Aida - Synopsis

Aida - Synopsis

MEMPHIS AND THEBES, DURING THE REIGN OF THE PHARAOHS

ACT I

 

 

Scene i
A hall in the Kking’s palace in Mmemphis

Ramfis, the Hhigh Priest, tells Radames, a young captain of the guard, that the Ethiopians are threatening Egypt and that war seems inevitable. Radames dreams to be nominated as commander-in-chief of the Egyptian forces, to gain victory on the field of battle and to bring back the laurels to Aida, the Ethiopian slave with whom he is secretly in love.

Amneris, the King’s daughter, enters. She loves Radames but fears that his heart belongs to another woman. Aida comes forward, her true identity unknown to all. She is in fact the daughter of Amonasro, King of Ethiopia. Upon seeing Aida, Radames suddenly becomes disturbed, a fact which does not escape the attention of Amneris, who begins to suspect that the Ethiopian slave-girl could be her rival.

Amneris, however, succeeds in hiding her jealousy and approaches Aida with mock expressions of affection. Meanwhile the two lovers try to conceal their love for each other.

The King enters, accompanied by Ramfis and the entire court. A messenger confirms the fact that the Ethiopians, led by Amonasro, have begun to invade Egypt and are marching towards Thebes. The King declares war upon the invaders and names the man chosen by the goddess Isis to be the Egyptian commander: Radames.

Having received a standard from Amneris, and accompanied by the acclamation of the King and the court, Radames proceeds to the temple of Vulcan (Fthà), where he will receive the sacred arms.

Left alone, Aida is overcome with grief, caught between her love for Radames, whose victory she augurs, and her love for her native land, her father and friends.

Scene ii

In the temple Of Vulcan

The chanting of the priestesses can be heard in the background, alternating with the invocations of Ramfis and the priests. Radames receives the sacred arms and a statuette of the god Vulcan, which are to protect him against enemies in battle and act as portent of victory. All present pray to the god Vulcan to protect and defend Egypt.

ACT II

Scene i

Amneris’ apartments

The solemn celebration of Radames’ victory over the Ethiopians is about to begin. Surrounded by her slaves, Amneris awaits anxiously the return of Radames.

Unable to banish her doubts about Radames’ love, Amneris tries to cheer herself with the dance of her Moorish slaves. When she sees Aida approaching, she dismisses her slave girls.

Tormented by jealousy, she now intends to discover Aida’s true feelings. At first she greets Aida with feigned kindness but then falsely informs her that Radames has died in the fighting. Aida’s desperate shock at the news strengthens Amneris’ suspicion that her slave loves Radames. These thoughts are confirmed beyond all doubt immediately afterwards when Amneris reveals her lie to Aida: Radames is alive. Aida can barely contain her emotions and in a reaction of pride to Amneris’ provication, she almost reveals her royal origin. She quickly regains her composure and simply confesses to loving Radames and to existing solely for this love.

Festive fanfares announce the start of the triumphal celebrations. Amneris, fired with rage, thinks only of taking revenge on her rival and leaves her without paying any attention to her pleadings.

Scene ii

A gate of the city of Thebes

The population is exultant about the victory over the Ethiopians. With a triumphal march, the victorious Egyptian troops file in. The statuette of the god Vulcan is handed back to Ramfis. Young men and women dance in honor of the King. The spoils of the battle are carried in; finally Radames arrives.

At the King’s command, Amneris bestows on the victorious commander a golden chain. The Ethiopian prisoners are brought before the King, among them Amonasro. He is recognized immediately by Aida, who throws herself into his arms. Amonasro quietly instructs his daughter not to betray him and, turning to the King, declares himself to be an officer in the Ethiopian troops and Aida`s father. Aida, Amonasro and the prisoners implore the King to show mercy but Ramfis and the priests call for the death of all the prisoners. Radames intercedes on behalf of the prisoners and calls upon the King to set them free. Ramfis suggests a compromise: the prisoners may be set free, but Aida and her father should be held in Egypt as hostages. The King finally consents, and as a token of peace, gives Radames his daughter’s hand in marriage.

ACT III

On the banks of the Nile

On the eve of her wedding to Radames, Amneris retires to pray in the Temple of Isis, where Ramfis awaits her. Then Aida arrives; she and Radames have arranged a secret meeting. She is determined to take her own life if he decides to part from her. Overcome by an intense longing for her native land, she thinks back of the places where she spent her peaceful childhood, places she will never see again. Amonasro, who has been following her secretly, rebukes her for her estranged attitude towards her homeland and people. He tells her that the Ethiopian people are prepared to take up arms once more, but in order to assure their victory they must discover the secret route by which the Egyptian army will pass.

At first, Aida refuses, not wishing to involve the man she loves in open treachery. Amonasro reacts with extraordinary vehemence. Out of love for her homeland Aida finally bends to the wishes of her father. As Radames approaches, Amonasro hides behind a rock, where he can still hear every word that the lovers speak to one another.

Radames reveals his plans to Aida: very shortly he will lead the Egyptians in a renewed campaign against the Ethiopians, and as prize for further victory he intends to ask the King for Aida’s hand and her liberty. Aida must disillusion him. Neither the King nor Amneris or the priests would ever consent to this. She declares that their only means of survival together is to flee.

Radames is reluctant but finally accedes to Aida’s wishes. In the meantime, Amneris comes out of the temple, and, unobserved, listens to the lovers’ conversation. When Aida asks by which route they can escape without fear of capture, Radames proposes that they leave through the Napata gorges, the route which the Egyptians have chosen to attack the enemy and which is still open. Amonasro, having overheard everything and flushed with excitement, comes out of his hiding place and reveals his true identity to Radames, while Amneris returns to the temple to warn Ramfis. Radames realizes with horror that he has unwittingly betrayed his country. Aida and Amonasro try to calm him and persuade him to escape with them. Amneris and Ramfis leave the temple at that very moment and take them by surprise. Amonasro attempts to stab Amneris, but Radames holds him back and implores him and his daughter to flee. Aida and Amonasro take flight and Radames surrenders himself to Ramfis.

ACT IV

Scene i

A hall in the King’s palace

Radames is awaiting trial by the priests and is certain to be condemned to death. But Amneris is still in love with him and wishes to save him, even though she knows that he attempted to flee with Aida. She orders the guards to bring Radames to her.

Radames is led before Amneris. She implores him to deny the accusations against him and adds that she will go to the King herself to beg mercy for him. Radames refuses, wishing only to die. He is overjoyed to learn that Aida is still alive and hopes that finally she will be able to reach her own country. Amneris once more offers to save him if he will only renounce Aida, but to no avail. Yet again Radames firmly refuses and is led back into his cell.

Amneris is overcome by grief. Meanwhile the priests pass by in the background, heading towards the Hall of Judgment; Radames is led there too. He makes no replay to Ramfis’s accusations and is condemned to die as a traitor, buried alive beneath the altar in the Temple of Vulcan. As the priests leave the hall, Amneris in despair confronts them, hurling curses.

Scene ii

A vault

The priests lead Radames to his tomb. As his thoughts run to Aida, he hears a sigh and detects a figure nearby. He is amazed to discover Aida, who has secretly found her way into the vault to die at his side. Aida and Radames, united in each other’s arms, bid farewell to the world. Above the tomb, the priests chant a final prayer as Amneris falls on the grave of her lover, her voice suffocated by tears.