Verdi's Aida: Synopsis

American operatic mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry as Amneris in a production of Verdi's 'Aida', circa 1965.
American operatic mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry as Amneris in a production of Verdi's 'Aida', circa 1965. Erich Auerbach/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Composer

Giuseppe Verdi

Premiered

December 24, 1871 - Khedivial Opera House in Cairo

Setting of Aida

Verdi's Aida takes place in ancient Eygpt.

Other Verdi Opera Synopses

Falstaff, La Traviata, Rigoletto, & Il Trovatore

Famous Arias from Aida

The Synopsis of Aida

Aida, ACT 1
Outside of the royal palace near Memphis, Ramfis (Egypt's high priest) informs Radames (a young warrior) that armies from Ethiopia are making their way towards the Nile valley.

Radames expresses his hope of being appointed the commander of Egypt's army where he can lead his troops to victory, as well as rescue Aida, his Ethiopian lover captured by Egyptian troops. Unbeknownst to him, as well as the rest of Egypt, Aida is the daughter of Ethiopia's king, Amonasro. Since her capture, Aida has served as slave to the Egyptian princess, Amneris. Amneris is in love Radames, but senses he is in love with another woman. It isn't long before Amneris figures out who the mystery woman is when she sees the longing glances shared between him and Aida. Amneris maintains her composure, masking her deep-rooted jealousy, and continues to keep Aida as her slave. The king of Egypt arrives and announces that Ramfis' information was correct and that Ethiopian troops, lead by the King of Ethiopia himself, have already made their way into Thebes. The king appoints Radames as the leader of the army while simultaneously declaring war on Ethiopia.

An overjoyed Radames makes his way to the temple to complete his coronation ritual. Left alone in the hall, Aida becomes distraught as she is forced to choose between her Egyptian lover and her father and country.

Aida, ACT 2
After their victorious battle, Radames and his troops return from Thebes. Inside Amneris' chambers, she has her slaves entertain her in light of the battle.

Doubting her suspicions of Aida and Radames, she decides to test Aida. She dismisses all of her slaves except for Aida and tells her that Radames has died in battle. Aida breaks down into tears and confesses her love for Radames, which instantly infuriates Amneris, who vows revenge.

Radames makes his triumphant return to Memphis, marching through the city with his troops, while the captured Ethiopians trail behind. Aida sees her captured father and rushes to his side. He makes her promise not to reveal their true identities. The King of Egypt, so delighted with Radames' performance, honors him by granting him anything he asks for. Before Radames can make his request, Amonasro declares that the King of Ethiopia was killed in battle and asks the Egyptian king to set them free. The people of Egypt, however, join in chant asking for their death and the King grants their desires. In order to save his lover's life, Radames cashes in on the King's generosity and asks him to spare the lives of the Ethiopians. The King happily grants him his request and declares Radames his successor and future husband of Princess Amneris. Aida and her father are taken into custody to prevent any Ethiopian revolt.

Aida, ACT 3
As preparations are made for the upcoming wedding between Radames and Amneris, Aida waits for Radames outside of the temple in a previously agreed upon spot. Aida's father, Amonasro, finds her and pressures her to find out where the Egyptian army is being kept. Feeling homesick, she agrees to her father's wishes. When Radames comes out of the temple to meet Aida, Amonrasro hides and eavesdrops on their conversation. At first, the lovers talk about their future lives together, but after Aida asks, he tells her where the army is located. Amonasro comes out of hiding and reveals his identity to Radames just as Amneris and the High Priest come out of the temple. Before Aida and Amonasro escape, Aida pleads for Radames to follow them. Instead, Radames submits himself to Amneris and the High Priest as a traitor.

Aida, ACT 4
Frustrated with Radames, Amneris pleads with him to deny his accusations. Full of pride and love for his country, he does not. He accepts his punishment but is happy to know that Aida and her father have escaped. This hurts Amneris even more. She tells him that she will save him if he renounces his love for Aida, but again, he refuses. The High Priest and his court condemn Radames to death by being buried alive. Amneris begs for their mercy, but they do not budge.

Radames is taken to the lowest level in the temple and is sealed away into a dark tomb. Moments after being locked away, he hears someone breathing in a dark corner; it is Aida. She confesses her love for him and has chosen to die with him. The two embrace as Amneris weeps several floors above them.