dresses, it is always very touching to be involved in creating an outfit to commemorate an important life milestone.

Bat mitzvah dress in silk and wool

Bat mitzvah dress in silk and wool

SALE ITEMS 

I have some lovely dresses in my studio from seasons past that are available at reduced prices.  As I work on new designs I invite inquiries about these couture samples.  And I welcome visits to my atelier in Chelsea.  You may contact me on the contact page to make an appointment.

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Devourè silk velvet dress

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Brown silk charmeuse

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African Poly-print dress

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Draped Tissue cotton dress

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Faux-pearl necklaces

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Dutch wax African print with flower appliquès

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Dark Brown silk velvet bias-cut dress

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Red wool draped dress

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Flower print silk chiffon bias dress

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Black silk velvet with appliquè-  sold

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20's inspired silk charmeuse and organza dress with beaded lace sleeve detail

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Beaded back detail of 4-ply silk bias-cut dress

summer  

Thank you for visiting.   Please go to my contact page if you would like to be added to my mailing list for studio sales twice a year or upcoming events.

Spring Sale!

Some new things in the studio for the Spring Sale

Mother and Daughter bat mitzvah Dresses

I had a wonderful project to work on this winter - dresses for a travel-themed bat mitzvah for a mother and daughter.  They had very developed ideas about what they wanted and had thought through every detail.  I helped them execute their ideas and guide them through the process.  We were delighted with the results and had a great time working together on this important milestone. 

Sadie's Bat mitzvah dress

Sadie's Bat mitzvah dress

The "world" fabric was printed at Spoonflower who does both custom and stock printing on fabric and paper.

Sadie was born in China and we used a red embroidered line to mark her  journey from her birthplace to her new home in New York city.  Tiny crystals mark all the places mother and daughter  have visited together.

Sadie was born in China and we used a red embroidered line to mark her  journey from her birthplace to her new home in New York city.  Tiny crystals mark all the places mother and daughter  have visited together.

Her Mother also wanted her own dress to represent all the places they had traveled together.  She collected travel patches from as many of these cities as she could find and gave them to me to sew on her dress.

Navy Silk Faille with Travel patches and continents

Navy Silk Faille with Travel patches and continents

We also showed the two continents representing Sadie's birthplace and her adoptive home  cut out in wool felt and connected with a red stitched line.

The day of the bat mitzvah was one of the rare sunny days in a week of cold and rainy weather

Batmitzvah Day

Batmitzvah Day

Around the World in Sadie Days  

Around the World in Sadie Days

 

Otherwise happening in the studio this month 

cotton stripe blouse 

cotton stripe blouse 

 

Swatching for clients-  choosing silk linings

Placement of print is always crucial- here it is gracefully figure-enhancing

African Print "Cyclone" dress 

African Print "Cyclone" dress 

I love texture and design- this piece is reminiscent of decorative stonework

Appliqué on silk charmeuse 

Appliqué on silk charmeuse 

A corner of the studio with blue and orange 

Stripe silk pants, cotton shirt w/ embroidery, ponté knit camisole-  silk charmeuse top and skirt w/ barbed wire tie

Stripe silk pants, cotton shirt w/ embroidery, ponté knit camisole-  silk charmeuse top and skirt w/ barbed wire tie

sketch for artist colab dress

sketch for artist colab dress

detail - cotton tuck dress

detail - cotton tuck dress

Book page from "Love in Venice" at the New York Public Library-  flaps lift up to show the courtesans' undergarments

Book page from "Love in Venice" at the New York Public Library-  flaps lift up to show the courtesans' undergarments

Subway mosaic near the Museum of Natural History at 81 street

Subway mosaic near the Museum of Natural History at 81 street

Wax-Print Dresses

A selection of Wax-Print dresses currently available at my studio-  will be expanding -  please check back and feel free to contact me about prices and sizing

Studio Notes

I haven't posted for the last few months, but am excited to share some of what I've been working on.  My studio and work have been a refuge.  As always, art has been a part of my life and directly inspiring to my couture.  Clients have brought me exciting fabrics to work with and some older pieces have returned for a brief visit. Color is always an important factor.  

Harris Tweed Wool suit returning for a nip and tuck

Harris Tweed Wool suit returning for a nip and tuck

Custom decorator wool fabric / outfit for client

Custom decorator wool fabric / outfit for client

Rothko Paintings at Pace Gallery, Chelsea

Amber velvet silk and Rayon dress draped and made from leftover pieces

Amber velvet silk and Rayon dress draped and made from leftover pieces

Amber velvet Dress with a lace Bolero (unfinished) modeled as a tunic by Mary Jones

Mary Heilmann table on New Year's Eve

Mary Heilmann table on New Year's Eve

Taro Suzuki  Tantric painting

Taro Suzuki  Tantric painting

Red Wool Draped Dress with asymmetrical hem

Red Wool Draped Dress with asymmetrical hem

Red Flowers Silk Gazar Skirt for client

Red Flowers Silk Gazar Skirt for client

The colors in these Ron Gorchov Paintings at Cheim and Read Gallery in Chelsea are so lucious

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Ponté knit Jacket  with snap closure for client -  painting by Taro Suzuki

Ponté knit Jacket  with snap closure for client -  painting by Taro Suzuki

Vilsco Wax print

Vilsco Wax print

work in progress 

Appliqué cotton dress, draped wax-print, wool jacket, silk charmeuse skirt

Appliqué cotton dress, draped wax-print, wool jacket, silk charmeuse skirt

detail /  cotton wax prints

detail /  cotton wax prints

Liberty cotton blouse, Ponté knit jacket, camel wool crepe dress

Liberty cotton blouse, Ponté knit jacket, camel wool crepe dress

watercolor after a Pompeii fresco

watercolor after a Pompeii fresco

More to come soon. . .

Artists Choose Designer- from the Archives

On Dec 12, 1986- January 4 1987 - Almost exactly 30 years ago- I did a show at the E. M. Donahue Gallery called "Artists Choose Designer" .  It was a cheeky title, because I actually chose 13 artists to design fabric for me rather than the other way around.  

cotton fabric designed with potato prints by Mary Boochever.       photo: Warren Mantooth

cotton fabric designed with potato prints by Mary Boochever.       photo: Warren Mantooth

show  invitation

show  invitation

Garments were displayed on plaster cast dress forms and tension suspended from top and bottom with technical help from Diane Lewis and lighting design by Taro Suzuki

Installation shot

Installation shot

Pouf-skirt dress made of cotton velvet and cotton painted by Dike Blair   photo-  Warren Mantooth

Pouf-skirt dress made of cotton velvet and cotton painted by Dike Blair   photo-  Warren Mantooth

Cotton velvet coat with day-glo dots by Taro Suzuki and dress on form painted by Dike Blair-  photo- Janette Beckman from Prêt Magazine

Cotton velvet coat with day-glo dots by Taro Suzuki and dress on form painted by Dike Blair-  photo- Janette Beckman from Prêt Magazine

Cotton 2-piece dress from silk screen print by Joseph Nechvatel

Cotton 2-piece dress from silk screen print by Joseph Nechvatel

cotton fish dress painted by Eve Vaterlaus.                                                  photo- Warren Mantooth

cotton fish dress painted by Eve Vaterlaus.                                                  photo- Warren Mantooth

Silk Shantung halter dress with cotton underskirt and button corset belt painted by Tommy Trosch            photo- Warren Mantooth

Silk Shantung halter dress with cotton underskirt and button corset belt painted by Tommy Trosch            photo- Warren Mantooth

Baby blue leather coat painted in silver marker ink by Jo Shane from Cocteau drawings

Baby blue leather coat painted in silver marker ink by Jo Shane from Cocteau drawings

Plaster custom dress form 

Plaster custom dress form 

Black Chiffon, silk and Wax-prints

Some of these dresses appeared in a previous post, in various states of completion. I am playing between the seasons, trying out different styles and moods, preparing for an upcoming sale. 

This dress really has no season, weighs about 5 ounces, and goes just about anywhere 

Black silk chiffon /lycra with caviar beaded collar and ribbon belt.  covered snap front closure

Black silk chiffon /lycra with caviar beaded collar and ribbon belt.  covered snap front closure

Regal, playful, vibrant  -  I am sure that all the images on this fabric have meanings- there are coiled snakes, calla-lilies and birds, as well as an elaborate monogram.  I was attracted to this fabric by it's complexity and let the patterns of the fabric guide my design process.

African Wax print cotton , halter-neck, floor length, size 4-6

African Wax print cotton , halter-neck, floor length, size 4-6

This fabric has a beautiful hand. The dress is lined in rayon bemberg.  It's a great holiday dress.

Silver silk/wool blend.  with pockets and tie belt. Lace necklace is separate from the dress.

Silver silk/wool blend.  with pockets and tie belt. Lace necklace is separate from the dress.

A soft petal-pink very easy top and very stretchy and easy skirt-  this is a romantic look with a flattering silhouette.

  silk charmeuse top with silk flowers and chiffon band- poly plissé skirt  

 

silk charmeuse top with silk flowers and chiffon band- poly plissé skirt

 

In and around the studio

The last few weeks have been a mix of work in the studio, work on dance projects and lots of art.  Here are some randomly ordered fragments of the paths I have been on-

camel cashmire jacket and Dutch Wax African print dress  

camel cashmire jacket and Dutch Wax African print dress

 

cotton mini-check draped dress

cotton mini-check draped dress

Pots and drawings by Devin Dougherty

Pots and drawings by Devin Dougherty

Black chiffon dress with beaded collar

Black chiffon dress with beaded collar

I am very influenced by the seasons and generally try and keep pace with the season we are in , unlike designers who design a "line".  Couture work has it's own tempo.  I will, however, continue to work with the colorful African fabrics throughout the winter in advance of a summer trunk show.  

"Key"  Print Dress

"Key"  Print Dress

Painting by my dear late friend Ellen Cantor at Participant inc. nyc

Painting by my dear late friend Ellen Cantor at Participant inc. nyc

Gold Embossed Flower Organza jacket for client

Gold Embossed Flower Organza jacket for client

Mary Jones painting at John Molloy Gallery NYC

Mary Jones painting at John Molloy Gallery NYC

in progress. . .

in progress. . .

full length view of pinned dress in process

full length view of pinned dress in process

Ive been developing a dress directly from the fabric this time- using the motifs to suggest the lines of the dress- for example - the neck piece is a circle on the print-  I have been draping the dress and then transcribing the lines back onto a flat pattern so that I can remake it.

 trying the dress on

 trying the dress on

I am currently so inspired by transforming the pattern in a way that enhances the silhouette and leads to new discoveries.  I like that it forms the illusion of a vest or jacket with the orange pattern flowing from the top to the bottom. . .

The dress is filled with pins at this point that I am trying it on to see how it works on the body.  I usually have scratches on my arms and back from this process, but it is essential and I am my own fit model! 

pot and drawing by Devin Dougherty 

pot and drawing by Devin Dougherty 

I went to Gowanus in Brooklyn to an open studio in a charming carriage house to view the work of one of my clients.   This blue and orange pot reminded her of a dress she got at my sample sale last summer.  We plan to do a photo shoot documenting her in the dress next to the pot and drawing.   

sketch for a client for her daughter's bat- mitzvah including an embroidered connection between her daughter's birthplace in China and current home in the U.S. as well as travel patches from all the places they have visited together.   I will also be designing her daughter's dress with a map-printed fabric.

sketch for a client for her daughter's bat- mitzvah including an embroidered connection between her daughter's birthplace in China and current home in the U.S. as well as travel patches from all the places they have visited together.   I will also be designing her daughter's dress with a map-printed fabric.

Sails in rehearsal

Sails in rehearsal

I am working on a project for the Trisha Brown Dance Company.   They have been re-staging some of their  works to be performed in unconventional non-stage environments.  I was engaged to redesign these sails for "Geometry of Quiet" which will be performed at the Getty Museum in March.  We are working out downsized proportions as the sails have been transformed from stationary to hand-held.  They are also making changes in the choreography to accommodate this.     

Sails in rehearsal

Sails in rehearsal

elastic shirred back of "bandeau" for client out of lovely Italian print

elastic shirred back of "bandeau" for client out of lovely Italian print

summer flowers are still hanging on. . . .in the traffic meridian on my way to the studio. . . .

summer flowers are still hanging on. . . .in the traffic meridian on my way to the studio. . . .

summer dresses

it's summer. . .it's hot. . .dresses should be easy!

Lu is wearing a lightweight cotton satin dress with easy fitted bodice and lightly gathered skirt.

Lu is wearing a lightweight cotton satin dress with easy fitted bodice and lightly gathered skirt.

Brights with neutrals can be very beautiful for summer dinners or drinks with friends. . .maybe a linen coat for those chillier evenings at the shore. . .

El is wearing a silk shantung fitted dress with 3/4 sleeves and a metallic finish linen coat and, of course, pearls!

El is wearing a silk shantung fitted dress with 3/4 sleeves and a metallic finish linen coat and, of course, pearls!

I love to see my dresses in the environments where they are worn. . .these pictures were recently sent to me from clients-

Jill is wearing a grey cotton A-line dress with an African print bodice and red selvage details at the Jersey shore.  the dress also has side pleats which are not visible in the photo.  really no accessories needed except a great pair of sunglasses and shoes.

Jill is wearing a grey cotton A-line dress with an African print bodice and red selvage details at the Jersey shore.  the dress also has side pleats which are not visible in the photo.  really no accessories needed except a great pair of sunglasses and shoes.

Bethany is wearing a Wax-print ankle-length dress to a summer wedding in the Hamptons - looking fabulous with her dapper husband. . .accessorized with wide-brimmed straw hat and summer sandals.

Bethany is wearing a Wax-print ankle-length dress to a summer wedding in the Hamptons - looking fabulous with her dapper husband. . .accessorized with wide-brimmed straw hat and summer sandals.

Joëlle is looking festive, yet casuel in one of my Dutch / african Wax-print dresses - out to dinner in Marseille

Joëlle is looking festive, yet casuel in one of my Dutch / african Wax-print dresses - out to dinner in Marseille

Kristen in September in New York - nonchalantly  fabulous! photo:   Harriet Shapiro

Kristen in September in New York - nonchalantly  fabulous!

photo:   Harriet Shapiro

Spending time with flowers

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I have been forever inspired by flowers.  As soon as Spring arrives, who cannot but be enthralled by the exquisite bursts of color that emerge from the monochrome months that proceeded it.  Each season has it's colors, it's fragrances and it's graceful forms.  If I could imitate, in one dress, the nonchalant grace that blooms so  profusely everywhere,  I would be ecstatic. Perhaps it is also their ephemeral nature that makes them so appealing.  Impossible to save or capture, like time itself. . .but there to enjoy, to savor and be inspired by.

 

My mother used to grow Zinnias in her garden every summer.  I had thought of them as country flowers and it has only been in the last few years, as I have seen them at the Farmer's Markets, that I considered trying to grow them myself in our window boxes.  This year I decided to grow them from seeds, so it has been doubly rewarding to see them come into flower and thrive.  They are not fussy- don't mind the scorching sun and are an endless source of happiness.

wedding sketches on a sunday morning

I love making wedding dresses.   It is always such a collaboration between the bride and myself.    It is a process of getting to know the bride- her life style, personality, likes and dislikes.   I want the bride to feel completely comfortable and herself on her wedding day. . . .and of course, beautiful.   The dress should feel organic and inevitable, as though it grew out of her life story.   The bride should feel simply gorgeous! There are as many wedding dresses as there are brides and I love taking that journey of creative exploration .   They, also, seem to love the process. . .

Alenćon Lace bodice with silk chiffon skirt and lightly beaded chiffon sleeves

Alenćon Lace bodice with silk chiffon skirt and lightly beaded chiffon sleeves

Lace Bodice - off the shoulder silk mesh wrap and silk mesh many-layered skirt

Lace Bodice - off the shoulder silk mesh wrap and silk mesh many-layered skirt

Silk Chiffon with beaded details and appliqué silk flowers - embellished cuffs

Silk Chiffon with beaded details and appliqué silk flowers - embellished cuffs

In philadelphia. . .

I was recently commissioned to re-make the costumes I designed for Trisha Brown's "O Zlozony / O Composite" by the Pennsylvania Ballet as part of their Spring season Balanchine and beyond.  Martha Chamberlain, a former dancer with the PA Ballet and now a costumer, made the pants and shorts for the piece.  The concept was padded corsets, supportive, protective and evocative of fencing attire.

Aaron Anker

Aaron Anker

The original piece was commissioned by the Paris Opera Ballet in 2004.

It was a delight to work with the talented dancers and costume shop in Philadelphia to create these costumes.

Lillian di Piazza

Lillian di Piazza

It is the sole ballet that Brown created during her 50 yr career.  to quote Susan Rosenberg from her program essay-

"Performed in all-white costumes designed by Elizabeth Cannon, whose stitching and armbands recall the attire used in the aristocratic art of fencing (considered a source for ballet's technical vocabulary), the choreography joins recognizable ballet moves- pirouettes, expansive leaps through space, and graceful port de bras- with Brown's vocabulary of rapid undulation of the spine, head and limbs, the use of simple walking, and the creation of linear as well as asymmetrical physical geometries"
Lillian Di Piazza

Lillian Di Piazza

Laurie Anderson composed the music with  text from  Czeslaw Milosz's poem "Ode to a bird", Vija Celmins did the set design of a starry night sky, and Jennifer Tipton designed the lighting.  

It was a truly magical time creating the original in the Palais Garnier in Paris,  and wonderful to revive it here in Philadelphia.  The piece was performed  June 9-12,  2016.