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Aida

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Giuseppe Verdi conducting Aida in Paris, 1881

Aida (sometimes spelled Aïda), is a tragic opera in four acts. Antonio Ghislanzoni wrote the words. Giuseppe Verdi composed the music. Aida was first performed at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo, Egypt on 24 December 1871. Since then, it has been performed around the world. Favorite musical numbers include "Heavenly Aida" (Celeste Aida) and the "Triumphal March". The opera was made into a movie in 1953 starring Sophia Loren.

Characters[edit | edit source]

  • Aida, an Ethiopian princess (soprano)
  • Amneris, an Egyptian princess (mezzo-soprano)
  • Radames, an Egyptian warrior (tenor)
  • Amonasro, Aida's father and King of Ethiopia (baritone)
  • King of Egypt, Amneris' father (bass)
  • Ramfis, an Egyptian priest (bass)

Story[edit | edit source]

Model of a set for a production in Barcelona, Spain, 1876

The opera is set in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians and the Ethiopians are at war. Aida has been captured by the Egyptians. No one knows her true identity. She has been made Amneris's slave. Amneris is in love with Radames, but he does not return her love. Radames is secretly in love with Aida.

Act I

Radames tells Ramfis he hopes to lead the Egyptian army against the Ethiopians. Amneris enters. She believes Radames is in love. He denies it. When Aida enters, Radames reacts in a way that tells Amneris that this is the woman he loves.

The King of Egypt arrives with the entire court. He tells Radames he has been chosen to lead the army. Radames rejoices. He leaves to pray in the temple with the court. Aida remains behind. She is torn between her love for her father, her country, and Radames.

Act II

Radames leads the Egyptian army against Ethiopa. He returns victorious. Amneris tells Aida that Radames was killed. Aida reacts in a way that tells Amneris that Aida is in love with Radames.

Original 1871 set design for the Cairo production

Radames leads his troops and captives in a Triumphal March. Among his captives is Amonasro. The Egyptians do not know this man's real identity. Radames is chosen to lead the army once more against the Ethiopians.

Act III

On a moonlit night near a temple on the Nile, Aida meets her father. Amonasro wants Aida to discover the secret route Radames will use to attack the Ethiopians. When Radames enters, she learns this route from him.

Amneris is leaving the temple. She hears Radames tell Aida of the attack route. Amneris calls the guards. Aida flees. Radames is arrested for treason.

Act IV

Aida's death scene in Act IV on a libretto cover, 1890

Radames is tried and sentenced to death. He is sealed in an underground vault. Radames finds Aida in the darkness. She has slipped into the vault to share his fate. She dies in his arms.

Adaptations[edit | edit source]

Aida has been adapted to movies several times. The best known adaptation is a 1953 version starring Sophia Loren as Aida. Actors in the movie did not sing, but lip-synched to recordings made by others. The story of Aida was used as the basis for a 1998 musical by Tim Rice and Elton John. Only the story was used, not the music.

Video selections[edit | edit source]


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