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  • Writer's pictureStefania Gioia

Nicolao Atelier's Magic Backstage

Updated: Feb 17, 2019

As Carnevale starts its celebrations, a special mention goes to Stefano Nicolao, whose atelier for years has designed some of the most stunning costumes, including the one worn every year by "the flying angel" at the grand opening in Piazza San Marco.

Although Carnevale 2019 celebration in Venice starts on February 16, the official opening is scheduled on Sunday, February 24.

That’s when, according to a tradition that traces back to the mid 16th century, a young woman in a spectacular period costume will fly above the crowds from the top of San Marco’s bell tower to a stage on the opposite side of the square. As the past years, the flying angel will be wearing a dress specially designed and sewn by the artisan Stefano Nicolao in his historic atelier, whose story is worth to be told.

Images from Il Volo dell'Angelo 2017

Against his parents’ advice, Nicolao attended the art high school in the early 70’s, in order to start his career as a theatre actor, working with brilliant directors such as Giorgio Strehler. Interested in all the aspects related to the theatrical production, he soon realized to have a special talent as a stage and costume designer. As a matter of fact (and despite the parents’ objection!), in 1975 he was already art director of the notable Teatro Stabile Friuli Venezia Giulia, in Trieste.

Passionate and fond of his city, in 1983 Nicolao founded his own company in Venice. Focusing on the study of historic costumes (Venetian in particular), the atelier specializes in an artisanal, hand-made production that left its mark both in theatre and in the film industry all over the world. Its precious manufacts were sewed for global film productions such as Marco Polo, The Wings of the Dove, Elisabeth I, Twilight and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Always involved in theatre and opera productions, Nicolao Atelier recently contributed to arrange Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, on tour in the main U.S. cities. During the Venetian ghetto commemoration, in 2016, the atelier made the costumes for The Merchant of Venice, directed by Karin Coonrod, while among the last remarkable productions there are the world premiere Mata Hari, performed by the Korean National Ballet and the Traviata, arranged for the Tokyo Nikikai Opera Theatre.

Boasting a treasure of over 200 tailor-made and restored costumes from 1700

to 1950 - a precious collection the art director gathered during his long and successful career - Nicolao Atelier currently rents out beautiful pieces to be worn in special occasions.

Dubai’s princes and eminent celebrities are usual customers when Carnevale is approaching, and if you can’t afford to attend the exclusive Ballo del Doge, you may enjoy a visit to the atelier, or rent a period costume for a few hours and do a photoshoot with your favorite Venetian landscape.

Teaching fashion design at the Academy of Fine Arts, Stefano Nicolao in person usually leads the visits to the charming atelier, located on Fondamenta della Misericordia in Cannaregio. Animated by genuine enthusiasm, he will probably mention his incredible experience in Tibet and Nepal where, while shooting the Montaldo’s Marco Polo, he learned how to dye and tan the skins according to the local use.

Wandering around his colorful atelier is a unique experience that will give you a hint about the relentless, passionate artisanal work behind any theatre or film production.

Excited to discover, in a few days, the fanciful creation for "Il Volo dell'Angelo" 2019, we invite you to celebrate with us the historical Carnevale veneziano and we are proud to involve this amazing atelier into our Extraordinary Tours.

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