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Verdi's Aida

Duration:
3 hours
First broadcast:
Saturday 26 June 2010

Lust and violence, war and doomed love: Aida is the story of the slave girl who finds that her father and her lover are on opposite sides in a confrontation between nations. It's one of the greatest love stories in opera, played out against a background of battles and heroic idealism. In this new production from Covent Garden, Micaela Carosi stars as Aida, Marcelo Álvarez is her beloved Radames, and Marianne Cornetti plays the role of Amneris, her rival for his affections.

Presented by Suzy Klein with guest Roger Parker

Aida ..... Micaela Carosi (soprano)
Radames ..... Marcelo Álvarez (tenor)
Amneris ..... Marianne Cornetti (mezzo-soprano)
Ramfis ..... Giacomo Prestia (baritone)
Amonasro ..... Marco Vratogna (baritone)
King of Egypt ..... Robert Lloyd (bass)
Messenger ..... Ji-Min Park (tenor)
High Priestess ..... Elisabeth Meister (soprano)
Nicola Luisotti ..... Conductor
Royal Opera Chorus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

  • Micaela Carosi as Aida

    Micaela Carosi as Aida

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Marcello Àlvarez as Radames

    Marcello Àlvarez as Radames

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Marianne Cornetti as Amneris

    Marianne Cornetti as Amneris

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Giacomo Prestia as Ramfis and Ji-Min Park as the Messenger

    Giacomo Prestia as Ramfis and Ji-Min Park as the Messenger

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Marco Vratogna as Amonasro

    Marco Vratogna as Amonasro

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Robert Lloyd as The King of Egypt

    Robert Lloyd as The King of Egypt

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Production image

    Production image

    Marianne Cornetti as Amneris, Giacomo Prestia as Ramfis with soldiers and slaves.

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Production Image

    Production Image

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Production Image

    Production Image

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Giacomo Prestia as Ramfis with Soldiers

    Giacomo Prestia as Ramfis with Soldiers

    Photo: Bill Cooper/Royal Opera

  • Synopsis

    War rages between the kingdoms of Egypt and Ethiopia. Following a battle between the two forces, Aida, the Ethiopian princess, has been captured and enslaved. She now serves Amneris, the daughter of the Egyptian King, but
    keeps her true identity secret. Aida’s father, Amonasro, King of Ethiopia, has launched an invasion on Egypt to recover her.

  • Act 1

    Ramfis, the High Priest, has chosen the Commander who will lead Egypt into battle.

    Radames, a Captain in the Royal Guard, prays that the choice will fall on him. Secretly, he and Aida have fallen in love.

    His dream is to return to Egypt victorious and win her freedom.
    Amneris enters and questions Radames.

    Victory in war would make him eligible for her hand and she is burning with love for him, but she suspects that he already loves another woman.

    When Aida appears, Amneris sees in Radames’s eyes that the slave girl has become her rival. The King enters with his court and priests.

    A messenger brings news of the new Ethiopian attacks led by the fearsome Amonasro. The King and Ramfis cry out for war and Radames is named as Commander of the Egyptian army.

    Alone, Aida is racked with grief. Radames will wage war on her father and homeland and yet she cannot stop herself from loving him. She prays to her gods to have pity on her.

    In the Temple, Ramfis and the Priests pray to the god Ptah to grant Egypt victory. Radames is consecrated as Commander of the Egyptian Armies.

  • Act 2

    Egypt has routed the Ethiopians. In her chamber, Amneris prepares for Radames’s return, surrounded by her ladies in waiting and her slaves, who dance for her.

    Aida sadly enters, mourning the defeat of her homeland. Alone with her, Amneris tricks her into revealing her secret love: she tells her that Radames has been killed in battle, and Aida betrays herself with a cry of despair.

    Furiously, Amneris admits the deception and dares the slave to rival her, the daughter of a Pharaoh. Aida can bear no more and rises angrily, almost revealing her true, royal identity. Amneris swears to see her slave humiliated and punished.


    The nation of Egypt celebrates the victorious return of Radames in a Triumph. The King hails him as the saviour of his country and swears to grant him any wish.

    Radames asks that the Ethiopian prisoners be first brought before them. Among them Aida recognizes her father and, crying out, rushes into his arms.

    Amonasro quickly whispers
    to her not to betray his identity. Claiming to be a Captain of the Ethiopian army, he tells the King that the great warlord Amonasro is dead and, with no hope left to them, pleads for the prisoners’ lives.

    The priests call for their execution, but Radames, moved by Aida’s tears, names his reward: freedom for the Ethiopians. Ramfis is incensed and demands that Aida and her father remain in Egypt as hostages.

    The King agrees and then declares his intention that Radames shall marry Amneris and reign with her over Egypt after his death.

  • Act 3

    On the eve of her wedding, Amneris is escorted by Ramfis to the Temple of Isis on the banks of the Nile. Radames and Aida have made a secret assignation by the river.

    Aida waits, fearful that he will come to end their relationship. She recalls her lost homeland with intense emotion. It is not Radames but Amonasro who now arrives.

    He has been watching his daughter and her lover closely and has guessed their secret. He promises Aida the hope of happiness with Radames, revenge on Amneris and freedom to return to her beloved country if she will undertake a task: to extract from Radames the military information Amonasro needs to fall upon the Egyptian forces.

    At first she refuses but her father’s furious invocation of the spirit of Aida’s dead mother forces her to agree to his plan. Amonasro slips away as Radames appears.
    Aida repulses Radames, feigning jealousy of Amneris.

    Radames tells her that a fresh campaign to conquer Ethiopia is imminent; should he return victorious, he intends to repudiate Amneris and ask the King for Aida as his bride.

    Aida bitterly dismisses his plan; how could they escape the wrath of Amneris, even if the King could be persuaded? The only course open to them, she insists, is to flee Egypt. Radames is finally persuaded by Aida’s rapturous vision of a life beyond the reach of Egypt’s power.

    In spite of himself, he reveals the Egyptians’ invasion plans, overheard by Amonasro. The warlord reveals his identity and that of his daughter and Radames is driven nearly insane by the knowledge that he has become a traitor to his homeland.

    Amonasro tries to persuade him to join them in their flight to rally the Ethiopian armies. But Amneris has emerged from the temple and overheard them. She denounces Radames as a traitor.

    Amonasro attempts to kill her, then vanishes into the night with Aida. Radames surrenders himself to Ramfis.

  • Act 4

    Radames awaits trial by the priests. Torn between hatred and love, Amneris calls for Radames to be brought before her.

    She implores him to deny the charges laid against him so that she might beg the King for mercy. Radames intends to remain silent and offer no defence; he longs only for death, believing Aida to have been killed by Amneris.

    Desperately, Amneris declares her love for him and tells him that Amonasro has perished but that Aida could not be found. If he will deny his love for Aida, she will save him.


    Radames refuses and is led away. The priests gather in the trial chamber and Amneris listens in dread as Radames refuses three times to answer Ramfis’s accusations.

    The priests pass sentence: Radames will be entombed alive beneath the altar in the temple. As they emerge, Amneris confronts the priests, hurling curses at them.

    Ramfis and the priests are implacable. Amneris invokes the vengeance of the gods upon them.
    Radames is sealed into his tomb. A figure appears in the darkness before him.

    It is Aida, who has hidden herself in the tomb to die with him. As the endless rituals and chanting of the priests echo above them, Radames and Aida bid farewell to the Earth and wait for death to take them to a better world.

    Above, alone, Amneris prays for the repose of Radames’s soul.

    © David McVicar

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