Photo Journal: A Fanciful, Candy-Colored Aida in Houston

Classic Arts News   Photo Journal: A Fanciful, Candy-Colored Aida in Houston
"Opera fans may wish to take their sunglasses to the theater." That was the reaction of one London critic to the idea of Zandra Rhodes designing the sets and costumes for Aida. The British fashion designer, who helped create the punk chic look in the 1970s, is famous for her use of extremely vivid colors. (That love of bright hues extends to her hair, which is currently a screaming magenta.)

Rhodes has given a flamboyant, storybook-on-LSD look — just have a look at the photos below — to this production of Verdi's Egyptian epic, which opened on April 13 at Houston Grand Opera. The staging goes to English National Opera in London in 2008 and will provide a very (very) festive opening to Oslo's new opera house in 2009.

"Zandra's color palette is famous the world over," HGO general director Anthony Freud told The Houston Chronicle. "She deals in very intense, very enriched colors. I felt that her color palette was absolutely right for Aida."

All this is not to forget the singers, of course. Soprano Zvetelina Vassileva takes the role of Aida, the enslaved princess, baritone Gordon Hawkins as her father, the Ethiopian king Amonasro. Tenor Marco Berti sings Radames, the Egyptian commander who falls in love with Aida; mezzo Dolora Zajick plays Amneris, the Egyptian princess who loves Radames; bass Tigran Martirossian is Ramfis, the high priest of Egypt. Carlo Rizzi, music director of Welsh National Opera conducts; Jo Davies, in her HGO debut, directs.

There are seven more performances of Aida at the Wortham Theater Center in downtown Houston from this afternoon through May 5, with the final performance featuring a new cast and conductor. Information and tickets are available at

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All photos by Andrew Cloud.

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