Tag Archives: Ancient Egypt

Will the Real Akhenaten Please Stand Up?

Akhenaten

Akhenaten

There is nothing left of this glorious city of temples and palaces. The mud brick buildings have long since crumbled and little remains of the immense stone temples but the outline of their floor plans.
—from Akhnaten, the opera by Philip Glass 

Like the lost kingdom of Egypt, little more than outlines remain of the glorious ancient pharaohs that ruled there.  A treasure trove of precious metals and jewels, the once carefully preserved tombs—intended to last for eternity—have been looted and disturbed since antiquity. Today, we have stories that are pieced together from 7,000-year-old mummified bodies and the confusing array of artifacts and artistic renderings remaining to us. Modern technology has allowed for advancements never before imagined. CT imaging of mummies allows us to see more and destroy less and DNA testing has advanced the traces of a family tree. But there is still much we don’t know about this profoundly important African dynasty.

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Recreating the Fashions of Ancient Egypt for Akhnaten

Anthony Roth Costanzo as Akhnaten in a scene from Phelim McDermott's spring 2016 English National Opera presentation of Akhnaten, a co-production with LA Opera; Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

Anthony Roth Costanzo as Akhnaten in a scene from Phelim McDermott’s spring 2016 English National Opera presentation of Akhnaten, a co-production with LA Opera; Photo: Richard Hubert Smith

Many opera goers may not realize how much costume design is involved in telling a production’s story. Award-winning costume designer Kevin Pollard shared some interesting tidbits about how costume creation plays a role in informing the audience and moving the story forward in this season’s Akhnaten.

Most of what the world understands about the ancient Egyptian royals is theory, based on hieroglyphics and artifacts that captured the world’s attention in the 1920s, when Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered.  Pollard sought to find an innovative way of interpreting ancient Egypt while maintaining the awe of viewing a new world, never before seen.  He has, through costume design, intricately woven together a simultaneous sense of history and the transition of time, as well as the struggles of both the royal family and their subjects.

Kevin Pollard's costume designs for the chorus in Akhnaten (2016); Photo: English National Opera/LA Opera

Kevin Pollard’s costume designs for the chorus in Akhnaten (2016); Photo: English National Opera/LA Opera

Pollard’s costume design is an amalgam of worlds colliding – from ancient Egypt, to colonialism, to the present day – layered together. He began by focusing on the chorus. He started with a 1920s style but appearing partially mummified, rotted, and caked in mud and dried earth, as though the characters had been entombed for a long time. Topped with animal headdresses, depicting the ancient polytheistic gods, Pollard captures a world caught between its buried past and emerging future. The production’s jugglers tie into the same earthy feel, as the desert itself, with their color palette and fabric design representing the dry, cracked landscape.

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