Verdi – Äida, Act II – Excerpts

by Max Derrickson

Giuseppe Verdi

Äida, Act II – Excerpts

Verdi had a rare gift that made his operas international successes often from their first performances. Many have remained successes to the present. His gift was for writing melodies that evoked the character’s emotions and that also played upon the emotions of the listener. A natural gift, to be sure, but one that was built upon continuously throughout Verdi’s long career, and in which he strove to perfect his talents through maturity, subtlety, and nuance. His ideas about opera, particularly grand opera (such as Äida) were revolutionary, and after many attempts and successes, it is said that Äida embodied for the first time, the ideal for which Verdi was striving.

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The opening prelude, which is fugue-like, remains one of the most ethereal and enchanting introductions in all opera. It sets the stage in the palace of the King of Memphis, where news of the Ethiopian invasion ofEgypthas arrived. The facts slowly become clear that Radames, just chosen to be the leader of the retaliation against the Ethiopians, is in love with Äida, an Ethiopian slave, but keeps his love a secret. Amneris, the daughter of the King, is in love with Radames, but suspects that her love is not returned, and that Äida is in love with Radames. The first Act ends as Äida is torn between her love for Radames who must vow
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Act II, scene I, arrives with Amneris in her chambers being dressed for victory celebrations. After the slaves have danced and sung the praises of the hero Radames in some exotically charming music by Verdi, Amneris sings of her love
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Wrath is invoked on the poor slave, and Äida must exit humbly and apologetically, while in the background the chorus of the returning army can be heard (Su! del Nilo al sacro lido).

Scene 2 opens at a grove near the Temple of Thebes. Here, the crowds gather as the King with his entourage enters through a triumphal arch and takes his place on the sacred throne. Here is heard the beloved Chorus and Triumphal March, and the Final Glory to Egypt.