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The classic play "Aida" is getting a '90s kick, courtesy of Elton John

Elton John's 'Aida': 'It's very camp'

Web posted on: Tuesday, October 13, 1998 10:20:33 AM EDT

From Correspondent Jim Moret

(CNN) -- It is "Aida" as you've never seen it before. Verdi's operatic tale of a love triangle between the would-be leader of ancient Egypt, the daughter of a pharaoh and an enslaved Nubian princess has been updated courtesy of Elton John and Tim Rice.

The Oscar-winning songwriting duo is also responsible for the soundtrack to Disney's movie "The Lion King" and the smash Broadway play. The 19 new songs that make up his latest collaboration, "Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida," range from ballads to rock 'n' roll.

"Obviously, there is the opera by Verdi that is very solemn and operatic and theatrical," John told CNN recently. "This is also very theatrical, but it's very ... I would say, very camp. More along the lines of 'Dream Girls' or 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.'"

Like "The Lion King," "Elaborate Lives" is another Disney production bound for Broadway. But it made its world premiere at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, as a joint venture between Walt Disney Theatrical Productions and the non-profit Alliance Theatre Company.

Why? "Because the opera/musical was written here in Atlanta," John said. "I live here, and so that meant I could -- that by staging it at the Alliance I could come and check on it during rehearsals. It tied in very nicely."

Elton shows his ginger-mango candles he sells to benefit AIDS fundraising causes

AIDS fundraising: parties, candles

As usual for the busy performer, John is also involved in several other projects. He attended a $1,000-a-person pre-show cocktail party Sunday night to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, one of his many fundraising efforts.

Last year he brought in nearly half a million dollars to his foundation's coffers by selling thousands of outfits from his extensive wardrobe. He also stages an annual tennis tournament, and a celebrity-studded Academy Awards bash. And he recently introduced for sale Elton "2," a Slatkin & Co. ginger-mango scented candle of which he said, "I picked the fragrance out myself."

Since 1992, John's foundation has provided more than $15 million internationally for direct patient services and AIDS education, which is now becoming a major focus of the organization.

"We want to get to younger people earlier, to try to get into the schools, to tell people what's going on," John says. "If you hit people when they are younger, they do listen."

CNN's Jim Moret interviews Elton John

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If nothing else, Elton John compels people to listen, not only to his message on AIDS treatment and prevention but, as always, to his music.

He is on his way to New York this week, to finish the U.S. leg of his international concert tour with four dates at Madison Square Garden. And visitors to the Alliance are enthusiastically filling the house to take in his new take on an age-old story.

"It's a very modern-day thing, it's not going to appeal to everybody, it's not going to appeal to the stuffy theater critic," John acknowledges. "But the people en masse, I think they will love it."

If patrons so far are any indication, his "Aida" should be sitting pretty. When Elton John was spotted in the auditorium during intermission at a recent performance, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

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