Aida, an enslaved Ethiopian princess, is secretly in love with an Egyptian general who’s leading the war against her homeland. But there’s a more personal battle raging. The Egyptian princess whom the regal Aida serves is in love with the same man.



Radames, a captain in the Egyptian army, learns from the priest Ramfis that the king will designate a general who will lead their forces against the invading Ethiopian armies. Radames declares his wish to be that general, but in the aria Celeste Aida or Heavenly Aida, his thoughts turn to the woman he loves – the slave girl, Aida.

Amneris, the daughter of the Pharaoh, is in love with Radames. She approaches him to declare her love. When she is interrupted by the entrance of her slave Aida, she sees how she and Radames look at each other, which raises her suspicions and turns Aida into her rival for Radames’ affections.

A messenger arrives to report to the assembled court that the Ethiopians, led by King Amonasro, have crossed the border into Egypt. The pharaoh declares that Radames will be the general who leads their forces into battle. Aida is torn between her love for Radames and her love for her country. Unknown to the Egyptians, Aida is actually Amonasro’s daughter and princess of Ethiopia. The crowd urges Radames and his forces to victory with the words “Guerra” (war) and “Ritorna Vincitor” (return victorious)! Aida, left alone, laments having joined the crowd to wish Radames victory against her people. Her inner conflict is expressed in a prayer.


The Egyptians have routed their adversaries, and the people await their triumphant return. Amneris dreams of making the victorious general her husband. Aida does not know that Radames has won the battle, and Amneris tricks her into showing her love for Radames by telling Aida he has died in battle.
When the truth is revealed, Amneris orders her slave to accompany her to the triumphal feast. Outside the walls of Thebes, jubilant crowds hail the victorious Radames and his army. The soldiers parade exotic animals, dancers and captured Ethiopian soldiers. As the Ethiopian slaves are presented to the King, Aida recognizes her father, Amonasro, among them.
The Ethiopian King has been captured but has been able to keep his identity a secret to the conquering Egyptians. Radames asks the pharaoh to release the prisoners as a sign of clemency. Pharaoh agrees, but insists that Aida and her father remain as slaves of Egypt. In gratitude for his victory, Pharaoh gives the hand of his daughter, Amneris, and thus succession to the throne of Egypt, to Radames.


Late in the evening, Amneris goes to the temple of Isis to ask the goddess to bless her impending wedding to Radames. Aida enters. She has agreed to meet Radames. As she waits, she sings of her homeland, so beautiful and yet lost to her forever. Instead of Radames, her father enters. He has learned of her love for Radames and tells her that the Ethiopians are ready to attack Egypt once more. He plays on her love of country and convinces her to trick Radames into revealing the location of a secret path by which the Ethiopians can enter Egypt undetected.
Radames enters and tells Aida that he will again defeat the Ethiopians, after which he will ask Pharaoh for her hand in marriage as reward. Aida is unconvinced. Afraid of Amneris’ revenge, she instead pleads with Radames to flee Egypt with her – and she tricks him into telling her the secret path that will allow them to leave undetected. Amonasro overhears Radames’ betrayal and reveals his true identity to him. When Amneris and the priests come out of the temple, Radames surrenders to them, as Aida and her father escape.


Radames is now a prisoner accused of treason. Amonasro has been killed while trying to escape, but Aida has managed to flee to safety. Amneris brings the now disgraced Radames to her. She begs him to renounce Aida, and if he will, she will intercede with Pharaoh for his life. Radames refuses Amneris’ offer.
The priests interrogate him, but he refuses to answer them. He is sentenced to a horrible death; he is to be buried alive in the vault of Vulcan’s temple. There, he finds Aida, who has secretly returned. When she learned of his sentence, she hid in the temple to share his fate. As the lovers bid their last farewell, Amneris kneels at the entrance to the vault and prays for her lost love.

Aida - Why no elephants?

Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece Aida is one of the iconic operas in the history of classical music.  Throughout its history of performance, it has been known for its grand spectacle, embodying the grandeur of ancient Egypt, which is the setting for this story of jealousy and love of country set against the love between Aida and Radames.

When an opera company schedules Aida, it is with the intention of presenting all this grandeur – Excellent principal artists, a large chorus of at least 60 singers, ‘spear-carrying’ extras to bring the spoils of war before Pharoah, dancers and live animals particularly the iconic elephant.  Over the last two decades, regulations for the care and protection of exotic animals, as well as the increased availability and cost of liability insurance, has precluded companies like Opera Carolina from presenting live animals in the Triumphal Scene.  Even in the Arena di Verona, live animals are not present in this scene.

It falls then to the artistic team to create a spectacle that is engaging and does justice to Verdi’s vision.  As always, let us know how we did.

-James Meena, Artistic Director


James Meena

Music Director and Conductor

Linda Brovsky


Gabriela Sevillano


Michael Baumgarten


Emily Urbanek

Director of Music preperation

Martha Ruskai

Wig and Makeup Designer

Valerie Wheeler

Production Stage Manager

Ease into Opera with the Student Night Experience

Student Night is an unforgettable outing for K-12 students, families and traditional school and homeschool groups. With low cost tickets, some of the best seats in the Belk Theater, and timeless tales set to incredible music, Student Night is the perfect cultural experience for the Charlotte region’s youth!


  • Pre-Opera performances by local students
  • Q&A with cast members at intermission
  • English supertitles above the stage
  • Youth Guides to help you make the most of your evening
  • Great prices, great seats, and of course – great music!