top of page

Giuseppe Verdi


VERDI: Aida (Arena di Verona, 2012)

Aida – Hui He
Radames – Marco Berti
Amneris – Andrea Ulbrich
Amonasro – Ambrogio Maestri
The King – Roberto Tagliavini
High Priestess – Antonella Trevisan
A messenger – Antonello Ceron

Arena di Verona Ballet
Arena di Verona Chorus and Orchestra
Daniel Oren, conductor

Verdi: Aïda - San Francisco Opera
Luciano Pavarotti and Margaret Price 

Verdi: Aïda 

Aida - Pavarotti, Chiara, Dimitrova, Pons, Ghiaurov; Teatro alla Scala, Lorin Maazel, 1985

In the Egypt of the Pharoahs there is war with Ethiopia. The Ethiopian King's daughter, Aida, has been captured and is now a slave in the service of the Pharoah's daughter, Amneris. Radames loves Aida but is loved by Amneris. He is appointed general of the Egyptian army and in the second scene of the second act returns in triumph, to be rewarded by the unwelcome hand of Amneris in marriage. Aida's father, Amonasro, has been taken prisoner, his life spared at the intercession of Radames. In the third act he induces his daughter to help him discover the plans of the Egyptian army, which she does in a meeting with Radames, their conversation overheard by Amonasro. Aida and Amonasro take flight but the apparent treachery of Radames is now revealed and he is condemned to death, to the dismay of Amneris. In the final scene he is immured in a stone tomb, where he is joined by Aida. As they die, Amneris, above the tomb, prays for peace for her beloved Radames.

Verdi wrote his Egyptian opera Aida in response to a commission from the Khedive of Egypt for the opening of the new Cairo Opera House, after rejecting requests for an anthem to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal a year earlier. The first performance was conducted by the famous double-bass player Bottesini. Spectacle, of which some stage directors have made much, is provided particularly in the return of the victorious Radames in triumph. The story was the invention of the French egyptologist Auguste Mariette, elaborated in French prose by Camille Du Locle, before the final Italian text was drafted. Aida remains a popular part of Italian opera repertoire. Familiar concert excerpts from Aida inevitably include the tenor Celeste Aida (Heavenly Aida) and Aida's Ritorna vincitor (Return victorious). The grand march has celebrated many an unoperatic festivity and has allowed spectacular extravagance in more ostentatious productions of the opera. O patria mia (O my homeland) for Aida in the third act adds a particular poignancy, while the final death scene of Radames and Aida is also sometimes to be heard in dramatic isolation.



Opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi with libretto in Italian by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on a French prose version by Camille du Locle, based, in turn, on a plot by Francois Auguste Ferdinand Mariette, with the composer lending a considerable hand in both the prose and the versified versions


AMNERIS, his daughter
AMONASROKing of Ethiopia
his daughter and slave of Amneris
RADAMESan Egyptian officer

RAMPHIS, High Priest of Egypt


Time: period of the Pharaohs power

Place: Memphis and Thebes

First performance at Cairo, December 24, 1871


King of Egypt:

Bass. Father of Amneris. He offers his daughter in marriage to Radamès, leader of the triumphant Egyptian army which has invaded his country. Created (1871) by Tommaso Costa.

Aida - triumphal march 


Mezzo-soprano. Daughter of the King of Egypt. She is in love with Radamès, captain in the Egyptian army, but has guessed that he is in love with her Ethiopian slave, Aida. Amneris pretends to be a friend to Aida, and the girl confesses her feelings for Radamès. When Radamès returns triumphant and is crowned victor, the King of Egypt offers him Amneris's hand in marriage, an offer he cannot refuse without offending the King. The eve before her wedding, Amneris enters the temple, intending to spend the night there in prayer. As she emerges from the temple with her father, she sees Radamès, who has had a last meeting with Aida, and Aida's father Amonasro, who lunges forward to kill his daughter's rival, but is prevented from so doing by Radamès. Radamès is entombed below the temple, where he finds Aida waiting, ready to die with him. Amneris prays that the man she loves, and for whose death she is responsible, will find peace in Heaven. Aria (with slave‐girls): Ah! Vieni, vieni amor mio (‘Ah! Come to me, come to me my love’); duets (with Aida): Vieni, o diletta (‘Come, dearest friend’); Trema, vil schiava! (‘Fear me, slave!’). Created (1871) by Eleonora Grossi.

Ildiko Komlosi as Amneris. Conductor Riccardo Chailly, La Scala, 2006


Baritone. King of Ethiopia and father of Aida. Since their defeat by the Egyptians, Aida has been slave to the Egyptian Princess Amneris and Amonasro is a prisoner, disguised as a common soldier. Amonasro knows his daughter is in love with the young Egyptian captain Radamès. The King of Egypt has offered his daughter Amneris as bride to Radamès. When Amonasro attempts to kill Amneris, his daughter's rival, Radamès intervenes, allowing Aida and her father to escape, and offering himself as prisoner in their place. Aria: Ma tu, Re, tu signore possente (‘But thou, O King, thou mighty lord’). Created (1871) by Francesco Steller.

Leo Nucci - "Ma tu, Re, tu signore possente" (Aida) 


Soprano. Daughter of Amonasro, King of Ethiopia. She was captured when the Egyptians defeated Ethiopia and is now a slave to the Egyptian princess Amneris. Aida is torn between her love for Radamès, captain of the Egyptian army, and loyalty to her own country. She is urged to use Radamès to secure for her father the plans of the Egyptian army, so that the Ethiopians can defeat them. She tries to persuade Radamès to elope with her—this will avoid the marriage which is planned for him with Amneris and at the same time will remove the need for her to deceive him on behalf of her father. As they plan their departure, Amonasro appears. He tries to kill Aida, his daughter's rival. Radamès foils his attempt and allows him to escape with Amneris, offering himself as captive in their place. Knowing this will mean certain death for the man she loves, Aida secretes herself in the tomb beneath the altar where Radamès is to be incarcerated, and joins him to face death together. Arias: Ritorna vincitor! (‘Conqueror return!’); O patria mia (‘O my native land’); O terra addio… (‘Farewell, O land’). Created (1871) by Antonietta Pozzoni‐Anastasi. 

O terra addio. Domingo-Millo-Zajick.1989. Metropolitan. Giuseppe Verdi. "AIDA". Atto 4. Scena 2.


Tenor. Captain in the Egyptian army. He is in love with Aida, daughter of the Ethiopian Amonasro, who has become slave—girl to the Egyptian Princess Amneris. His ambition is to lead the Egyptian troops so that he can again see Aida. To celebrate his victory, the King of Egypt offers his daughter as Radamès's bride. He dare not refuse without causing offence and being accused of treason. The night before his wedding, he arranges to meet Aida for the last time on the banks of the river. As he says his last farewell to her, he does not realize that she, reluctantly and forced by her father, is trying to extract from him the troops’ invasion plans so that the Ethiopians can be a step ahead. When Radamès's bride‐to‐be, Amneris, emerges from the temple, Amonasro thrusts himself forward with the intention of killing her. He is prevented by Radamès and allowed to escape with his daughter, while Radamès offers himself as a prisoner of the King of Egypt. He is incarcerated in a tomb below the temple altar. There he finds Aida hiding and waiting for him, so they can die together. Aria: Celeste Aida (‘Heavenly Aida’); duet (with Aida): Pur ti riveggo, mia dolce Aida (‘At last I see you again, my sweet Aida’).  Created (1871) by Pietro Mongini. 

Luciano Pavarotti: Celeste Aida


Bass. The High Priest, who blesses Radamès as he leads the Egyptian army and accompanies the Egyptian Princess Amneris to the temple the night before her marriage to Radamès, so that she can spend the night in prayer. Created (1871) by Paolo Medini.

Carlo COLOMBARA sings Ramfis from Verdi's Aida Duetto "Mortal, diletto ai Numi, a te fidate" with José CURA (tenor)



The story supplied by Marietta was based, he said, on a historical incident; but he never did say when the incident occurred, except "in the time of the Pharaohs." As the Pharaohs ruled—by Mariette's own estimate-from 5004 to A.D. 381 that gives us quite a stretchy Whenever it was, then, there was trouble between Egypt and Ethiopia.

Scene 1 In the hall of the King's palace in Memphis, the Egyptian High Priest, Rampbis, tells a young officer named Radames that the Ethiopians are again on the warpath and that a general is to be chosen. Left alone, Radames hopes he may be that general, and then sings of how he also hopes someday to marry the beautiful Ethiopian slave Aida and bring her back to her own country. This, of course, is the familiar aria Celeste Aida.

Unfortunately, the Kingfs daughter, Amneris, is in love with Radames and, on finding him alone, virtually tells him so. But when Aida joins them, Amneris correctly interprets the warm but despairing glances exchanged by the tenor and soprano. Alda justifies her tears—with good reason—on the grounds of the prospect of war with her own people, and a dramatic trio follows, each character expressing his own emotions simultaneously.

Now Ramphis, the King, and the whole court come in. They hear an alarming report from a messenger: the Ethiopians are already invading, led by a fierce warrior named Amonasro. The King then announces that Radames has been chosen to lead the Egyptians in battle, and there is a vigorous, martial choral number, calling on all Egyptians to defend the sacred Nile River. At its close Amneris turns to Radames and proudly instructs him: Ritorna vincitor!—"Return as conquerorl". Then they all march out.

All, that is, excepting Aida. She repeats Amneris's line ironically, then prays for the safety of her father, then remembers that his victory would mean the defeat of her beloved Radames, and finally ends her great aria with a pitiful, almost whispered prayer for the gods to have mercy on her.

Scene 2 takes place in the dimly lighted Temple of Vulcan. The priests are gathered for the ceremony of anointing Ra- dames as General of the Egyptian armies. Off-stage, a solo priestess and a chorus intone a prayer, and on-stage other priestesses perform a ritual dance before the altar. A silver veil is placed over Radames, and Ramphis presents him with a sword. The priest then intones a solemn prayer for the protection of Egypt's sacred soil. Radames joins in the prayer; so do all the other priests; and the ceremony ends with an invocation to the Egyptian God, the "Almighty Ptah"'


Scene 1 On a terrace of the palace in Thebes, Princess Amneris reclines voluptuously on a couch. Her female slaves beautify her, the while singing the praises of Radames, who has led the Egyptian armies to victory. Further entertainment is supplied by a troupe of Moorish slaves. who execute an eccentric dance.

Then follows the great scene between Amneris and her Ethiopian handmaiden, Aida. The Princess pretends sympathy for the girl because her people have been defeated, but her real purpose is to find out whether Aida is her rival for the love of Radames. This she does by announcing ms death in battle. Aida's cry of anguish convinces the Princess of what she has suspected. She accuses Aida and announces that Radames is really alive after all. Aida's rapturous cry of "Thank God!" brings their rivalry out into the open. The slave begs for pity, but the Princess is passionately bitter about it Suddenly their powerful duet is interrupted by off-stage trumpets and a chorus of triumph. Instructing her slave to follow her to the triumphal ceremonies, Amneris sweeps out, leaving Aida to repeat the pitiful prayer she had voiced at the end of the opening scene.

Scene 2 is the stirring Triumphal Scene. On a great avenue at the entrance to the city of Thebes, crowds аrе gathered about the throne. Warriors come in, then priests and dancers. There is a ballet and general rejoicing. The King mounts the open-air throne, and bis daughter is seated beside him. Finally the returning hero, Radames, is welcomed, and the great Triumphal March—so familiar with its stentorian trumpets— is played just before he is drawn in on a chariot. When the King offers him anything that he wants, his first request is to have the captives brought forth. A miserable band of Ethiopians is brought on,in chains, led by Amonasro, their King, He manages to instruct Aida secretly not to betray his true identity; and when be is asked to speaks be says that Amonasro has been killed, and he is himself a simple warrior. With great dignity he asks for mercy. The priests are against this, but Radames and the populace plead for the prisoners. A compromise is reached: all will be freed but this warrior, who is ther leader. He, it seems, is put under something like house arrest.

Then, without consulting the young man as to his wishes, the King announces that Radames shall marry the Princess Amneris. She, of course, is delighted; Aida and Radames are filled with consternation; Amonasro tells Aida that be still has hopes for their fatherland; and everyone else sings loudly and joyfully. It makes a grand concerted climax.


The opening music suggests the scene vividly. It is a hot summer night on the banks of the Nile, near Temple of his. A boat glides up, and the High Priest Ramphis and Princess Amneris step out and enter the temple; for it is the eve of her wedding to Radames, and she must pray.

When they have disappeared, Aida, heavily veiled, comes for a last rendezvous with her lover. If, she says, it is only to bid farewell, then she must drown herself in the Nile; and she sings her second great aria of the opera (O patria mia), in which she gives voice to her longing for her native land.

But before her lover keeps his engagement, her father finds her. At first they sing warmly of their country, but Amonasro has more serious business on his mind. Their armies have reformed. All he needs to know is where to attack the Egyptians —and Aida must get this information out of her lover. She recoils in horror, but Amonasro is so eloquent in describing what defeat will mean for her own people that finally she agrees.

As Radames approaches, Amonasro hides himself. The lovers greet each other rapturously. Radames hopes that the new battle that is pending may delay his wedding to Amneris, while Aida is all for his deserting now. She sings him a ravishing description of her country, but Radames refuses to turn traitor. Then Aida turns on him and tells him to marry Amneris and forget her. At this he begins to weaken. He agrees to run away with her; he even tells her where the soldiers are whom they must avoid. This is what Amonasro has been waiting for. He rushes out, to the horror of Radames, and tries to drag the young soldier оff with him. But suddenly Amneris and the priest issue from the temple. Amonasro and Aida make good their escape, but the bitterly disillusioned Radames refuses to go along and, with a dramatic gesture, he surrenders his sword to the priest.


Scene 1 is the big scene for Amneris. Radames is about to be tried for treason. She waits in a passage near his cell and demands that he be brought forth. When he comes, she pleads to be allowed to save him. All she requires is that he give up Aida and marry herself. Even when he learns that Aida has escaped (though Amonasro has been killed), Radames turns down her offer of life with stoic scorn. He is led off by his guards.

As the priests, solemnly chanting, file past to go to the dungeon where the trial will take place, Amneris reviles herself. Her jealousy,she says, will bring death to her beloved. Down below, the trial begins. Radames is charged by the priests with deserting camp before battle, with betraying his country, his King, and his honor. Though called on to do so, he makes no defense. Sentence is then pronounced: Radames is to be buried alive beneath the altar of the god he has failed to honor.

When the priests have filed back from the dungeon of justice, Amneris curses them as "infamous tigers" and an "impious lot". They remain unmoved, and even after they have passed by her, she continues to hear them repeat their condemnation of Radames. As the scene closes, she works herself up into a wild fury of frustration.

Scene 2 takes place on two levels. This was Verdins own idea. Above is the interior of the Temple of Vulcan, where two priests set into place a stone to cover the opening. Throug that opening Radames had been thrust into the crypt below. There be is awaiting death, and he utters a soft wish that Aida may be happy wherever she is, and never heat or his dreadful end. But a moment later he sees a figure approaching him in the dimness. It is Aida. She has managed to get into the tomb, knowing what would happen to Radames, and she has been awaiting him for three days. With a cry of anguish Radames tries to lift the heavy stone, for he cannot bear the thought of Aida's dying, so young and so beautifuL But death is already coming over her. She sings her last farewell to earth (O terra, addio), and Radames joins in with hex. Above, Amneris has entered. She has prostrated herself on the floor above the crypt, and she moans a prayer for Radames, who bolds her dying rival in his arms. And as she prays, and as the priests chant a prayer, and the lovers sing their filial farewell below, the curtain slowly falls.

bottom of page