AIDA

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.

Verdi’s towering masterpiece, Aida, juxtaposes love of country against a deadly love triangle. The action involves Radamès, an Egyptian general; Amneris, the Egyptian princess who loves him; and her handmaiden – the beautiful, enslaved Ethiopian princess, Aida.

Synopsis

ACT I

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.

ACT II

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.

ACT III

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.

ACT IV

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.

About the Composer

GIUSEPPE VERDI (1813–1901)

The great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi was born in La Roncole on October 10, 1813. Displaying considerable talent from an early age, he was assistant organist at the small local church by the time he was 10.
In 1829, at the age of 13, he was an assistant conductor of the Busseto orchestra and an organist at the town church. In 1836, Verdi married Margherita Barezzi, the daughter of his greatest benefactor. His first successful opera, Oberto, opened at La Scala in 1839. However, his next opera, the comedy, Un Giorno di Regno (King for a Day), was a complete failure.
To add tragedy to insult, Verdi lost his wife and two young children to illness within the same year, and the despondent composer resolved to give up music altogether. Fortunately, the manager of La Scala persuaded him to persevere and write his next opera – Nabucco, which premiered in 1842 to great acclaim and securing Verdi’s reputation as a major figure in the music world.

Between 1844 and 1850, Verdi was prolific, demonstrating a maturing style and more flowing musical line, as evidenced in Ernani (1844), Macbeth (1847), and Luisa Miller (1849).

During his “middle period,” Verdi wrote three of his most successful operas: Rigoletto (1851), Il Trovatore (1853) and La traviata (1853). Verdi sought to write strong human characters. He often liked telling the stories of people marginalized by society. Aida, as an enslaved Ethiopian princess, is a prime example.

At Aida’s Milan premiere, Verdi (who also conducted) was brought back on stage for 32 curtain calls and was presented with an ivory baton made of diamonds with “Aida” spelled in rubies.

After Aida (1871), which commemorated the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt, Verdi retired to his estate at Sant’Agata, where he wrote the great Requiem Mass. The composer was drawn back to the opera by his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, who introduced him to the celebrated poet and composer Arrigo Boito. They worked together on what would be Verdi’s final triumphs, both based on works by Shakespeare: Otello (1886) Falstaff (1893), the only other comedy he had written since the disastrous Un Giorno di Regno and considered Verdi’s humanistic masterpiece.

Upon his death in 1901, there were scenes of national mourning for the man who was a great musician, philanthropist and patriot to all of Italy. At the funeral, the 28,000 people who lined the streets of Milan broke out softly and spontaneously into Va pensiero, the great chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Nabucco – a song which had become Italy’s unofficial national anthem.

Verdi was buried with his second wife, Giuseppina Strepponi, at the Casa di Riposo, a retirement home for elderly musicians established by Verdi himself.

Production

James Meena

CONDUCTOR

Guy Montavon

DIRECTOR

Atelier Nicolao

Costumes

Roberto Oswald

Scenic Designer

Michael Baumgarten

Lighting Designer

Annibel Lapiz

Costume Designer

Martha Ruskai

Wig and Makeup Designer

Valerie Wheeler

Production Stage Manager

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EXCLUSIVE STUDENT NIGHT FEATURES:

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