Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter, is in love with an Egyptian captain of the guard, Radames, who himself is besotted with the young slave Aida, daughter of the imprisoned King of Ethiopia. Radames, after obtaining glory through victory, endures dishonour by betraying his people through his love for Aida. Condemned to death, he is buried alive. Aida chooses to share the fate of Radames and dies with him.
On inauguration of the Suez Canal, the Khedive of Egypt wished to mark the celebrations by means of a major operatic performance and asked Verdi to compose the work that was to open the Cairo Opera, built for the occasion. It was the famous Egyptologist Mariette who dreamed up the plot and ensured the performance was true to the knowledge he possessed of the Antiquity. For technical reasons, the first performance of Aida was postponed, waiting until 1871 to enjoy a triumphant debut in Cairo, which was soon followed by its initial performance at the La Scala opera house in Milan.
The very demanding role of Aida was written for the great Teresa Stolz who starred in the work’s Italian première. In the immense score, Verdi’s themes converge to create exceptional theatrics. The nation, paternal authority, betrayal, loyalty, love and death sit alongside outstanding vocal prowess supported by a sumptuous choir and orchestra whose symphonic style is an illustration of the performance’s splendour… including the use of the famous Theban Trumpets in the style of the Antiquity that continue to ensure the fame of Aida.
Introduction to performances: curtain-raisers
All the opera performances are preceded by an educational introduction open to all. They take place 30 minutes before the start of the performance, in the company of an opera specialist to provide a pertinent presentation of the work.