Fresh off presenting his Talitha Getty-inspired resort collection, designer Bibhu Mohapatra will soon see the fruits of another hard labor when the opera Aida—for which he designed over 30 costumes—premieres at the Glimmerglass festival in Cooperstown, New York on July 7th. Glimmerglass Opera General & Artistic Director Francesca Zambello approached Mohapatra after attending his fall 2011 collection. The result is a modern, but still elaborate take on the classic Verdi work, in which the Ethiopian princess, Aida, is kidnapped and enslaved by the Egyptians, whose military commander, Radames, falls in love with her, while ignoring the affections of Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter. Doomed romance ensues.
“It’s such an emotional story about love and country and duties. It’s almost like a Bollywood story for me,” says the India-born Mohapatra, who was charged with striking a balance between the contemporary and the fantastical for this production. “The Egyptians have a lot of gold and black and then the soldiers, they’re wearing combat boots with jodhpurs and shirts with patch pockets.”
As for Aida and Amneris (the “nice one” and “evil princess,” as Mohapatra puts it), they have quite a wardrobe courtesy of the designer. The former spends the entirety of the opera in one look, an ivory hand-pleated, corseted A-line dress with chiffon panels, a tulle underskirt and a veil of sheer chiffon, trimmed in red, also the color of an Ethiopian cross on her chest. (Mohapatra will distress it to make it look like she’s walked through mud and sand.) Amneris, meanwhile, has three outfits, including a gown of gold lame jacquard, a specially made fabric from the designer’s fall 2011 collection, patterned lightly with images of brain scans. For her final scene, she sports a black sequin dress with black tulle beneath and a jeweled choker with black crow feathers covering half of her face.
“She’s pure evil witnessing the demise of the two young lovers,” explains Mohapatra.
For more information on Aida and Glimerglass, visit Glimmerglass.org.