Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni
Stage Director and Set and Lightning Designer: Alexei Stepanyuk
Musical Director: Pavel Smelkov
Costume Designer: Varvara Evchuk
Video Designer: Vadim Dulenko
Choreographer, Assistant Stage Director: Ilya Ustyantsev
Principal Chorus Master: Larisa Shveikovskaya
Musical Preparation: Alexei Tikhomirov
Musical Coach: Massimiliano Bullo
Assistant Stage Director: Anna Dronnikova
Assistant Production Designer: Ivan Tolstov
Assistant Lightning Designer: Vasiliy Shabala
Scene 1. At the Pharaoh’s palace at Memphis news arrives of an impending invasion by the Ethiopians. The High Priest Ramfis prays to Isis, the protectress of Egypt, to reveal the name of a military commander who can win the battle. Radames, head of the palace guard, dreams of being chosen by Isis and that if he heads the army he will be victorious and as a reward demand the freedom of his beloved – Aida, one of the Pharaoh’s slaves. Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter, is secretly in love with Radames. Seeing the young man looking deeply troubled, Amneris begins to guess at his love for the slave girl. Aida’s confusion serves to increase her suspicions.
Scene 2. A hall in the Pharaoh’s palace. A messenger arrives with troubling news: the Ethiopians, headed by Amonasro their King, have entered Egypt. The will of the gods is revealed to the Pharaoh: the Egyptian forces will be led by Radames. He receives a blessing for victory.
Scene 3. Aida is in despair. Her soul is consumed by a torturous battle between her love for Radames and fear of her father, King Amonasro.
Scene 4. A temple in Memphis. A grand ceremony for Radames’ dedication is underway. The High Priest Ramfis presents him with a sacred sword and asks the gods to grant the Egyptian army victory.
Scene 5. Amneris’ chambers. She awaits the return of Radames who has been victorious over the Ethiopians. Whatever the cost, Amneris wants to know the truth about Aida’s feelings. She tells the slave girl that Radames has been killed. Aida is unable to hide her grief. He is, however, alive, and Aida loves him – now Amneris knows it and demands that the slave girl renounce her love.
Scene 6. On a square in Thebes everything is ready to greet the victors. Captive Ethiopians, among them Amonasro, are paraded before the Pharaoh. His daughter rushes to him, but he warns her not to reveal his name and title. To remove all suspicion he claims he is a military commander and says the King of Ethiopia has died in battle. As a reward for gaining victory, Radames asks the captives be granted their freedom. On the advice of the High Priest, the Pharaoh keeps Aida and her father as hostages but grants the others their liberty, and Radames will be given his daughter’s hand in marriage as a reward.
Scene 7. On the banks of the Nile in the Temple of Isis, Amneris is preparing for her marriage to Radames. Here Aida is also waiting for her beloved to bid him farewell forever. Amonasro appears. Discovering his daughter’s love for Radames, he demands that Aida discover which way Radames will take his warriors against the Ethiopians. He reminds Aida that she is a royal princess and not a humble slave girl. Stricken by mental agony, Aida agrees to carry out her father’s demands. Radames arrives. Aida suggests fleeing together with her beloved to Ethiopia – only there can they be happy. Aida attempts to discover the route the army will take. Amonasro listens to Aida and Radames’ conversation. He is triumphant: now victory is assured. Radames understands that he has committed treachery and surrenders to the priests. Aida and Amonasro hide.
Scene 8. In an underground court Radames’ fate is to be decided. Amneris begs her beloved to repent and promises him freedom, riches, the throne – everything if only he will forget Aida. But Radames is unbending. For love he has sacrificed his honour and betrayed his own land and he is ready to be punished for it. The High Priest Ramfis pronounces the sentence – for his treachery Radames will be entombed alive. In despair, Amneris curses the priests’ inhumanity.
Scene 9. Aida has stolen into the vault beneath the temple in order to share her beloved’s fate. The priests can be heard singing inside the temple. In deep sorrow, Amneris bends down over the stone concealing the entrance to the underground vault, begging the gods for spiritual peace.
By the end of the 1860s, the name Verdi gained worldwide recognition. His compositions found their way into the repertoire of the leading musical stages, and the largest theaters such as the Paris Opera and the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre sought cooperation with the composer. As for Verdi himself, he was busy inventing a plot for a new drama, and a lucky chance came to his aid. The Egyptian Government asked the composer to write an opera for the Cairo Theatre whose construction was timed to the opening of the Suez Canal. And then Verdi’s friend brought him the script written by the famous Egyptologist Auguste Mariette based on an old legend.
Fascinated by the plot of Aida, the composer immediately set to work. In an effort to convey the exotic atmosphere of the distant era, he studied history, life and arts of the Ancient Egypt, and wrote the libretto together with poet Antonio Ghislanzoni. Verdi’s goal was to achieve theatrical expressiveness of each word and clarity of action saturated with sharp dramatic situations and collisions of strong characters.
Aida has such features of a large-scale opera as full-fledged crowd scenes, sophisticated ensembles, choreography pieces, choirs and processions. However, this decorative pomp does not infringe upon the development of a psychological drama based on the eternal conflict between feelings and duty. Each of the main characters will have to deal with that conflict. Their complex, sometimes contradictory images reveal new facets in the making, and even the classic love triangle presented by Verdi is far from being unequivocal. The “quiet” finale of the opera is also unusual. “Not so much sounds as tears”, as one of the composer’s contemporaries described the duet of the dying Aida and Radames.
The orchestra in Aida is rarely limited to a simple accompaniment to singing, but plays an important role in the musical drama. The researchers noted that Verdi took into account Wagner’s experience without changing the vocal nature of the opera genre. The characters in Aida have orchestral themes that accompany their appearance on the stage or give out their thoughts. Also, certain groups of timbres are assigned to the characters: woodwinds for Aida, strings for Amneris, brass wings for the Priests. The musical instruments also have a special function: they create colorful oriental flavor. For example, Rimsky-Korsakov admitted that he had used Aida “to learn dramatic orchestra”, noting the “brilliant idea” of the drums preceding the duo of Radames and Aida in Act III and the Nile cello flautandos, as well as the skillful use of the flutes. Much attention has been paid to the pipes and harps, the oldest instruments widely used in the Egyptian music since the Pharaohs’ times. One of the most spectacular scenes of Aida is the Triumphal March of Act II performed by stage pipes.
Big opera is inseparable from big performance style. The main characters’ parts require strong beautiful voices, and a rich palette of emotions requires possession of the entire arsenal of expressive means within the limits of a huge tessitura. That is why Aida, despite its popularity, is beyond the strength of many theaters, at least in the form it was originally conceived by Verdi. The premiere of the opera took place in Cairo on the Christmas Eve of 1871. The scenery and costumes were made according to the sketches of Auguste Mariette. The grand success of the performance was compared with the triumph of Radames the vanquisher. Immediately after the performance in Egypt, Aida began its triumphal march through the leading European Opera Theatres.
Premiere: 24 December 1871, Opera House, Cairo
Premiere of this production at the Mariinsky Theatre: 30 December 1998, Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg
Premiere at the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: 11 April 2019, Vladivostok
Running time: 4 hours 10 minutes
The performance has three intervals
The highlighting of performances by age represents recommendations.
This highlighting is being used in accordance with Federal Law N436-FZ dated 29 December 2010 (edition dated 1 May 2019) "On the protection of children from information that may be harmful to their health"