Aida is an opera in four acts with music by Giuseppe Verdi and a libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. The source material was a scenario penned by the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. It tells the story of star-crossed lovers, one an Egyptian military commander, the other an Ethiopian princess-turned-slave, and their tragic struggle against the politics of their stations. It is not based in any singular historical record, but rather uses the fairly consistent political issues and aesthetic styles of the Egyptian Old Kingdom as the context for a love story.
Verdi was commissioned to write Aida in January of 1871 by Isma'il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, who paid 150,000 francs for the piece. It premiered at Cairo's Khedivial Opera House on December 24, 1871 to great acclaim for its grand score, elaborate costumes, and ornate sets. Its European premiere was at La Scala in Milan, Italy on February 8, 1872. Met yet again with enormous success, Aida went on to premiere at venues all over the world over the next 15 years. It endures as a standard in the operatic repertoire and is ranked today as the thirteenth most performed opera worldwide.Plot Synopsis:
Act I: In the King's palace in the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis, the high priest Ramfis advises the young warrior Radames on the impending war with Ethiopia. Radames prays to be chosen as commander of the Egyptian army, but also wrestles with his love of the Ethiopian slave Aida. Unbeknownst to her captors, she is actually the daughter of the Ethiopian King Amonasro, and her father is preparing to lay siege on the city to reclaim her.
The Egyptian princess Amneris enters the hall to speak with Radames; she is in love with him, but when Aida enters, she begins to suspect that the slave is the object of Radames' affection. The King of Egypt enters with the palace court and receives word that the Ethiopians are marching toward Thebes. He declares war and appoints Radames as leader of the army. While Aida struggles with her conflicting loyalties, Radames hurries to the Temple of Vulcan, where he takes up the sacred arms and officially adopts the station of military commander.
Act II: Ethiopia has been defeated, and the Egyptians celebrate. In her chamber, Amneris awaits Radames' return while trying to forget about his possible involvement with Aida by watching a dance of slaves. Aida enters the chamber and Amneris dismisses the rest of the servants. Determined to know the truth, she tells Aida that Radames has fallen in battle, and Aida's reaction makes her love clear. Enraged and bent on revenge, Amneris storms off.
Upon Radames' return to Thebes, the King agrees to grant him anything he desires. Upon seeing her father in the crowd of captives, Aida rushes to his side. Still not knowing the true identities of Amonasro and Aida, the Egyptians call for the prisoners' death, but Radames pleads with the King to spare them. He agrees and declares Radames as his successor, betrothing him to Amneris, but keeps Amonasro as a hostage to ensure that the Ethiopians do not attempt revenge.
Act III: At a bank on the Nile near the Temple of Isis, there is a vigil for the wedding of Amneris and Radames. While Aida waits to meet Radames, Amonasro appears and compels her to ask him where the Egyptians plan to enter Ethiopia, then hides behind a rock. Radames arrives assuring that he will marry Aida and divulging the Egyptian invasion plan. Suddenly, Amonasro reveals himself at the same time that Amneris and Ramfis emerge from the temple. Dishonored, Radames refuses to flee with Aida and Amonasro and surrenders himself as a traitor.
Act IV: In the Temple of Justice, Amneris demands that Radames be brought to her. She pleads with him to deny his crimes, but he adamantly refuses. He expresses that he hopes that Aida is still alive, and Amneris is hurt. He is brought to trial and, refusing to defend himself, is sentenced to be buried alive despite Amneris' pleas to the priests to show him mercy. Amneris curses the priests as he is taken away.
Radames is sealed in a dark vault in the Temple of Vulcan. Hearing a sigh, he discovers that Aida has hidden herself there in order to die with him. As Amneris sobs and prays to the gods above, the lovers accept their fate and say their sorrowful goodbyes.Run Time: Approximately 3-4 hours Advisory: Due to length, format, and some adult themes, recommended for teens and older. Creative Team: Written by Giuseppe Verdi Italian Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni Based on a scenario written by Auguste Mariette