African designs and camels for harbour ‘Aida’

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SPECTACULAR African-themed Designs for Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s coming production of Verdi’s “Aida” have today been unveiled by Opera Australia.

Set render for Aida by Mark Thompson. Image courtesy of Opera Australia
Set render for Aida by Mark Thompson. Image courtesy of Opera Australia

Designer Mark Thompson is shaping a spectacular vision for Aida, Inspired by the colours and designs of Africa and Ethiopia.

Ablaze in gold and vibrant colour, with exotic head pieces, swirling dresses and bare midriffs, the contemporary will meet the ancient.

As well, the entire site of Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, at Sydney’s Fleet Steps, will be flavoured with African-inspired designs by Eamon Darcy.

Thompson is no stranger to challenges of this scale, having designed the lavish stage and costumes for recent OA productions of “The Force of Destiny” and “Orpheus and the Underworld” and says he is working across the full spectrum of costumes, props, set and staging to create a unified design the opera, directed by Gale Edwards and conducted by Brian Castles-Onion.

Almost 300 magnificent costumes in African and Ethiopian fabrics will be made for this new production of “Aida” and will “wrap the stage like a human work of art.” He promises strapless dresses with towering head wraps, bustles and enormous wrapped shawls.

The design is inspired by the opera’s original staging in Egypt, when it premiered in Cairo in 1871. The feature piece is a monumental head of Queen Nefertiti, cast as an historical ruin. Innovative lighting designs and fireworks will create spectacular special effects for the open air stage.

There won’t be elephants in the famous Triumphal March, but there will be live camels.

NSW Deputy Premier, Minister for Tourism and Major Events and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant said today, “Over the past three years, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has established a reputation for its awe – inspiring set and costume design with Sydney Harbour as a spectacular backdrop , and the details revealed today prove ‘Aida’ in 2015 will be no exception.”

The show will feature the full Opera Australia Chorus on stage. Milijana Nikole, who played Carmen in 2013, will play Princess Amneris, alternating with Jacqueline Dark alternates in the role, while African American soprano Latonia Moore will play the title role. Radamès, the Captain of the Guard will be played by Italian Roberto Aronic.

Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour: “Aida”, performed in Italian with English subtitles, March 27 to April 26, all details at ticket and travel packages at

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