Verdi’s Aìda Synopsis
by Judy Vander Heide
Setting: Egypt in the Era of the Pharaohs
A Hall in the King’s Palace
Young Radamès is informed by Ramfis, a high priest, that war with the Ethiopians is inevitable. The warrior seeks glory in battle and also hopes to win the beautiful captive Nubian slave, Aïda, who has concealed her true identity. She is the daughter of Amonasro, who will attack Egypt in order to free his daughter from servitude.
Amneris, daughter of the king of Egypt, suspects that her servant, Aïda, could be a rival for Radamès. With royal panoply, the king and his court enter and proclaim war when they learn that Amonasro and his legions are approaching Thebes. Radamès is declared the head of the army and proceeds to take up sacred arms at the Temple of Vulcan. Left alone in the hall, Aïda feels torn between her love for Radamès and her country. In the Temple of Vulcan, sacred ceremonies take place as all pray for swift victory against the Ethiopians.
Aïda’s Ritorna Vincitor:
The Chamber of Amneris
With the defeat of Ethiopia, all anticipate the triumphant return of Radamès. Princess Amneris is filled with doubts about the devotion of the warrior and conspires to elicit from Aïda her true feelings for Radamès. Cunningly Amneris convinces Aïda that Radamès has perished in battle and then reveals that he lives. Aïda’s reaction of grief followed by joy is a confession of her love for the warrior and enrages Amneris, who plots revenge.
Grand Gate of Thebes
At the grand gate of Thebes, the Egyptian army returns victorious.
Triumphal Scene Gloria All’Egitto:
The king grants Radamès any wish he desires. Among the captives led before the king is Amonasro, who is thus reunited with Aïda. Although his true identity is unknown, he is clearly of noble character and pleads eloquently for mercy for the defeated Ethiopians. Radamès is impressed with his stature and beseeches the king to grant the request. The king then gives Radamès his daughter Amneris’ hand in marriage. Aïda and Amonasro are to be retained as hostages to insure the Ethiopians do not again revolt.
The Banks of the Nile near the Temple of Isis
Along the shores of the Nile, Aïda waits to rendezvous with Radamès. Meanwhile Ramfis and Amneris pray in a temple in anticipation of her forthcoming marriage. Suddenly Amonasro appears and demands that Aïda learn from her lover the location of the Egyptian troops, but he is forced into hiding when Radamès appears.
The lovers plan an escape into the desert and Radamès proposes an easy route, exactly where the Egyptian army plans to waylay the Ethiopians. Amonasro emerges from his hiding place and reveals that he is king of the Ethiopians. As Ramfis and Amneris leave the temple they see Radamès conspiring with the enemy; Aïda and her father flee as Radamès surrenders.
A Hall in the Temple of Justice
As Radamès awaits trial, he believes that Aïda may have perished, for the Ethiopians have once again been defeated and Amonasro is dead. Amneris begs him to defend himself by renouncing Aïda, but he refuses while still asserting his love for Egypt and willingly accepting his punishment. At his trial Radamès refuses to answer the priests’ accusations and is condemned to be buried alive. Again Amneris pleads for his life but to no avail.
Having been entombed at the bottom of the temple, Radamès awaits death. But he is not alone: Aïda has hidden herself in the vault and they will die in each other’s arms. Above them in the temple Amneris weeps for her lost love.
O terra Addio:
Judy Vander Heide is the president of the Ogden Opera Guild, which supports Utah Opera. She also serves on the boards of Utah
Symphony | Utah Opera and Opera Volunteers, International and is a proud member of the Crescendo Society of Utah Opera.