Composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Four-act opera (1871)
The Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni.
The premiere took place in Cairo on 24 December 1871.
The action takes place in ancient Egypt.
Palace of the King of Memphis. Ramphis, the high priest, goes out to proclaim the pharaoh the name of the god designated to lead the Egyptian armies against the Ethiopians. Radames, the young commander, is keen to be the one to choose. If he returns victoriously from the battle, he will be able to ask as a reward the hand of the slave Aida, whom he loves with passion. In love with the handsome young man, Amneris, daughter of the pharaoh, comes to speak to him. The fiery looks with which Radames follows Aida, ignites Amneris jealousy.
The sound of the fanfare tells the arrival of the pharaoh. His solemn words proclaim to all the will of the goddess Isis: the one who has to lead the Egyptian armies to victory is Radames. Surrounded by a grandiose cortege, the young commander is led to the temple where the ceremony of consecration will take place. There is a fierce struggle in Aidas soul. By sharing Radames’ mysterious love, she wants the victory for him, but that will mean death and bondage to her people. Aida is the daughter of Amonasro, the king of Ethiopia. The defeat of the Egyptians would mean for her release from oppressive slavery, but would forever lose Radames. Praying for his beloved victory would betray her homeland. Joining her father would deceive her love. Exhausted, Aida begs the gods for mercy.
Amneris prepares to celebrate the triumph of Radames – victor in the fight with the Ethiopians. Her heart wants to discover the mystery of this love. Apparently respecting Aidas pain, daughter of the losers, Amneris encounters her with a pretended affection, showing her compassion for her unhappiness. She then plucks out the confession she feared – the confession of love for Radames. A fiery, angry and jealous, the pharaoh’s daughter is determined to separate them, ignoring the prayers of the slave whom only love keeps her still alive.
Assembled at the gates of Thebes, the people await the return of the victors who are making their appearance in the triumphal march sounds. Radames is taken to the pharaoh by the officers. The young commander receives from the hand of Amneris the crown of the victor. Generously, the pharaoh promises Radames to reward his bravery, the fulfillment of any desire. Among the Ethiopian prisoners is King Amonasro. Without revealing his identity, he begs mercy for his subjects. His prayers and Aida strike against the high priest Ramfis. Reminding the pharaoh of his promise, Radames also calls for the release of prisoners. Respecting his given word, the pharaoh accepts. By listening to the advice of the high priest, he will stop them, as a pledge, at his court Aida and Amonasro. As a sign of supreme cherishing and gratitude, the pharaoh then gives Radames the hand of his daughter Amneris. One day, the mighty commander will follow him to the throne of Egypt. Amneris’ victory is fulfilled.
It’s night. Accompanied by Ramfis, Amneris heads for the goddess Isis temple, which is set on the Nile. The next day there is going to be her wedding ceremony with Radames and she came to ask for the goddess’s protection. Aida arrives soon. If the lover tells her the last farewell, she will find her absentmindedness and tranquility in the waves of the Nile. Aida sings out the pain and is longing for the country she will never see again. Behind the cause of Aida’s presence in that mysterious place, Amonasro asks his daughter to make Radames tell her what the Egyptian Army’s battle plans are. The Ethiopian people rallied again and must win this victory at all times. Frightened, Aida refuses. But Amonasro reminds her of her holy duty to the motherland threatened by death. Radames arrives. His love is unchanged, confessing to Aida that he will confront all those who will oppose him for this feeling.Aida convinces Radames to flee together to her country, and at the same time urges him to disclose the army’s battle plan. The appearance of Amonasro, which hidden in the shadows, heard the conversation of the two lovers, makes Radames return to the decision. Knowing that Amonasro is not only Aidas father, but also the king of his enemies, he realizes he has betrayed his nation and his homeland. Surprised by Amneris and Ramfis, who are leaving the temple, Aida and Amonasro run away, and Radames surrenders to the guards, acknowledging his guilt.
Amneris enters the room where Radames awaits the judgment of the priests who will undoubtedly condemn him to death for treason. The attempt of the princess to persuade Radames to quit Aida is in vain. Neither the promise that the Pharaoh’s daughter could save him does not change his mind. Admitted to his accusers, Radames does not defend himself, receiving with terrible resignation the punishment: he will be buried alive.Built in the underground of Fta’s temple, Radames quietly awaits the end. He will not die alone, because Aida has slipped unnoticed into the underground; will be next to the one that meant for her more than life. Surprised above the tomb of the two lovers, Amneris, beaten with sorrow, utters the sad prayer of the dead in the whisper.