“Verdi set his magnificent opera, Aida, in Egypt/North Africa. This production—while not tied literally to historic time and place—uses this location as a springboard for telling universal themes of conflict when we are forced to choose between either the love for our family and country or following our heart. Instead of presenting this as a historical piece, we’re taking a modern approach in order to better connect with the humanity of the characters and more clearly see how they mirror who we are today.” —E. Loren Meeker
The Story of AIDA
Radamès, an army officer, hopes to be chosen to lead his people to victory. If he can win the war, he speculates, he might also be allowed to marry Aida, who is a captive from the nation Radamès is aiming to conquer. Princess Amneris, who loves Radamès, notices that he is strongly affected by the appearance of Aida. Amneris is overcome with jealousy. Accompanied by his ministers, the King enters. A messenger brings news of an imminent invasion. Radamès is announced as the chosen commander. The crowd expresses their hope for his victorious return. Aida, too, is caught up in the battle cry, and after the court leaves, berates herself for having called for the defeat of her own people. Divided between loyalty to her country and her love for Radamès, she asks the gods for strength.
The troops led by Radamès have won the war. Amneris, still tormented by doubt and jealousy, resolves to question Aida and confirm her suspicions. Amneris manages to trick Aida into revealing her love for Radamès; furious, Amneris tells Aida to give up all hope of being with Radamès. The people celebrate the return of the victorious army. Radamès asks that the prisoners of war be brought forth; among them, Aida recognizes her father. Hiding his true identity, her father, King Amonasro, pleads for the lives of his people. Radamès asks that the prisoners be set free. The high priest Ramfis, warning of the consequences, succeeds in having Aida and her father retained as hostages. Amneris’s father rewards Radamès with her hand in marriage.
To prepare for her wedding to Radamès, Amneris retires to the temple to worship with Ramfis. Outside the temple, Aida waits for Radamès. She longs for the happiness she knew as a child in her homeland. Her father joins her and raises her hopes for a happy life at the side of her beloved. Hoping to exploit Aida’s love for Radamès, Amonasro demands she find out from Radamès the name of the route his armies will take. Amonasro conceals himself nearby, where he can overhear the plan. Radamès affirms his love for Aida and hopes another victory will allow him to win her once and for all. Aida does not share his enthusiasm and instead encourages him to flee the country with her. As they start to leave, Aida asks which route his troops will take. Radamès answers her, whereupon Amonasro reveals himself and Radamès realizes he has blurted out an important military secret. Realizing he has also been overheard by Ramfis and Amneris as they leave the temple, Radamès surrenders to the High Priest, ready to accept the consequences of his betrayal.
Torn between love and jealousy, Amneris hopes to save Radamès from the priests and win him for herself. She urges him to defend himself, but he rejects her. The priests assemble and three times allow Radamès a chance to present his defense; but three times he is silent. They sentence him to death. Amneris pleads with the priests to revoke the sentence, and when they ignore her, she curses them.
Buried alive in a tomb, Radamès finds Aida, who had hidden there earlier. While the priests chant their hymns, the two lovers die, united at last. Above their tomb, Amneris prays for peace.