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– Presents –




Overture As CEO of Edmonton Opera I want to thank you for participating in this, our first opera education program.

First, I want to say what a great opera city we have here. We are a professional opera company backed by some of the greatest volunteers and corporate and civic leaders I have ever seen. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is to be working with people, both staff and volunteers, who love opera and are willing to support it. Edmonton Opera is the oldest and largest professional, year-round opera company in the Prairie Provinces, one of 17 opera companies in Canada and the fourth largest in terms of budget and artistic output. It is also one of five flagship arts organizations in Edmonton.

I believe music – especially opera, can add a great richness to life. My first exposure to music came as a little girl sitting under the piano listening to my grandmother play and sing operatic arias. I remember loving music and taking piano lessons. I guess I persisted with those scales long enough because I have from time to time throughout my life taught piano and of course that served as good grounding for what was to become a career.

Your Edmonton Opera will be celebrating a 50th birthday soon and that is a real statement about the kind of long term support Edmonton and area has for us and as well for many of the other arts and cultural organizations in this great city.

As for opera, it was love at first sight and sound. As a young person in former Yugoslavia, a student could attend opera for the equivalent of 25 cents. For me it was all magic, as I was instantly taken by this rich art form that actually brings together several other wonderful art forms such as… music, voice, sets, costumes, drama, love stories, lavish productions.

So welcome to the wonderful world of opera. Enjoy and learn.

Now you too will have a similar educational and experiential journey by being part of Edmonton Opera’s education program and Your Guide to Opera. We have created a thorough curriculum, practical and engaging teaching aids and yes, the opportunity for all to attend the dress rehearsal of an Edmonton Opera performance.

Sandra Gajic CEO | Edmonton Opera

This leads me naturally enough to tell you a bit about your hometown opera company.


Opera Live!

Contents Message from Director | 4 Characters | 5 Synopsis | 6–7 The Story Behind the Story | 8 Europe at the Time of Aida | 9 Piecing Together an Ancient World | 10 Kings, Pharaohs and Queens of Egypt | 11 Composer Biography | 10 Librettist & Story Creator Biographies | 11 Glossary | 12 Activity 1: Listening Guide | 14 Activity 2: Nationalism & Identity | 21 Activity 3: Improv Reader's Theatre |21 Activity 4: Poster Creation | 22 Activity 5: Facebook Character Development | 23 Activity 6: Opera Notes | 23

Nothing beats the excitement of live opera! For more information on how your class can attend a dress rehearsal at special student pricing, contact usby email at or visit us online at:

A special thanks to volunteer editor, Stephan Bonfield – writer of the Aida Synopsis and Listening Guide.

New to opera? Be sure to check out our Educator's Guide, Your Guide to Opera, available for free download online. It is designed to supplement this guide and offers an overview of the history of opera, activities for your class, and useful information about attending our dress rehearsals. 3

the boy: “Grab a handful of sand from the spot where you left your footprint and take it with you. This sand will always be a link with what you have experienced and learned about ancient Egypt.”

Message from the Director:

The Egyptologist was right. The boy was enchanted forever. When I staged Aida for the first time, memories of that teenage boy were awakened. Although I have since enriched my knowledge about the grand mystical culture of ancient Egypt, I have remembered in great detail all Dr. Greiss' stories. There is the story about the final epic battle between the gods Horus and Seth, a metaphor for the everlasting battle between good and evil. There is the fascinating battle between the sun god Atum Ra and the monstrous snake Apophis (deification of darkness and chaos) in the underworld, which acts as a metaphor for the ending of one day and the beginning of the next. I’ve heard the stories about the goddess Bastet with the head of a cat, known as “the devouring lady,” the lion-headed goddess of war Sekhmet and the goddess Hathor, of feminine love, who has horns on her head. Above all, of course, there’s the story about Ptah, creator of the universe.

Dejan Miladinovic The curious eyes of the 14-year-old boy followed the flickering torch carried by the Arab guide. The corridor was narrow and steep. Even with the torch, guide and visitors felt as if they were engulfed by thousand-year-old darkness. The boy couldn’t believe that he was walking in the footsteps of pyramid robbers. In the main hall of the Cairo Museum the boy watched the colossal statues with curiosity. He hesitated for only a moment with slight fear touching his face at the entrance into the Mummy Room. At the exit door the boy stopped in front of the bust of Queen Nefertiti. Motionless, he stared in amazement at such incomparable beauty.

The last words in the opera – “Immenso Ptah...” – were the initial start for my directorial thoughts about staging Verdi’s Aida. Furthermore, the battle between Atum Ra and Apophis is an excellent visual expression for the scene in which the sword is consecrated. The victory of Horus over Seth is the perfect triumphal representation of victory over Amonasro’s army. Thus, combining creative theatrical presentation with portions of the original spectacular rituals, along with emotionally strong personal scenes, is the proper way for reviving the spirit (Kha) of ancient Egypt. It seems to me the parts of my boyhood memories and the corresponding parts of Verdi's music are choosing each other by themselves.

The boy had a precious chance to visit the museum every day, week by week, thanks to his father’s all-season engagement as a conductor with the newly founded Cairo Symphony Orchestra. As a conductor, the father insisted that concert programs promote serious symphonic music composed by Arabs and Copts, such as Rahim, Khairat, El-Shawan or Greiss. So, the brother of the late Egyptian composer Greiss, a doctor in Egyptology, became the boy’s one-month teacher, telling him stories about ancient Egypt, its people, its customs, its Pharaohs, and its gods and deities. The curious boy was an attentive listener and a quick learner.

In my directorial approach, I want to convey all my long-time intact excitements and emotions to the spectators, so they could feel all the same as what the boy felt when he encountered the mummified time and space of the Pharaohs.

One day, all three of them – the father, the Egyptologist and the curious boy – went to the Sahara Desert to visit a newly discovered tomb, a mastaba ("house for eternity") of a rich ancient Egyptian merchant. For the first time in his life the boy stepped on the Sahara sands. It was an unforgettable feeling. The Egyptologist told

Dejan Miladinovic August 2012




Education Dress Rehearsal

Aida – an Ethiopian Princess (soprano)

Oct. 17 @ 11 am

Radamès – Captain of the Egyptian Guard (tenor) Amneris – Daughter of the King of Egypt (mezzo-soprano)

Jubilee Auditorium

Amonasro – King of Ethiopia, father of Aida (baritone) Ramfis – High Priest of Egypt (bass) Pharaoh – King of Egypt (bass) The Priestess (soprano)

Aida Opera 101

Messenger (tenor)

Oct. 10 @ 7 pm Art Gallery of Alberta Ledcor Theatre

Join us for a thought provoking discussion surrounding Aida. With special guests from the fields of music, history, political science, and classics. Admission is complimentary, but please RSVP at



At the temple, priests chant hymns to their gods. Radamès receives the consecrated armour and sword and now acts with the powers of the gods to protect and defend Egypt.

Written by Stephan Bonfield ACT II Egypt is victorious against the Ethiopians. Amneris is prepared for the victory celebration by her attendants while she dreams of Radamès.

ACT I Egypt is again threatened by Ethiopia. An Egyptian officer, Radamès, is c­hosen to command the attack force against the Ethiopians. Left alone on stage, Radamès sings of his love for Aida, the Ethiopian slave of Amneris, the Egyptian princess. Radamès dreams of triumph in battle and being granted a victory prize by Pharaoh – having his beloved Aida freed.

Aida enters. Amneris is suspicious about her slave’s feelings, but does not yet know Aida’s true identity. At first, Amneris responds with genuine affection to Aida, but then deliberately misleads her, telling her that Radamès died in battle. Hearing this, Aida cannot hide her despair. Amneris knows she has discovered the truth. With complete guile, Amneris contradicts the news, telling her Radamès lives. Aida is elated, but having discovered her secret, Amneris declares herself Aida’s rival.

Amneris enters, and it is soon clear that she loves and admires Radamès. However, when Aida follows Amneris shortly after, Amneris observes Radamès trying to conceal his glances toward Aida. In the trio that follows, Radamès worries that Amneris may have discovered his love for Aida – a valid concern.

The Grand March accompanies the entrance of Pharaoh and the court, and a ballet of celebration displays the treasures taken as the spoils of victory. During the Triumphal scene, Radamès is praised as Egypt’s saviour.

Pharaoh arrives and a messenger delivers news of Ethiopia’s invasion. With Thebes now under threat, Pharaoh and the gathered assembly cry out for war. Radamès will lead their troops into battle and Amneris is elated. Radamès thanks the gods, confident of victory. He is led to the temple of Vulcan to be anointed. The powerful scene continues with the chorus of priests and citizens invoking their gods to bring victory to Egypt and death to the Ethiopians. Amneris presents Radamès with a staff that is blessed to ensure his victory.

As his reward, Radamès asks Pharaoh for mercy for the prisoners. One of the prisoners is Amonasro, King of Ethiopia and Aida’s father, disguised as an officer. Recognizing him, Aida cries out “My father!” When they embrace, he tells her quietly not to reveal his true identity as king. But the high priest Ramfis and the priests are indignant to Radamès’ wish. They advise Pharaoh to sentence the prisoners to death for fear the captives will rise up and attack Egypt again. Radamès reminds Pharaoh of his promise to free the Ethiopians; he believes their king was killed in battle and the enemy has no hope of mounting another attack. Ramfis suggests a compromise: free the prisoners, keeping Aida and Amonasro as hostages. Pharaoh agrees and announces the marriage of Radamès to Amneris.

Aida, now alone, is filled with self-reproach for repeating the impious words calling for Egyptian victory. She is torn between her love for Radamès and her loyalty to Ethiopia. If the Egyptians are defeated and her father rescues her from slavery, Radamès may die. If Radamès is victorious, her father may be enslaved or killed and her country destroyed.

In the grandiose finale, Amneris gloats at her triumph, Aida despairs, Radamès is tornand confused, and Amonasro, thinking his daughter is despondent at the thought of never being free, urges her to be patient. He is still unaware of his daughter’s love for Radamès. 6

Synopsis: Con't ACT III Amneris and Ramfis arrive at the temple to pray amid hymns for wedding preparations. Homesick for Ethiopia, Aida appears for a secret meeting with Radamès. Meanwhile, Amonasro has learned his daughter loves Radamès. Amonasro warns his daughter that Amneris will destroy her. Invoking patriotism, Amonasro tells Aida that she is obligated to help the Ethiopians defeat the Egyptians, promising she can have her country, her throne and Radamès. Amonasro manipulates his daughter, convincing her to learn Radamès’ tactical military secrets. When Aida refuses, Amonasro calls her a traitor to her people, unless she relents and betrays Radamès. Aida agrees.

ACT IV With Ethiopia defeated, Aida fears Radamès will be considered a traitor, condemned to die by the priests. Amneris decides if Radamès renounces Aida, she will use her power to persuade Pharaoh to pardon Radamès. Radamès, however, has accepted his fate. He believes Aida is dead and does not care about his own life. Amneris reveals that Aida lives and pleads with him to save his life by living for her. When Radamès refuses Amneris, she lapses into anger and intense frustration, only underscoring her defeat more. Radamès, oblivious, is led off to trial. The priests intone the charges against Radamès, who enters no plea for his life. He is sentenced to be buried alive. Amneris remains outside, cursing the priests and crying to the gods.

Radamès appears. Aida denounces him as Amneris’ husband, but Radamès swears he only loves Aida. She argues that the only solution is to flee to Ethiopia, describing their blissful life together. Radamès hesitates; Aida renounces him and tells him to go to Amneris. Radamès refuses, deciding to flee with Aida. He reveals that the road along the gorges of Napata will be safe until tomorrow, when the Egyptian armies attack the Ethiopians at dawn. Amonasro, in hiding, hears this and reappears, announcing he is both the presumed-dead king and Aida’s father. Upset, Radamès realizes he has betrayed his country.

In the crypt, Radamès is joined by Aida, who has elected to die with him. Their duet affirms they believe they will be immortalized in heaven. Above the tomb, Amneris prays for Radamès: “Pace, t’imploro, pace t’imploro, pace, pace, pace!” (“I pray for peace, I pray for peace!”)

Amneris and Ramfis exit the temple, overhearing Radamès’ betrayal. They accuse him of treachery. Radamès prevents Amonasro’s attempt on Amneris’ life, and Amonasro and Aida flee. Guards appear and arrest Radamès.


The Story Behind the Story While it is popular belief that Aida was commissioned by the Khedive of Egypt to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Verdi had in fact declined the Khedive’s offer. As part of these opening celebrations, an opera house in Cairo was also underway to be opened the same year. The Khedive of Egypt was an admirer of all things European and desired to commission an opera to commemorate the two openings. While Verdi resisted writing a special piece for the occasion, the house still opened with one of Verdi’s existing popular operas - Rigoletto.

Following the opening of Aida, it quickly became popular throughout Italy and expanded worldwide opening in NYC in 1873, and in Paris and London in 1876. It remains one of the most performed operas today; ranking among the top 20 most frequently performed operas throughout the world.

When Verdi learned from Camille du Locle (a director and librettist of Don Carlos) that the Khedive had decided to offer the commission of a dedicatory opera to another composer, he quickly changed his mind and undertook the challenge to write a unique opera for the Cairo house himself. Commissioned for the large sum of 150,000 francs, Verdi began composing in 1870. He wished to create a grand spectacle, akin to French grand opera, with scenes of splendour, a large orchestra and chorus. The Khedive had worked closely with French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette asked him to create a plot based on his historical research of ancient Egypt to be used for an opera. It was later reworked and expanded by Camille du Locle and presented as a synopsis to Verdi. The composer accepted the story and the libretto was written by Antonio Ghislanzoni. While the premiere was planned for January 1871, the outbreak of Franco-Prussian War in Europe left Auguste Mariette unable to leave Paris. Leaving him stranded with Aida’s costumes and sets, the premiere was forced to be delayed until December. When Aida premiered December 1871 at the Khedival Opera House, it was met with great acclaim. Verdi was not in attendance, and a year later in 1872 Aida made its European debut at the famous La Scala Theatre in Milan.


Europe at the Time of Aida During the time Aida was written, Europe was facing great political change. In 1870 France under Napoleon III declared war on the German Kingdom of Prussia, but was defeated and as a result lost the regions of Alsace and Lorraine. Prussia was aided by the other German states and the victory led to the unification of the German Empire under King William I of Prussia. In Italy, nationalists fought to unify the country – even Verdi and Aida librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni were involved in the political change culminating in the country. Verdi often reflected the political turbulence of the time in his operas and became known as the “Composer of the Revolution” after Nabucco premiered in 1842. This opera portrayed the Hebrew people oppressed by the tyranny of the Babylonians. This plot which resonated and even caused chaos with the Italian audiences of the time was considered to be replete with political overtones, paralleling its story to the Austrian control over their country. Aida is no exception; in this opera Verdi continued to present themes of political instability as shown through Radamès and Aida who must choose between their patriotic duties versus eternal happiness through love. In the face of love for one’s country and love for the enemy, a feasible solution seems impossible. Verdi creates dramatic tension throughout the opera by making his characters face their conflicting loyalties.


Piecing Together an Ancient World French Archeologist and Egyptologist Auguste Mariette was hired by the Khedive of Egypt to create a plot based on his historical findings for Verdi. With his expertise he was also involved in the design of the costumes and sets for its premiere in 1871. Mariette studied how ancient Egyptians lived from paintings to architecture, to create authentic scenery and costumes depicting these ancient times. Frequently, productions of Aida today reference traditional ancient Egypt set during the Dynasty of the Pharaohs particularly in Memphis and Thebes. Visuals on set portray the grandiosity of Pharaohs, recognizable symbols such as the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx as well as ornate gold costumes. The history of ancient Egypt is divided into dynasties which mark the succession of Egyptian rulers. Knowledge of these periods is based on kinglists recorded by Egyptians themselves that have been preserved in carvings such as the famous Palermo Stone and Abydos Kinglist (carved on the temple), and writings on papyrus like the Turin Canon. An Egyptian historian and priest in the temple of Heliopolis named Manetho wrote History of Egypt (or Aegyptiaca) in the third century bc This work, in which he organized the kings into the thirty dynasties, is evidence of the reign of pharaohs. These records combine to provide archeologists with fragmented answers that help structure the history into the series of kingdoms and periods we know as ancient Egypt. Further Learning • Visit Discovery Channel online for video clips about ancient Egypt. • National also provides many great photos of ancient and modern day Egypt.


Kings, Pharaohs and Queens of Egypt Ancient Egyptian kings were the leaders and preservers of peaceful and stable society. From performing religious rituals to seeing to economic needs, the king was deemed as protector of the country. It was believed that the god Horus was connected to living kings, while the god Osiris was associated with dead kings. Even though the kings were linked to the gods, ancient rituals show that the ancient Egyptians were aware of the mortality of their kings. While kingship ideally passed on from father to son, queens were also very significant to society. The mother of the king served as a symbol of rebirth and creation- giving her great importance and power. One great female royal, regarded as on of the most successful leaders by Egyptologists, was queen Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut reigned during the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt and is known for establishing prosperous trade networks during the dynasty and commissioning hundreds of buildings in Upper and Lower Egypt. The word ‘pharaoh’ was a title used by the ancient Egyptians to refer to the king. Stemming from the ancient Egyptian term per-aa meaning ‘Big House’, it was first used in reference to the royal estate. It was later used to describe the king himself in the 18th dynasty of the New Kingdom.



Composer Giuseppe Verdi Giuseppe Verdi was born in 1813 in the small Italian village of Le Roncole. His family was of middle class origin consisting of landowners, and his father was very supportive of his son’s education and career aspirations. At a young age Verdi began assisting the local church organist and later in high school studied humanities and had formal music lessons. He received financial support and encouragement from the wealthy Antonio Barezzi, and applied to study at the Milan Conservatory in 1832. Verdi was refused by the Conservatory and instead began studying under Vincenzo Lavigna, a former musician and conductor at the famous La Scala Opera House in Milan. In 1836 after completing his studies, Verdi returned to Busseto and married Margherita Barezzi (Antonio’s daughter). He composed and conducted with Busseto Philharmonic Society during the next few years. In 1839 Verdi wrote his first opera, Oberto, which premiered at La Scala in Milan and was well received. Shortly after, however Verdi’s family was hit by tragedy. Within a short period of time his wife and two young children died. Verdi nearly abandoned composing, but with the encouragement of his colleagues he continued writing. Inspired by a story, he began writing again and was met with the great success of his opera Nabucco when it premiered in 1842. Over the course of the next eleven years, from 1842-1853, Verdi composed a series of sixteen operas. During this period known as his “galley years”, Verdi created famous works including Rigoletto (1851), Il Trovatore (1853), and La Traviata (1853) that remain remarkable pieces of opera history today. Achieving great successes with his work, Verdi became world renowned as the leading Italian opera composer.


taking copious notes and logged one of the highest attendances and voting records at that time in Italy’s parliamentary history. With his fame and success Verdi was able to be more selective over commissions offered to him. He wrote six new operas after La Traviata including the popular pieces Don Carlos in 1867 and Aida in 1871. The following years Verdi composed Otello (1887) and his last opera Falstaff (1893), both based on two Shakespeare plays (Othello and The Merry Wives of Windsor, respectively). They premiered with resounding success and became internationally popular. In 1894 he composed a ballet for Otello and his last composition was written in 1897. In 1901 at the age of eighty-seven Verdi had a stroke while in Milan and passed away a few days later. Orchestras and musicians came from every corner of Italy for his funeral in Milan. With 28,000 people lining the streets, his funeral remains the largest public assembly in Italy’s history. Verdi was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century writing 28 operas in all, and it is impossible not to find a work by Verdi being performed somewhere in the world as you are reading these words!

With his successes Verdi gained greater freedom in his artistry and spent more time away from the theatre and work. After ten years together he married the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi in 1859 and settled near Busseto. Verdi became involved in the political activity of the time as a member of the newly-formed national parliament and ultimately was appointed to the senate. He took his duties as a senator very seriously, 12

Librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni Ghislanzoni was born in 1824 in the town of Lecco, Italy. When he was young he briefly studied in a seminary and then medicine, but left to pursue his interest in music and writing. Inspired by the nationalist ideas of the unification of Italy he founded several newspapers in Milan during the late 1840s. His involvement in helping the new republic resulted in him being arrested and detained by the French. During the 1850s Ghislanzoni was an active journalist and editor among the bohemians of Milan. In 1869 he decided to return to his hometown and retire from journalism. He began writing libretti for operas and also wrote several short stories and novels. Among eighty-five libretti written, his best known work remains Aida.

made and later the underground catacomb of tombs with statues and tablets among other treasures. France funded Mariette’s continued research and he remained in Egypt to ship new discoveries to the Louvre. Egyptian authorities were not pleased, and the French agreed to divide findings equally with Egypt. While he worked briefly as an assistant conservator at the Louvre, he soon returned to Egypt to work for the Egyptian government as conservator under the Khedive Isma’il Pasha. During this time he made several ground-breaking discoveries and excavations including the Pyramid fields of Memphis, the catacombs of Meidum, Abydos, and Thebes, the Temples of Dendera and Edfu, and the Temple of the Sphinx. He also received funding to create Bula Museum in Cairo to house many of the antiquities and reduce the illicit trade of artifacts. Even though Mariette’s relationship with the Egyptian Khedive was not always stable, other rival country’s Egyptologists, such as those from Britain and Germany, were restricted from digging in Egypt. In 1869 the Khedive requested Mariette to write a short plot for an opera. The following year Camille du Locle, a French librettist and theatre director, worked the plot into a scenario, which was presented to Verdi to use in Aida. The scenery and costumes for the opera were inspired by Ancient Egypt and overseen by Mariette and Du Locle. While the premiere was scheduled for January 1871, it was delayed until December because of the Franco-Prussian War. Mariette who was responsible for the scenery and costumes was unable to leave Paris due to its siege. When Aida opened at the Khedival Opera House in Cairo it was met with great success and Mariette received several honours from Egyptian and European authorities.

Story by Auguste Mariette Mariette was born in 1821 in the northern city of Boulogne-sur-Mer in France. He was a talented draftsman, designer, teacher and writer of historical and archaeological topics. When his cousin passed away, Mariette organized his papers and was inspired by his work on Egyptology. He began studying hieroglyphics and the ancient Egyptian language Coptic, which led him to a minor appointment at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1849. In 1850, assigned by the French government, he made his first trip to Egypt with the goal of purchasing ancient manuscripts for the Louvre collection. With little success finding manuscripts, Mariette prolonged an embarrassing return to France by visiting temples and befriending a Bedouin tribe. The tribe led him to the site of the ancient Egyptian burial ground Saqqara, which at first Mariette believed to be merely mounds of sand. After noticing a sphinx, he assembled several workmen to begin the excavation. In 1851 the discovery of the reputed avenue of the sphinxes was 13

Glossary Arias: Meaning “air” in Italian. Arias are solos that accompany the orchestra, which allow a character to express their feelings and demonstrate their vocal talents.

Ensemble: A musical number sung by two or more people of different ranges. For example, duets, trios, quartets, quintets and sextets.

Soprano: Highest pitched female voice. Usually the female lead singer is written as this type of voice. There are 3 types: coloratura, dramatic, and lyric.

Baritone: A type of male voice that is lower than the tenor, but higher than the bass. Usually played by father figures or middle-aged children.

Gallery Years: the middle period of Verdi's career from 1842–1853 where he composed a series of sixteen demanding operas. Beginning with the premiere of Nabucco and ending shortly after La Traviata.

Sphinx: a mythical creature, often found in Greek mythology and Egyptian architecture, which is recognized by its human or cat-like head and lion body.

Bass: A type of male voice that is the lowest pitched. It is often played by wise and older characters.

Khedive: title used in Egypt until 1914 meaning 'lord' or 'ruler' in Persian.

Chorus: A large group of singers, often 40 or more, who appear on stage in a crowd scene. Sometimes the chorus comments on action or contrasts solos.

Librettist: Chooses a story, writes or adapts the words.

Composer: Writes the music. Contralto: A type of female voice that is the lowest pitched. Their voice is deep and well-rounded. Usually played by the maid, mother or grandmother. Coptic Egyptian: an Egyptian language spoken until the 17th Century. It is now considered extinct because there are no native speakers of the language.

Mezzo Soprano: A type of female voice that is lower than the soprano and higher than the contralto. Often played by the character of the young boy, a complex or evil character. Playwright: Someone who writes plays. Pharaoh: title meaning 'king' in Egypt during the New Kingdom, specifically in the middle of the 18th dynasty. Saqqara: an ancient burial site in Memphis, Egypt where several famous pyramids are located such as the Step Pyramid of Djoser.


Suez Canal: a man-made waterway in Egypt that connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas. It opened in 1869 and allows travel between Europe and Asia while bypassing Africa. Teatro all Scala: also known as La Scala – was meant to imply that it was 'the scale of measurement for the best singing in Italy. It is a renowned oepra house in Milan, Italy dating from 1778. Tenor: A type of male voice that is the highest pitched. It is often the leading role and they typically fall in love with Sopranos. Thebes: Ancient Egyptian city on the east bank of the Nile. Its ruins are located in the modern day city of Luxo, Egypt. It is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Activity 1: Listening Guide (1/6) Curriculum Connections Music:

Grades 4-6 Grades 7-9 Grades 10-12

Listening and Expression Valuing and Listening Theory: Elements and Structures

Activity This activity will encourage students to listen to musical clips from Aida and learn how to interpret and make an informed opinion about what they hear. Before listening, introduce the Synopsis, Characters and The Story Behind the Story to give context to the music. Listening Guide written by Stephan Bonfield

Track #

Musical Excerpt


Act 1, scene 1: Memphis: Radames - “Celeste Aida, forma divina” (“Heavenly Aida, divine form”)

Connection to the Story Radames, selected by the goddess Isis to command the armies against the Ethiopians, sings of his love for Aida.

Musical Elements of Significance

Strategies for Listening

This is a ‘romanza’ and is one of the most famous arias Verdi composed for the tenor voice. It is set in A-B-A form.

How does the aria show Radames dreams of love for Aida, despite the impossible situation the lovers find themselves in?

The middle section sounds a little more agitated as Radames resolves to show Aida the blue skies of her homeland once again.

He dreams of triumph in battle, of Pharaoh granting him the victory prize of his choice, which he would use to make his beloved Aida free.

The strings play numerous effects that remind the listener of the heavens, the sun, and other naturalistic comparisons Radames draws from nature to relate to his ‘heavenly’ Aida.


The ending of this aria is considered one of the most difficult in opera history. Why?

Listening Guide (2/6) Track #

Musical Excerpt

Connection to the Story

Musical Elements of Significance

Strategies for Listening


Act 1, scene 1: Trio - Amneris, Aida, Radames: “Dessa!”

Amneris observes Radames trying to conceal his glances toward Aida.Radames worries that Amneris may have discovered his love for Aida. Amneris suspects that Aida is, Radames’ love. Aida despairs that she will never see Radames or her homeland again.

In this trio, Verdi skillfully manages to show the separate emotions of the three singers by writing three very different lines, interweaving with one another. Here, Verdi wastes no time exposing the central plot vehicle - the love triangle, and its difficult situation for the lovers Radames and Aida.

How does Verdi use the music to show the more personal aspects of the opera?

A messenger announces Ethiopia's invasion of Egypt. With Thebes now under threat, Pharaoh declares war, and all cry out the words “Guerra, guerra” (“War, war”). Pharaoh announces that Radames will lead their troops into battle. Amneris is elated. Radames thanks the gods and is confident of victory, however Aïda is more fearful now than ever that she will lose Radames. Radames is led to the temple of Vulcan to be anointed as the chorus of priests and citizens sing "Su! del Nilo” (“Arise! From our sacred Nile”) invoking their gods to bring victory to Egypt. Amneris presents Radames with a staff that is blessed to ensure his victory, and all sing the final chorus “Ritorna vincitor” ("Return victorious”).

This is some of Verdi’s most stirring music. The architecture of the many choral pieces, interspersed with ensemble singing, is what makes this scene so famous. Here, Verdi shows how well he can depict so many emotions from different characters at the same time.

What is the effect of this scene? How does it illustrate the expectations of the characters on stage for what outcome they hope will occur after the battle against Ethiopia?


Act 1, scene 1: All - "Su! del Nilo” (“Arise! From our sacred Nile”)


Watch a video of this scene carefully. How does staging help to explain the plot and the dynamic between the characters? (i.e., potential rivalry between princess and slave, lover and beloved, secret lover and beloved).

Listening Guide (3/6)

Track #

Musical Excerpt

Connection to the Story

Musical Elements of Significance

Strategies for Listening


Act 1, scene 1: Aida: “Ritorna vincitor, L’insana parola” ("Return victorious, the insane words!”).

Aida chastises herself for repeating the victory cry of the Egyptians, against her native Ethiopia, but she is forced to do so under public pressure.

This is a multi-sectional arioso, depicting different and often contrasting emotions that highlight Aida’s confused emotional state.

Describe the central emotional conflict of each section within Aida’s arioso.

Act 1, scene 2: The Temple of Vulcan: Priests - “Possente Ftha:” (“Powerful Phta”)

Here, the Egyptian ritual is performed that consecrates Radames as sacred defender of Egypt.


Discuss how Verdi changes the music with each section. How does each section depict different states of Aida’s conflicted mind?

She laments her capture, her desperate situation, the fact that she is a princess to Ethiopia, and that should her father, King Amonasro, be victorious, it would mean the loss of her beloved Radames.

This is a complex tableau in grand French operatic style, featuring a high priestess, the high priest Ramfis, a chorus of priests and a ballet. This scene depicts the sacred rite for preparation of battle. The tableau concludes with the concertato “Nume, custode e vindice” (“Gods, guide and bring to victory”).


Describe the many musical and staging devices of the scene. What kinds of sounds does Verdi add to make the ritual seemingly sound authentically ancient Egyptian?

Listening Guide (4/6)

Track #

Musical Excerpt

Connection to the Story

Musical Elements of Significance

Strategies for Listening


Act 2, scene 1: In Amneris’ apartments: Amneris “Ah! vieni, vieni amor mio” ("Come, come my love"). – ballet – Amore, amore! – “Trema, vil’ schiava” (Tremble, vile slave”)

Amneris begins by singing of her love for Radames and his victory, and how she hopes he will soon be hers. When Aida enters, she renews her suspicions that her slave is her rival, and deceives her by telling Aida that Radames died in battle. When Aida is disconsolate, and Amneris reverses her earlier words, stating in fact that Radames lives, Aida is elated, and gives herself away by here reactions. Amneris tells her to “Trema, vil’ schiava” (Tremble, vile slave”) and that she is Aida’s rival for Radames.

The scene opens with Amneris’ slaves waiting on her, singing of their devotion to Amneris. The female chorus is punctuated by Amneris’ dreams of Radames, symbolized by her high note to begin each phrase. When Aida appears, the music sounds innocent enough, depicting Ameris’ pretense of sympathy for Aida’s situation. However, the music soon becomes tense as Amneris draws out Aida with each moment. Amneris sings in chromatic meanders, attempting to trap Aida so that she will reveal her love for Radames. Verdi beautifully illustrates Aida’s roller-coaster ride of emotion as she learns from Amneris that Radames first has died, but actually lives. Then Amneris unleashes her full wrath, declaring herself to be Aida’s rival. When offstage trumpets declare the triumphant return of the army, Amneris sings with them, while Aida answers in the mnor mode, in despair. Left alone, Aida sings for the gods to have mercy (“Numi pieta”).

What do you think of Amneris’ behavior in this scene? Can you explain Amneris’ behavior from two possible perspectives – hers and Aida’s? Make use of these two differing sides for your discussion.


How does the conflict between the two princesses represent what is stake for both Egypt (power of succession) and Ethiopia (freedom)?

Listening Guide (5/6)

Track #

Musical Excerpt

Connection to the Story

Musical Elements of Significance

Strategies for Listening


Act 2, scene 2: Thebes: All -“Gloria all’Egitto” (“Glory to Egypt”)

In this impressive finale to Act II, the victorious Egyptians hold a grand procession in front of the city gates, displaying the spoils of their triumphant battle. The prisoners are brought in, and beg for mercy. Radames asks for their release, the priests object, but Radames successfully convinces the king to let them go free. Amneris is presented to Radames as his bride-to-be. Dramatically, Verdi saves the introduction of Aida’s father for this moment, but it is not yet revealed to the Egyptians that he is, in fact, king of Ethiopia.

The finale to Act II is a grand concertato, and consists of a grand march, a ballet, a prayer for mercy by the Ethiopian prisoners, and a final reprise of the opening “Gloria all’Egitto,” in which all sing of their reactions to the new situation.

This scene is considered the grandest spectacle in the history of opera. How does Verdi use the music to enhance the magnificent staging?

Aida has arrived for a secret meeting with Radames, at which she hopes to compel Radames to run away with her. Amonasro plays upon Aida’s nationalistic feelings, and reminds her of the atrocities committed by the Egyptians on her people. He forces her to agree to extract Radames’ knowledge of the Egyptian armies’ location, so that king Amonasro and the Ethiopian army can mount another attack.

Aida is at her lowest, and most broken in this act. Not only is she suffering over the loss of Radames to her rival, but of her homeland too. This is evocatively demonstrated in her aria where she sings using a technique called coloratura, describing the scenic beauty of her country, with a sentimental and sympathetic oboe line to accompany her. Soon Amonasro arrives; the orchestral colour eventually darkens via gradual changes as he manipulates his daughter more to his own ends.


Act 3: Aida -“O patria mia!” (“Oh my country”).

This scene features some splendid instrumental moments, particularly the on-stage use of trumpet fanfares. Again, Verdi interweaves multiple thoughts occurring simultaneously among the characters on stage, all set against a stirring choral backdrop.

Do a web search of other productions. Have other productions used live animals? Can such a largescale finale be produced for a small stage?

Aida seems to be in an impossible situation at this point in the opera. Can you suggest another situation, personal, or historical, in which someone may have been in a similar situation, where it seems that no matter what decision one makes, it seems impossible to win? What do you think of how Amonasro manipulated his daughter to extract the secret route of the Egyptian army from Radames?


Listening Guide (6/6)

Track #

Musical Excerpt

Connection to the Story

Musical Elements of Significance

Strategies for Listening


Act 3: Banks of the Nile: Trio:Radames, Aida, Amonasro“Tu!... Amonasro! – io son disonorato!” (“You! Amonasro! I am dishonoured!”)

Radames has decided to flee all he has with Aida. When asked by which road they can escape, Radames accidentally reveals that their escape route will be safe because the Egyptian armies won't attack the Ethiopians there until dawn. Amonasro overhears this and announces he is the presumed-dead king of the Ethiopians and Aida's father. Radames realizes he has just betrayed his country. Amneris and Ramfis overheard Radames' betrayal as they exited the temple and now accuse him of treachery. The act ends at the highest tensionpoint in the opera when Amonasro tries to assassinate Princess Amneris but is prevented by Radames, who gives himself up to the priests. Radames is arrested and taken away for judgment.

The finale to Act II is a grand concertato, and consists of a grand march, a ballet, a prayer for mercy by the Ethiopian prisoners, and a final reprise of the opening “Gloria all’Egitto,” in which all sing of their reactions to the new situation. This scene features some splendid instrumental moments, particularly the on-stage use of trumpet fanfares. Again, Verdi interweaves multiple thoughts occurring simultaneously among the characters on stage, all set against a stirring choral backdrop.

How would you judge Radames’ conduct in this scene? What has he done wrong?

Radames’ tomb is sealed, and he believes he shall never see Aida again. However Aida suddenly appears; she has chosen to die with him. The lovers believe that their love for each other will immortalize them in heaven, and they will live in eternal bliss.

Radames and Aida sing one of the most poignant love duets in opera history. It is difficult to act this duet, given that the singers must depict the air supply running out in the sealed vault, and must make their actions seems as convincing as possible. Verdi writes some of his most tranquil and poignant music to depict this death scene: chanting from above, a lyrical and mildly angular melodic arch, as though the lovers are singing themselves to heaven, all covered with a shimmering harmonic glow in the orchestra.


Act 4, scene 2: The temple of Vulcan: a tomb below and temple above the vault: Radames and Aida are below, Amneris above. (“O terra addio”; "O earth, farewell").

Is Radames innocent or guilty of treason? How would you assess Aida’s actions and feelings in this act? In the next act, Radames doesn’t defend himself in front of the priests for his treachery. Why?

Above the tomb, Amneris prays her final words for Radames: “Pace t’imploro, pace t’imploro, pace, pace, pace!” (“I pray for peace, I pray for peace!”) 20

What do you think of how Verdi ended the opera? What do you think of the manner of death the composer and librettist chose for the lovers? Would you have ended the opera differently? If so, how?

Activity 2:

Activity 3:

Nationalism & Identity

Reader's Theatre

Curriculum Connections

Curriculum Connections

Social Studies

Grades 11–20–1

Understandings of Nationalism

Drama Grades 4–9

Develop role-playing skills and specific storytelling skills

Grades 10–12 Develop the ability to play a character from the character’s point of view

Student Objectives Students will explore the influence of nationalism on one’s identity and resulting personal


Grades 4–9

4.3 Present and Share

nationalism and its significance in the opera Aida.

Grades 10–12

5.2 Work within a group

Activity Divide your class into two groups and give each an opposing perspective from below: • Personal love versus love for your country • National goals versus personal gain

Student Objectives Students will demonstrate their understanding of the plot through performing a Reader’s Theatre of Aida. Allow students to read the Aida synopsis. As a class discuss the plot, characters, dilemmas, and resolution in the opera.

choices. Using the readings found in Your Guide to Aida discuss as a class the meaning of

Activity Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a part of the synopsis. Within each group designate characters and one narrator. Allow students time to practice their scene. Students will need to create their character's dialogue based on the assigned synopsis. After they have prepared, the narrator for the group will read their section as the other students act out the story. Groups will perform their part following the sequential order of Aida. If you have props or costumes incorporate them too!

Each group will discuss amongst themselves the different beliefs and values from their given perspective. Encourage students to create a list and also think about possible rebuttals from the other group. Use the following questions to prompt discussion if needed. Questions for Discussion What does it means for Radamès to betray his country? What pressures does Aida face from her father Amonsasro? What influence do the gods have on the identities of Aida and Radamès? If Aida and Radamès lived in modern Canadian society, how would society’s view of them change? How does nationalism influence current Canadian society? What role do you think the nation should play in the foundation of personal identity? In what ways does multiculturalism influence our national identity? In what ways is our national Canadian identity reflected through culture and the arts? *Read Europe at the Time of Aida to learn about how Verdi expressed nationalism through the arts! 21

Activity 4:


Poster Creation Curriculum Connections

OCT 2012

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Grades 5-6

Component 7: Composition, Component 10: Expression

Grades 7-9

Drawing and Composition

Grades 10-12

Drawing and Composition

Activity When creating a poster for an opera there are many things to consider. It is important to keep in mind the Director’s vision for the production and allow ample time for research through different resources such as online, literature, listening to the music, and watching other productions.


When creating an image to represent an opera you must consider the time period, setting, themes, characters, and plot. Our designer must also keep in mind our audience that we are trying to appeal to and what types of medium’s we will use to reach them. After researching, it is important to sketch and brainstorm your ideas. It can be helpful to make a collage or mood board of different visuals and ideas that you would like to incorporate into the final image. Other important factors include the hierarchy of information (what is the most important information and how will you show that importance – size of type, colour, location, etc), typography, colour (contrast, significance of colour), composition (placement, size and shape), and form among others.

aida VERDI

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How would you illustrate Aida? Is your image a literal or symbolic portrayal? Using the synopsis, Message from the Director, and The Story Behind the Story create a poster using what you feel represents Aida the strongest. Edmonton Opera loves hearing from students! Send student posters to and they may be posted on our website!


Activity 5:

Activity 6

Facebook Character Development

Opera Notes

Curriculum Connections

Curriculum Connections


Grade 4–6

2.2 Respond to Texts

Music Grades 1-9


Grade 7–9

1.2 Clarify and Extend

Music Grades 10-12

Theoretical/Practical and Interpretation and Synthesis

Grade 10–12

2.1.2 Understand and Interpret Content


Grades 4-9

2.2 Respond to Texts, 3.4 Share and Review

Grades 10-12

1.1 Discover possibilities, 2.3 Respond to a Variety

Activity Students will explore and develop different characters in Aida by creating a Facebook profile. Discuss the characters as a class, talking about their importance and roles. Group students into small groups and assign one of the following characters: Aida, Radamès, Amneris, Amonasro, Ramfis, and Pharaoh.

of Print and Nonprint Texts

Activity Students are encouraged to record their opinions during intermission and postshow using Opera Notes. This publication includes a synopsis, and cast information for students to take home!

Encourage students to develop a profile for their assigned character including: interests, education, work, philosophy, arts, sports, likes, and other activities.

Edmonton Opera will have complementary printed copies available for students attending the dress rehearsal.

Write three status updates that your character would write based on the storyline and events in Aida. Allow students to share their character insight amongst small groups followed by a classroom discussion. Questions for Discussion What groups is your character involved in? What types of friends do they have?





See you at

What types of goals does your character have? Do they face any obstacles in achieving these goals?



Were you able to relate to your character? Can you understand why your character made the decisions that they did? Verdi’s Aida first premiered in 1871; do you think the characters are still relevant today?


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aida VERD I

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Your Guide to Aida  
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