She said that her inspiration for the opera began with her trip to Egypt. She explained that she loved the Egyptian use of eyes in art and incorporated that in her designs along with the turquoise, oranges and gold colors, and the bold jewelry.
Another influence was the pleated dresses of the pharaohs. Rhodes talked about the process of buying saris and making the pleats. One of the biggest challenges was to make the wigs so they weren’t too heavy for the wearer.
During the presentation, Rhodes showed slides of her sketches and then pictures of the actual sets and costumes on the stage. There are many reasons why the sets and costumes may vary from the original sketch, which may be due to the size of the actor or due to monetary reasons. This was a very entertaining lecture and it was very uplifting to hear all the behind the-scenes stories in the making of the Egyptian-inspired opera.
The exhibit is a wonderful collection of her sketchbooks, costume drawings and costumes she created for Verdi’s opera “Aida.”
She was originally commissioned by Opera Pacific in 2004 to design the sets and costumes for its production of “Aida.” After opening in Houston, “Aida” traveled to the English National Opera in 2007 and in 2008. This year it will open in San Francisco in September.
“Verdi’s Aida Through the Eyes of Zandra Rhodes” will be on view until May 15 at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library.