Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Wikipedia defines the word "diva as " a celebrated female singer." The term is used to describe a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera , and, by extension, in theater, cinema and popular music. The meaning of "diva" is closely related to that of "prima donna."

To me the one that personifies the word is die American/Greek Soprano Maria Callas .
This rather overweight lady young woman went on a diet and remade herself into a chic, glamorous and world famous opera star whose life paralleled many of the opera character she played on stage.

Amalia Rodriques.
The first "diva"  that I saw in real life was the Portuguese Fado singer, Amalia Rodrigues on a flight from Lisbon to Rome. She was dressed very glamorous in black and were surrounded by men keeping all at baby.She had an aura around her of being untouchable and removed from real life. Living in a world of sound- all on her own.
When I started going to opera performances in Europe we went back stage and met most of the opera divas of the 70's .I remember with great excitement women like Montserrat Caballe, Leontyne Price, Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilsson, Renata Scotto, Grace Bumbry, and also Margot Fonteyn the prima ballerina. They were all dressed in evening gowns, with furs and jewels to match when you went backstage. These women looked the part. They did not meet their fans dressed in jeans wearing no make up .They were divas and the looked like divas.

Spanish diva Montserrat Caballe and her son in 2008.

American diva Leontyne Price.

Dame Joan Sutherland - Australian diva.

Swedish diva -Birgit Nilsson .


Me and Susan Graham October 2016. New York.

When I came to New York in 1983 I had the opportunity to meet -and dress-very glamorous women. Working in the fashion field makes it inevitable. I always wanted to dress some opera divas.

Susan Graham. American Diva

One January morning in 2007 Marion told me that the American mezzo soprano,  Susan Graham's office was on the phone and he wanted to know if we could make a dress for Miss Graham in a weeks time.She was singing a concert recital of French composers at the Carnegie Hall and was not happy with the gown that she was supposed to wear. She needed something more romantic. She was out of town but her people came to look at some gowns and felt that they were what she was looking for.Miss Graham  came direct from the airport on Saturday afternoon and we decided to make her a very full skirted burgundy taffeta gown for that first  occasion.

She was very friendly and almost as tall as I was. Very athletic looking and down to earth. I liked her immediately. She knows what she wants and as she had many costumes fitted she can guide me on how tight she wants her gowns to fit. I love working with her.

Susan Graham

We do not do all of her gowns as she travels so much and a custom made gown need time and fittings. If the gown is too elaborate she can not take it on the road and will only use it for the New York appearance. Some are fully beaded and too heavy to  carry herself and expensive to ship.

Susan Graham and Thomas Hampson.

Susan Graham -Royal Albert Hall. London.

Susan Graham wearing TOSCA NEW YORK 
 OPERA NEWS December 2012

Susan photographed in Paris to promote her performance in Paris 2015 wearing Tosca New York


 Los Angeles red carpet wearing TOSCA New York 2014.

Fitting the gown Susan  Graham wore for the new year concert with the New York Philharmonic 2015/2016

Susan Graham wearing TOSCA NEW YORK  October 2016.


Renee Fleming 2016.

Diva Renee Fleming.
I met Renee Fleming backstage when she was singing with Johan Botha in "Othello" at the Metropolitan Opera and  he introduced me to her.

She mentioned that she was planning to go to South Africa for a concert tour and I was delighted when she agreed to wear two gowns on that tour that I designed for her

Miss Fleming at her first fitting in New York.

Her private persona is much more reserved than her public one and I found her to be rather shy but a very kind person. As she traveled so much I had to go to her penthouse in New York to do the final fittings. She decided to  wear both gowns at every of her three concerts in South Africa. It was great for me that such a beautiful and famous diva was seen wearing my creations on stage in my homeland.

Renee Fleming in Cape Town  South Africa .

After she returned from South Africa she invited me to the final dress rehearsal of " Der Rosenkavalier" that she and Susan Graham where performing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

American divas :-Renee Fleming and Susan Graham in "Der Rosenkavalier"


Another American diva is the Wagnerian soprano Deborah Voigt.

Here is a recording of her voice:-

Miss Voigt was the poster girl for the Metropolitan Opera's new Ring Cycle by Richard Wagner for the  2011/2012 season.  She sang Brunhilde in this production.

I had a the opportunity to dress her for her performance with the New York Philharmonic in Lincoln Center .She sang "Erwartung" by Schoenberg.

Diva Deborah Voigt. Backstage in the Avery Fischer Hall .New York's Lincoln Center

Miss Voigt has a beautiful speaking voice as well and very easy to get along with. We had a good time working on the gown. She was supposed to wear it  for the Opera Gala in Cape Town South Africa with tenor Johan Botha but had to cancel  because of illness.
All these opera singers amaze me with their confidence and  guts. To walk out on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera and have 4,000 critics watch your every move and hear every note you utter must be a frightening experience. Most people have sleepless nights over  saying few word in public -how about singing a full opera- know every note and word by heart and hitting every high note .... not for the faint of heart! I do admire them very much.


Another opera diva that wore TOSCA NEW YORK was the famous Swedish dramatic soprano
Nina Stemme .She wore one of my gowns on the cover of the OPERA NEWS of November 2012.

Nina Stemme

Here is a video of her :-


Anna Netrebko the Russian Soprano in OPERA NEWS of September 2013.
Photographer Dario Acosta ,Escada ,Tosca New York ,Chopard.

Anna Netrebko

Here is a video of her-


We have dressed South African Soprano Pretty Yende  several time and love working with this very talented artist.

Pretty Yende and Juan Diego Florez at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam  2015

Pretty Yende Carnegie Hall Recital. New York. 2014


Pretty Yende Carnegie Hall Recital 2014

Pretty Yende.  Richard Tucker Gala .New York 2014

Listen to Pretty Yende here:- 


Romanian Soprano Valentina Fargas.
Photographed by Dario Acosta -

Here is a video of her.


Leslie Uggams.

Another diva of song that we have been dressing for a long time is the delightful Miss Leslie Uggams.She started her career as a young girl of 9 at the Apollo theater opening for Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Dinah Washington- and still going strong. She has a magnificent voice and the recording of her singing at the Hollywood Bowl for Jerry Herman  one of his song from "Mame" is one of my favorite recordings of her.

She appeared with Mitch Miller, Ed Sullivan, Frank Sinatra :-

-and Bob Hope and has a star studded career

I love working with her. She is tall and slim and knows how to wear clothes.

Here Miss Uggams is wearing Tosca New York in her "Uptown /Downtown" Show:-

Leslie Uggams wearing TOSCA NEW YORK

 Leslie Uggams- A diva in the truth sense of the word.


Last but not the least -the Queen of Soul- Diva Aretha Franklin.

Miss Franklin lost a  lot of weight and we received a call to send her some sketches as she was planning a big come-back concert in Chicago as well as New York. She selected two gowns .
I met her in her suite at one of New York's top hotels for the fittings. We only had a few days to finish the one gown as she wanted to wear it for a live late show on TV .The second gown she wanted a week later for her concert in Chicago.

Miss Franklin wearing the black gown for a concert in New York.

Her security took me to her two bedroom suite and I was surprised to see how small she really was. She did not wear a wig and was rather soft spoken and very polite. The air conditioning was turned off as it affects her voice and so it was rather warm in there.

Black gown -Jimmy Fallon Show.

The fitter dressed her and when I came into the room I asked her to put on some shoes so that we could do the hem. I bent down to help her and she asked me very politely if she could lean on my shoulder to keep her balance. I thought that was very sweet.
The fitting went well but  as it was the only fitting we had time for I was rather nervous. We delivered the gown on the morning of the show and heard nothing from her office .That night she walked onto the show wearing the black gown and she looked very regal and slim after loosing all the weight. Once again I was struck how different her public persona was to the very polite and soft spoken lady I met at the hotel a few days before.

She wore the lilac gown the next week for a big come-back concert in Chicago.

Concert in Chicago.

August 8, 2011 .

In last week's newspapers, Aretha Franklin's amethyst beaded chiffon loooowcut ample bosomy gown? Custom-designed by Henry Schickerling of Tosca New York .. . .

Concert in New York for 20,000 fans.

At an award dinner in Cleveland. Another award for the Queen of Soul.

Wearing one of our gowns at a fundraiser in Greenwich Village for President Obama.

Red and white tulle gown .Worn at a Gala in Chicago June 2012.

Music Festival. New Orleans. July 2012

 Aretha Franklin wearing TOSCA NEW YORK in Ceaser's Palace .Las Vegas
 July 15 2012


It has been fun dressing beautiful women. So far we have dressed a few Arab Princesses, opera and contemporary Divas ,a Presidents wife. A few actresses and women from all walks of life. It is always a challenge so that the person is not overwhelmed by the gown .She must wear the gown and not the other way around.