You've seen the play, you've read the Lamb's tale, now you can watch the opera and acquire the collection. For Zandra Rhodes, kitsch couture queen of the catwalks, has been picked to clothe the cast of British Youth Opera's new Covent Garden Festival staging of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Once restricted to such pleasure palaces as Glyndebourne and Covent Garden - where everyone knows the cloth ears and stuffed shirts in the stalls circle have to be given something to gawp at to get them through to the next interval - the trend for getting big-name fashion designers to stick their labels on to operatic stagings has now spread to companies one might once have credited with more street cred.

Even Opera Factory, which once strutted its stuff proclaiming the creation of a genuine 'poor opera' predicated upon the physical strengths of its performers, not frocks and frills, has just fallen fashion victim, dressing up its South Bank staging of Stravinsky's chastely neo-classical Rake's Progress in see-through bondage gear.

Without quite getting hung up on the back-to-basics line (nudity, after all, has always been an Opera Factory accessory), one might ask if these companies haven't strayed a bit too far into emperor's-new-clothes territory in quest of that ever elusive post-Pavarotti following. For true dramatic conviction, it's hard to beat a come-as-you-are cast in pre-dress rehearsal civvies, and the most affecting Traviata I've ever seen was during an ENO stage strike, when the baritone didn't even have a wig to cover his baldness. You can't slap a label on truth.

7.30pm Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen St, Covent Gdn: black tie gala Wed 18 May (pounds 20-pounds 75); then 20, 21 May (pounds 16-pounds 40). Booking: 071-413 3531.

(Photograph omitted)

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