ACT ONE – Scene I – A room in the Royal Palace in Memphis. Radamès, the Captain of the Guards, learns from Ramfis, the head of the High Priests, that the Ethiopians are threatening war and that the Goddess Isis has already decided on the name of the Egyptian supreme commander who will lead the Egyptian army in confronting the enemy. Radamès is overjoyed at the news and hopes he will be chosen. He imagines a glorious victory where he is able to return triumphantly to free his beloved Aida, slave of Amneris, the Egyptian King’s daughter. Amneris appears and he tells her of his hopes, with no mention of his feelings for Aida, although Amneris has her suspicions. Shortly after, Aida herself approaches and Amneris sees in her eyes the love she bears for Radamès. She swears vengeance because she too is in love with the young captain of the guards. In the meantime the King enters preceded by his guards and followed by priests led by Ramfis. A messenger enters bearing the news that the Ethiopians have invaded Egypt and are marching against Thebes, led by the mighty warrior Amonasro. The King announces that Isis has appointed Radamès supreme commander. The crowd cries out in homage to him, while Amneris punctuates the choral song with a languorous appeal for her warrior to return in victory. Only Aida is sad since the victory of Radamès, whom she loves, must mean the defeat of her father, the King of Ethiopia, who has taken up arms to free her from slavery. In this moment of distress, she calls upon the gods to have pity on her.
Scene II - Inside the temple of Vulcan in Memphis. The priests and priestesses sing a hymn to the gods. Radamès enters dressed for battle, receives the sacred sword and is consecrated to Fthà to protect him in war and to direct him towards victory.
ACT TWO - Scene I – A room in Amneris’ private apartments. The King’s daughter is surrounded by her slaves who are dressing her for the triumphal Egypitan festivities, while young Moorish slaves perform a dance. When Aida appears, Amneris hides her true feelings and sympathizes with her for the fate of her people, defeated in the battle. Then, to discover whether Aida is, in fact, in love with Radamès, she tells her that he has been killed in the battle. Aida is stricken with grief; Amneris confirms her suspicions and filled with rage, reveals the truth. Radamès is alive and she, Amneris, loves him too. At first Aida proudly declares her love, but then begs in vain for pity. Amneris threatens her, reminding her that she is only a slave and cannot hope to compete with a daughter of the Pharaohs. At this point, Aida is about to reveal her royal identity but decides against it. Scene II At the city walls in Thebes The population celebrates the victory, while the King and Amneris, together with Aida and other slaves, the ministers and priests, await Radamès to celebrate his triumph. A column of soldiers and prisoners arrives, with Radamès at its head. The King welcomes him and asks him what he would like as a reward. Radamès has the prisoners brought before the King. Among them Aida recognizes her father Amonasro and succeeds in speaking to him briefly. He commands her not to betray him, and, without revealing his true identity, both Aida and her father beg for his mercy. Radamès also pleads that all the prisoners be freed, but the high priest objects and proposes that at least Aida and her father be held in Egypt, as a guarantee of peace. The king approves this suggestion and announces that he intends to reward Radamès by bestowing the hand of Amneris upon him. While the crowd cheers, Radamès and Aida secretly express their sorrow.
ACT THREE – Night on the banks of the Nile. At the temple of Isis Ramfis leads Amneris to the temple to receive the goddess’ blessing on the eve of her wedding. Concealed nearby, Aida awaits Radamès for their secret encounter, but while she is waiting Amonasro appears. He has discovered the emotions Aida and Radamès feel for each other. He reminds Aida of the beauties of her native land, and the cruelty of their enemies and urges her to persuade Radamès to reveal the route the Egyptian forces will use to invade Ethiopia. Aida is horrified at his suggestion. Then Radamès approaches and Amonasro conceals himself. Aida proposes to Radamès that they flee from Egypt, following some secret route unguarded by the Egyptian forces. Radamès agrees and then Aida questions him on the route his army will take into Ethiopia. Radamès mentions the gorges of Napata and at that moment Amonasro reappears and reveals his true identity. Radamès is horror-stricken, for he realizes that he has revealed a military secret and is dishonoured. At this point Amneris arrives from the temple and cries out at the betrayal. Amonasro seeks to kill her but Radamès prevents him, and surrendering his sword to Ramfis, allows himself to be taken prisoner. Amonasro escapes with Aida.
ACT FOUR – Scene I – A room in the King’s Palace. Amneris is torn between rage, sorrow and love. She wants to save Radamès and has him brought before her. She asks him to plead not guilty before the High Priests to his conviction of being a traitor. In this way she can help him. He refuses. To convince him, Amneris has him believe that Aida is dead along with her father Amonasro. This does not dissuade him as now life holds nothing more for him. Finally, Amneris reveals that Aida is, in fact, still alive. This revelation precipitates rejoicing by Radamès that he can now die to protect his beloved. However, Amneris declares that she will implore the King to pardon him if only he will renounce his love for Aida. He repeatedly refuses. He is consequently taken back to the dungeon and sentenced to be buried alive under the altar in the temple of Vulcan. Amneris bitterly deplores the cruelty of the priests and their punishment. Scene II In the Temple of Vulcan in Radamès’ tomb. Radamès is ready to die and prays that Aida will be able to find happiness one day: but Aida is concealed in the chamber and comes forward to embrace him. Radamès laments Aida’s harsh fate, and vainly tries to dislodge the stone that seals the tomb. But Aida consoles him with the certainty that the ”angel of death” will unite them forever and appears to be already speeding to a celestial haven. While the two lovers bid farewell to the Earth, Amneris clothed in mourning robes, prostrates herself on the stone covering the entrance to the vault and beseeches the gods to grant peace to the man buried below.
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