An introduction to Aida

This opera is a roller coaster of emotions told through powerful music. Come to see this if you want opera on a grand scale!

Here’s everything you need to know about ENO’s new production of Aida.

It’s an opera by Verdi

Aida is an opera by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. It was first performed on 24 December in 1871 in Egypt, to celebrate the opening of the Khedival Opera House in Cairo. Although Verdi himself didn’t attend the premiere, he was still disappointed that the audience consisted of mainly invited politicians and critics, and no members of the general public. He therefore considered the Italian premiere at La Scala, Milan in February 1872 its real premiere. Since then, Aida has been performed frequently at opera houses around the world.

You might recognise the composer’s name as he also wrote Rigoletto which was on at ENO in February 2017, as well as La traviata which was on in March 2018.

Set in Ancient Egypt, Aida is a timeless story of love and betrayal against the backdrop of war. Aida is an Ethiopian princess held captive in Egypt, in love with a General, Radames, and he with her. When he is chosen to lead a war with Ethiopia, we follow the conflict of Aida’s love for both Radames and for her country.

Our new production features some familiar ENO faces

This production of Aida is directed by Olivier Award-winning director, Phelim McDermott. Phelim has been behind some of our most loved productions, including our sell-out Akhnaten, as well as another of our upcoming revivals, Satyagraha. Phelim brings back the same creative team from these previous productions, including costume designer Kevin Pollard and set designer Tom Pye.

Aida was first performed at ENO in 1931 but hasn’t been on stage at the London Coliseum for nearly 10 years. Traditionally Aida is set in Ancient Egypt with lots of bright colours and often the addition of an elephant or two! This production, however, will be strikingly different with a slightly more contemporary feel.

You’ve probably heard it before

Perhaps the best-known part of the opera comes in the second act in the form of the Triumphal March. Verdi is known for his big, catchy melodies – like this famous tune in Rigoletto and the Drinking Song in La traviata – and the Triumphal March is no exception. One of the largest set pieces in opera, the Triumphal March shows a victorious army returning home, often with a full chorus and dance troupe on stage. The trumpets heard at the beginning of the March were specifically commissioned for the Aida orchestra at the premiere as they play such a crucial part in the piece – so make sure you listen out for them!

Aida has also been turned into multiple feature length films due to the cinematic nature of the story and setting. One of the films, from 1953, starred Italian screen legend Sophia Loren in her first leading role, who lip-synced to a recording of Italian opera star Renata Tebaldi who had originally been considered for the role but did not want to appear on screen.

The epic story of Aida also inspired pop icon Elton John’s musical by the same name, although it doesn’t feature any of Verdi’s music. It premiered in 2000 and won five Tony Awards.