20 Feb 2007

VERDI: Aida

Aida, opera in four acts.

Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni after a scenario by Auguste Mariette.

First Performance: 24 December 1871, Opera House, Cairo.

Principal Characters:
Aida, an Ethiopian slaveSoprano
Radam├Ęs, Captain of the GuardsTenor
The KingBass
Amneris, his daughterMezzo-Soprano
Amonasro, King of Ethiopia and father of AidaBaritone
Ramfis, the Chief PriestBass
The High PriestessSoprano
A MessengerTenor

Setting: Memphis and Thebes in Ancient Egypt.

Synopsis:

Background

Aida, an Ethiopian princess, is captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. A military commander, Radames, struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. To complicate the story further, Radames is loved by the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris, although he does not return the feeling.

Act I

Scene I: A hall in the King’s palace; through the rear gate the pyramids and temples of Memphis are seen.

Aida, the daughter of the Ethiopian King Amonasro, lives at Memphis as a slave. Her Egyptian captors are unaware of her true identity. Her father has made an incursion into Egypt to deliver her from servitude. But since her capture, Aida has fallen in love with Radames, a young warrior (Romanza, Radames: “Heavenly Aïda”). She has a dangerous rival in Amneris, the daughter of the Egyptian king. (Duet, Radames and Amneris: “In thy visage I trace.”) Incited by Amneris, the high priest Ramfis (Terzett, Aïda, Amneris, and Radames: “Oh fate o’er Egypt looming”) declares that Radames has been selected by Isis to be the leader of the army against Amonasro. (Battle Hymn: “On! Of Nilus’ sacred river, guard the shores.”) Aida’s heart is torn between her love for her father and her love for Radames. (Scene, Aida: “Return a conqueror.”)

Scene II: The Temple of Vulcan. In the center an altar illuminated by a mysterious light from above.

Solemn ceremonies and dance of priestesses. (Chorus of priestesses: “O mighty Ptha.”) Installation of Radames to the office of commander-in-chief. (Prayer, Ramfis and chorus: “O mighty one, guard and protect!”)...

Act II

Scene I: A hall in Amneris’ apartment.

Amneris’ chamber. Festal dances and music. (Chorus of women: “Our songs his glory praising.”) Amneris receives her slave Aida and cunningly tricks her into professing her love for Radames by lying and declaring that Ramades has fallen in battle. Aida’s distress upon hearing this news betrays her love of Radames. (Scene and duet, Amneris, Aida: “The chances of war afflict thy people, poor Aida;” Aida: “O love, O joy tormenting.”)

Scene II: Outside the city walls at the grand Gate of Thebes.

Radames returns victorious. (Chorus, king and people: “Glory to Egypt, to Isis!”) Grand triumphal march. The Egyptian king decrees that on this day the triumphant Radames may have anything he wishes. The Ethiopian captives are marched in. Amonasro appears among them. Aida immediately rushes to her father, but their true identities are still unknown to the Egyptians. Amonasro declares that the Ethiopian king has been slain in battle. (Amonasro: “This my garment has told you already.”) Out of his love for Aida, Radames uses the King’s grant to release the prisoners. The grateful King of Egypt declares him his successor and the betrothed of his daughter. Aida and Amonasro remain as hostages to ensure that the Ethiopians do not avenge their defeat.

Act III

Scene: On the banks of the Nile, near the Temple of Isis.

(Chorus of priests and priestesses: “O thou who to Osiris art...”) Amneris enters the temple in preparation for her wedding. Outside, Aida waits to meet with Radames as he planned (Aria, Aida: “Oh, my dear country!”). Amonasro enters and he forces Aida to learn from Radames the position of the Egyptian army. (Duet, Aida and Amonasro: “Once again shalt thou gaze.”). Radames enters and affirms that he will only marry Aida, and she later convinces him to flee to the desert with her. As an excuse to ease their flight, Aida asks the position of the Egyptian army, which Radames tells and Amonasro hears. (Duet, Radames and Aida: “Again I see thee.”) When Amonasro reveals his identity, Radames is dishonored. At the same time Amneris exits the temple, and seeing the scene calls the guards. Amonasro flees with Aida, while the despairing Radames allows himself to be taken prisoner to give them time to flee. (Terzett, Amonasro, Aida, Radames: “I am dishonoured.”)...

Act IV

Scene I: A hall in the Temple of Justice. To one side is the door leading to Radames’ prison cell.

Amneris (Scene, Amneris: “My hated rival has escaped me”) desires to save Radames, but he is repulsed by her (Duet, Amneris and Radames: “Now to the hall the priests proceed”). Radames’ trial takes place offstage; he will not speak in his own defense, and is condemned to death, while Amneris, who remains onstage, pleads with the priests to show him mercy. The sentence is that he shall be buried alive. Amneris curses the priests as Radames is taken away. (Judgment scene, Amneris, Ramfis, and chorus: “Heavenly spirit, descend.”)

Scene II: The lower portion of the stage shows the burial place in the Temple of Vulcan; the upper portion represents the temple itself.

Aida has hidden herself in the crypt to die with Radames. (Scene and duet, Radames and Aida: “The fatal stone now closes over me.”) They accept their terrible fate (Radames: “To die, so pure and lovely”), bid farewell to earth and its sorrows, and await the Dawn, while Amneris weeps and prays above their tomb in the midst of the priestly ceremonies, and the jubilant dance of the priestesses. (Finale, chorus of priests and priestesses: “Almighty Ptha.”)

Footnote: The original draft included a speech by Aida (excised from the final version) that explained her presence beneath the Temple: “My heart knew your sentence. For three days I have waited here.” The line most familiar to audiences translates as: “My heart forewarned me of your condemnation. In this tomb that was opened for you I entered secretly. Here, away from human sight, in your arms I wish to die.”

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.