Towards the end of his career Giuseppe Verdi was commissioned by a number of ‘non Italian’ opera houses. Aida was commissioned by Isma’il Pasha, one of Egypt’s leaders, for Cairo’s Khedivial Opera House and had its premiere in December 1871.
Almost 150 years on it remains one of the most performed operas around the world with its setting in ancient Egypt making it one of the most visual spectacles. As such its modern home is really at Verona opera festival where the huge stage can do justice to the magnificence of the set.
The first showing in Italy was at La Scala Milan on the 8 Feb 1872 and one to which Verdi applied his meticulous touch and cast Teresa Stolz, whose voice he had in mind when he wrote it, in the lead role. Within 18 months all the leading opera house in the world from Argentina to the USA and all around Europe were putting on productions.
The story in short centres around the captured and enslaved Ethiopian princess Aida. An Egyptian General Radames falls in love with Aida and then spends much of the plot wrestling between his love of her and his love for the King of Egypt. To make things more complicated the King’s daughter Amneris falls in love with Radmes. The story is a roller coaster of emotions told through Verdi’s powerful score.
The story is portrayed in 4 acts:
Scene 1 – Ramfis the high priest of Egypt predicts war breaking out between Egypt and Ethiopia. Radames, eager to prove is military prowess is eager to lead the army. Aida is a slave and has already caught the eye of Radmes whilst Amneris is also showing affection to the General. Any Rivalry is put to one side as the court learns that the Ethiopians are marching on Thebes and Radames is appointed to lead the Egyptian response.
Scene 2 – Situated in the Temple of Vulcan the high priestess bestows Radames with his position of commander in chief amidst the chorus beseeching the Gods for a quick victory.
Scene 1 – A celebration takes place for Radames’ victory set against the backdrop of growing rivalry between Aida and Amneris. Amneris fools Aida into believing that Radames was killed in battle in order for Aida to profess her love for him. This confession fills Amneris with rage.
Scene 2 – Radames returns victorious along with Amonasro, Aida’s captured father to much fanfare. Amonsaro hides his true identity whilst they all plead with the king for mercy. Ramfis and the Egyptian priests all call for them to be slain.
However Radames, who is given as part of his victory a wish, asks for them all to be pardoned. His wish is granted and the King also appoints Radames his successor and also the designated one to marry his daughter Amneris.
Set on the banks of the Nile prayers are said on the eve of Amneris and Radames’ wedding in the temple of Isis. The Slave girl Aida waits to meet with Radames and is instructed by her father to find out the location of the Egyptian army. During this meeting Radames affirms his love for Aida and is convinced that they should flee to the desert together. Radames reveals the best way to flee and this is overhead by Amonsaro who then reveals himself. Amneris and the priest Ramfis appear and realise that Radames has been collaborating with the Ethiopian enemy. During the ensuing confrontation Aida and Amonsaro escape whilst Radames is arrested as a traitor.
Scene 1 – is situated in the Hall of Justice. Whilst Amneris tries to save Radmes he is so in love with Aida that all he can do is express his happiness that she has escaped. Whilst Ramfis recites the charges against Radames Amneris protests his innocence, but the priests pass the sentence of being buried alive.
Scene 2 – Radames is taken to the vault in the temple, where he thinks he is alone, to await his execution. Aida appears, having hidden in the vault as she wishes to die with Radames. Whilst Amneris weeps for not having saved Radames, Aida dies in his arms.
Please check the destinations to see when and where this particular opera is on this year