Opera in four acts (seven scenes)
Libretto by A. Gislanzoni
King of Egypt
Amneris, his daughter
Aida, slave, Ethiopian princess
Radames, the head of the palace guard
Rumphis, High Priest
Amonasro, the king of Ethiopia, the father of Aida
Priests, priestesses, courtiers, soldiers, slaves, prisoners, Ethiopians, Egyptian people.
The action takes place in Memphis and Thebes during the reign of the Pharaohs.
In 1868, on the occasion of the celebrations associated with the upcoming opening of the Suez Canal, the Egyptian government invited Verdi to write an opera on the national Egyptian plot; The premiere of the opera was timed to the opening of the theater in Cairo. Verdi rejected the unexpected order. But in 1870, having got acquainted with the scenario of “Aida”, the composer became interested and gave his consent. The author of this scenario was the famous French Egyptologist OE Mariette; he used the legend (set forth in his deciphered papyrus) from the era of the long struggle of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt against Nubia (Ethiopia); Drawings and costumes of the theatrical production were prepared according to Mariott’s drawings.
The prosaic text of the opera was written by the French librettist C. du Locle (1832-1903), the verse Italian libretto was created by the poet A. Gislanzoni (1824-1893).
Verdi took an active part in the development of the plot, carefully studied the history and art of ancient Egypt.
The premiere of “Aida” took place on December 24, 1871 in Cairo, and on February 8 of the following year – in Milan, where the composer himself directed the production. Both productions were a triumphant success.
In “Aida”, a personal drama full of sharp collisions unfolds on a broad, colorful background of monumental mass scenes, lavish processions, dances and hymns. In the images of cruel priests Verdi branded the obscurantism of the clergy hated him. These ruthless forces are opposed to the spiritual beauty and moral stamina of Aida and Radames: their love stands all the trials, not retreating even before death. The opera is endowed with great humanistic content; it sounds like a hymn to high human feelings.
In the orchestral introduction, the conflict of drama is condensed: a fragile, transparent melody of violins, depicting the image of a feminine, loving Aida, is opposed by the inexorably terrible melody of the priests. It grows and spreads, capturing the whole orchestra, but the tender theme of love still wins.
In the center of the first picture of the first act – a large mass stage (election of Radames); it is framed by solo episodes – the expanded characteristics of Radames and Aida. The melody of the romance of Radames “Sweet Aida”, warmed by a sincere feeling, is accompanied by gentle replicas of the soloing wooden wind instruments. In the tsetse of Amneris, Radames and Aida, there is an alarm and confusion. This gloomy mood is contrasted with the solemn march “To the banks of the sacred Nile.” Aida’s great monologue “Come back with victory to us” conveys the struggle of contradictory feelings in the soul of the heroine; impetuous, agitated melodies give way to the enlightened prayer “My Gods.”
The second picture – a large choral scene of dedication – has an oriental flavor. The mournful prayer, accompanied by the harps, is replaced by a light, bizarre melody of the sacred dance; then, after the energetic calls of Ramfis, the majestic heroic chorus of the priests follows, “Gods, give us the victory”; a powerful increase leads to the joining of the choir of priests and the prayer of the priestesses.
The second act is opened by a transparent female choir, interrupted by passionate phrases of Amneris; the middle section of this issue is the mobile dance of Moorish slaves. The unfolded duo – the scene of Aida and Amneris – a sharply dramatic clash of heroines; the proud, powerful melodies of Amneris are contrasted with the mournful, confused remarks of Aida. The central section of the duet is Aida’s penetrating plea “Forgive and be mourned, there is no power to hide”; The loneliness and despair of the heroine are shrouded in a solemn march from afar.
The second picture (the final act) is a grandiose scene of popular jubilation (the choir-march of the people, a hymn of priests, a dance with jewels). Against this backdrop, the dramatic scene of Aida and Amonasro stands out. A strong-willed, energetic tale is characterized by the king of the Ethiopians; his passionate plea for life sounds deeply “But you are a king, and your court is impartial”, to which Aida and the choir of captives join. In sharp contrast, the angry, inexorable melody of the priests bursts in. “Tsar, do not listen to the plea of their insidious.” At the end of the finals, a triumphant march once again sounds – glory to the winner; the joyful, triumphant exclamations of Amneris, the woeful melody of Aida and Radames, are woven with him.
In a brief orchestral introduction of the third act, transparent, quivering sounds recreate the poetic picture of the southern night. The penetrating tunes of Aida’s romance “The sky is azure and the air is pure” interspersed with a serene ogogrysh oboe. The big duet of Aida and Amonasro reflects a rich gamut of hero experiences. The sincere initial melody is replaced by the stormy, warlike music of the curse of Amonasro “Get up, enemies, and boldly attack”; the conclusion of the duo conveys the spiritual breakdown of Aida. In the duet the volitional, heroic melodies of Radames are compared with the appeals of the yearning Aida (they are accompanied by the sad melody of the oboe).
In the first picture of the fourth act, Amneris takes center stage. In two large scenes reveals the complex emotional world of the heroine, embraced by contradictory feelings: love, jealousy, thirst for revenge. The melody of the duet Amneris and Radames has a gloomy, tragic connotation. The scene of the trial of Radames is one of the most dramatic episodes of the opera: the harsh theme of the priests is replaced by an impassive chorus that darks from the dungeon. They are confronted by the restless, full of sorrow and despair of Aida’s “Gods, pity”; The chorus of the verdict “Radames, the resolution we are issuing, is formally threatening.”
The final picture of the opera is the big duet of Aida and Radames “Forgive me, earth, forgive me, shelter for all suffering”; his enlightened, airy melodies are characterized by rare beauty and plasticity.