Barbara Matera, owner of the premier costume house serving the New York theatre, died on September 13 at NYU Medical Center in New York. She was 72. The cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage, said her husband Arthur Matera.
Born Barbara Gray in Kent, England, she began her career in London with the Adelphi Players in Covent Garden, the Ballet Romberg in Stratford-on-Avon, and the Old Vic. She eventually opened her own company, Scott/Gray, Ltd. She moved to the United States in 1960, and began working in the studio of costume designer Ray Diffen. In 1968, founded Barbara Matera Ltd., with her husband. It quickly drew the patronage of top costume designers in opera, ballet, the theatre and film.
Matera provided costumes for over a hundred Broadway plays and musicals, including Follies, A Chorus Line, A Little Night Music, 42nd Street, La Cage Aux Folles, Dreamgirls, Sunday in the Park With George, Sugar Babies, Nine, City of Angels, Angels in America, Into the Woods, Grand Hotel, Crazy for You, Sunset Boulevard, and the recent revival of Annie Get Your Gun. Her films include The Great Gatsby, Death on the Nile, Something for Everyone, The Mirror Crack’d, The Age of Innocence, The Addams Family, Moonstruck, The Wiz, Ironweed, Jagged Edge, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 101 Dalmations, and 102 Dalmations. Her opera credits include productions at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago, among others. For American Ballet Theatre, she created costumes for Swan Lake, Othello, The Snow Maiden, and Theme and Variations, among others. Other dance credits include productions with New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Paul Taylor Company, Feld Ballet, David Parsons, Lar Lubovitch, Houston Ballet, and many ballets by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Matera also built costumes for concerts tours, working for Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones, including the latter’s Steel Wheels and Voodoo Lounge tours. At the time of her death, she was working on the new Broadway musical, Mamma Mia!
As a designer in her own right, her credits included Petit Beins, Sinfonia Mistica, Tanspiel, Five, Baroque Variations, Sophisticated Lady, Mozart Serenade, Les Delights of the Muses, and Jazz, all for New York City Ballet, as well as David Merrick’s Broadway revival of Private Lives and The Way of the World for John Housman’s Acting Company. In addition, Matera worked with a number of stars on a continuing basis, including Dame Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Leontyne Price and Angela Lansbury. She also designed private clothes for Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Ethel Merman, Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Raquel Welch, Liv Ullman, Pearl Bailey, Anne Baxter, Anne Bancroft, Carol Channing, Lena Horne, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, and Harry Belafonte. She also executed the highly acclaimed gown worn by Hilary Rodham Clinton on the occasion of her husband's first inauguration as President; Matera and her husband were personal guests of the Clintons for the event
Her work was the subject of a 1996 exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, titled Inside and Out—The Costumes of Barbara Matera. In 1999, she received an Eddy Award from Entertainment Design magazine, which was presented to her by Angela Lansbury. Aside from her Eddy Award, she also received the Irene Sharaff Award from the Theatre Development Fund, the John Houseman Award from the Acting Company, and the Cartier Salutes New York City Ballet Award for her work on Sleeping Beauty. She was also guest of honor at the annual benefit dinner for the Columbia Green County Memorial Hospital Foundation.
Matera’s passing is, in some ways, the end of an era, as he career bridges several generations of top costume designers, from her mentor the late Irene Sharaff, to the late Raoul Pene Du Bois, Patricia Zipprodt and Freddy Wittop, to elder statesman such as Tony Walton, Theoni V. Aldredge, Anthony Powell, Willa Kim, and Desmond Heeley, to contemporary names such as Ann Hould-Ward, Martin Pakledinaz, Bob Crowley, Roger Kirk, Julie Taymor, and William Ivey Long. The above credits reveal that she built costumes many of the most important Broadway productions of the last three decades. Speaking of Florence Klotz’s work on the legendary original production of Follies, which Matera built, producer David Merrick, who was not involved in the production, called them the best he’d ever seen on Broadway.
Matera is survived by her husband, a sister, Pauline Ritchie-Fallon, three nieces, one great-niece, and three great-nephews. A requiem Mass will be held for her on Friday, September 21st , at 10am, at Holy Cross Church, 329 W. 42nd Street. In lieu of flowers, Mr. Matera requests that donations be made to Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS, 1560 Broadway, New York, NY 10036.