// RETNA TAGS AIDA
THE SUPERSTAR STREET ARTIST DISCUSSES HIS MODERN-DAY HIEROGLYPHICS FOR WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA.
The superstar street artist discusses his modern-day hieroglyphics for Washington National Opera.
Marquis Duriel Lewis, aka Retna, is an acclaimed contemporary artist known for his graffiti script fusing symbols from ancient cultures. On September 9, the Washington National Opera opens a production of Verdi’s Aida with his set designs, which lend a modern look to the canonical opera set in ancient Egypt.
What was the inspiration for your
I was trying to go in a very Egyptian style. My artwork has always been influenced by different cultures, and a lot of my symbols deal with obelisks and domes. Aida [is] a story of two distinct nations [Egypt and Ethiopia] at war. It was very consumed with what my work is about, and how different people from different cultures end up falling in love and come together to become one.
What was it like working with director Francesca Zambello? Francesca gave me a lot of freedom. There were parts of it where I was obviously intimidated, but she said, “Marquis, just be yourself, just do your style.”
How did you adapt your art for the opera stage?
I was blown away by the [scenes] with the fabrics. I had utilized them to make letters in a three-dimensional format, and then to see how the dancers would make other forms out of that fabric… It became like a sculpture. That was beautifully done. September 9–23, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St. NW, 202-467-4600; kennedy-center.org
Retna working on set designs for Aida (ơƞƫƞ ƚƧƝ ƭƨƩ ƫƢƠơƭ). ƚƛƨƯƞ ƚƧƝ ƛƨƭƭƨƦ ƫƢƠơƭ: Scenes from the production are given a modern edge thanks to the artist’s eye-catching calligraphic designs.