Aida by Antonio Ghislanzoni, music by Giuseppe Verdi, edited with an introduction by W.J. Henderson (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1911). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2218,
A side-by-side Italian and English edition of the libretto. Famously first performed in Egypt in 1871, Aida, an Ethiopian princess, has been enslaved in Egypt. Her father has invaded Egypt in order to free her but he is defeated. A love triangle develops between Aida, a young warrior Rhadames, and Amneris, the Egyptian king’s daughter. Aida and the persecuted Rhadames choose death together rather than be separated.
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Aida, an Ethiopian Slave.
Amneris, Daughter of the King of Egypt.
Rhadames, Captain of the Egyptian Guards.
Amonasro, King of Ethiopia (Aïda’s Father).
Ramphis, High Priest of Isis.
King of Egypt.
Priests, Priestesses, Ministers, Captains, Soldiers, Functionaries, Slaves, and Ethiopian Prisoners, Egyptian People, &c., &c.
The action takes place at Memphis and at Thebes during the reign of the Pharaohs.
Sala nel palazzo del Re a Menfi.—A destra e a sinistra una colonnata con statue e arbusti in fiori.—Grande porta nel fondo, da cui appariscono i tempii, i palazzi di Menfi e le Piramidi.
Il Re, preceduto dalle sue guardie e seguito da Ramfis, da Ministri, Sacerdoti, Capitani, ecc., ecc.—Un Ufficiale di Palazzo, indi un Messaggiero.
Interno del tempio di Vulcano a Menfi.—Una luce misteriosa scende dall’alto.—Una lunga fila di colonne, l’una all’altra addossate, si perde fra le tenebre.—Statue di varie divinità.—Nel mezzo della scena, sovra un palco coperto da tappeti sorge l’altare sormontato da emblemi sacri.—Dai tripodi d’oro si innalza il fumo degli incensi.
Sacerdoti e Sacerdotesse.—Ramfis ai piedi dell’altare.—A suo tempo, Radamès.—Si sente dall’interno il canto delle Sacerdotesse accompagnato dalle arpe.
Una sala nell’appartamento di Amneris.
Amneris circondata dalle schiave che l’abbigliano per la festa trionfale.—Dai tripodi si eleva il profumo degli aromi.—Giovani schiavi mori danzando agitano i ventagli di piume.
Uno degli ingressi della città di Tebe.—Sul davanti un gruppo di palme.—A destra il tempio di Ammone; a sinistra un trono sormontato da un baldacchino di porpora; nel fondo una porta trionfale.—La scena è ingombra di popolo.
Entra il Re seguito dai Ministri, Sacerdoti, Capitani, Flabelliferi, Porta-insegne, ecc., ecc. Quindi, Amneris con Aïda e Schiave.—Il Re va a sedere sul trono.—Amneris prende posto alla sinistra del Re.
Le rive del Nilo.—Roccie di granito fra cui crescono dei palmizii.—Sul vertice delle roccie il tempio d’Iside per metà nascosto tra le fronde.—E notte stellata.—Splendore di luna.
(Amneris dal tempio, indi Ramfis, Sacerdoti, Guardie e detti.)
Sala nel palazzo del Re.—Alla sinistra, una gran porta che mette alla sala sotterranea delle sentenze.—Andito a destra che conduce alla prigione di Radamès.—Amneris mestamente atteggiata davanti la porta del sotterraneo.
(Condotto dalle guardie.)
La scena è divisa in due piani.—Il piano superiore rappresenta l’interno del tempio di Vulcano splendente di oro e di luce; il piano inferiore un sotterraneo.—Lunghe file d’arcate si perdono nell’oscurità.—Statue colossali d’Osiride colle mani incrociate sostengono i pilastri della volta.
Radamès è nel sotterraneo sui gradini della scala per cui è disceso.—Al di sopra, due Sacerdoti intenti a chiudere la pietra del sotterraneo.
A hall in the King’s palace at Memphis. To the right and left a colonnade with statues and flowers in blossom.—At the back a high gateway through which may be seen the temples and palaces of Memphis and the Pyramids.
Yes, the story goes that the Ethiopian once more ventures to threaten our power in the valley of the Nile as well as at Thebes. I shall soon learn the truth from a messenger.
Hast thou consulted the mysteries of Isis?
She has declared who shall be commander of all the Egyptian hosts.
Oh, happy man!
(With a meaning look at Radames.)
Young is he in years, and fearless. I go to bear the goddess’ bidding to the King.
What if I am chosen! Be now my dream accomplished! I, the chosen leader of a mighty army! Mine, the victory! Mine the acclaim of all Memphis! To thee, returning, my sweet Aïda, crowned with laurel! To tell thee, that for thee I fought, for thee I conquered!
In thy face I see a joy unwonted! What noble fury glistens in thine eye! Ah me! How worthy of envy would be the woman whose loved presence could awaken such a glow of rapture in thy soul!
A dream of wild ambition in my heart’s heart I cherished. To-day has the goddess told his name who shall lead the Egyptian host to battle,—what if I were chosen for this distinguished honour!
Has not another dream, and one more gentle, more alluring, spoken to thy heart? Hast thou not in Memphis something more earnestly desired and hoped for?
(Catching sight of Aida.)
The King enters, preceded by his Guards and followed by Ramphis, Ministers of State, Priests, Captains, etc., etc.—An officer of the Palace, and later, a Messenger.
Mighty the cause that summons you, O faithful sons of Egypt, round your King. From the land of Ethiopia a messenger has this moment reached us, bringing news of gravest import. Be pleased to hear him.
The sacred soil of Egypt is invaded by the barbarous Ethiop. Our fields are ravaged and the Edition: current; Page: [] crops are burned. Emboldened by this easy victory, the plunderers are e’en now marching upon Thebes.
A warrior indomitable, fierce, conducts them—Amonasro.
All Thebes is up in arms and, from her hundred gates, will pour on the invader her answer of war and carnage.
Yes, war and carnage be our cry henceforward.
Isis, most holy, has already appointed the supreme leader of all our dauntless hosts—Rhadames.
I thank you, O ye Gods! My dearest wish is won.
Now to Vulcan’s temple let us go, O warrior, there to gird thee with thy sacred armour and then to victory speed.Edition: current; Page: []
Returned victorious! Can my lips pronounce the impious word! Victorious o’er my father, o’er him who leads an army for me—that I may be restored to a country, a kingdom, and an illustrious name Edition: current; Page: [] that now I’m forced to hide! Victorious o’er my brothers! E’en now I see him stained with their dear blood, amid the roaring triumph of the Egyptian host! And behind his chariot a King—my father—bound with chains!
Interior of the temple of Vulcan at Memphis. A mysterious light shining from above. A long row of columns, one behind the other, vanishing in the distance.—Statues of various Divinities. In the middle of the stage, above a platform Edition: current; Page: [] carpeted with rich stuffs, rises the altar surmounted by the sacred emblems.—Golden tripods on which incense is burning.
Priests and Priestesses.—Ramphis at the foot of the altar.—Later Rhadames.—From within is heard the singing of the Priestesses accompanied by a harp.
Mortal, beloved of the gods, to thee is confided the destiny of Egypt. The sacred sword, divinely tempered, is placed in thy hands, to bring upon the enemy terror and ruin and death.
A hall in the apartments of Amneris.—Amneris surrounded by slave-girls, who are adorning her for the triumphal feast.—From the tripods perfumed incense is rising.—Moorish slave-boys dance and wave feather-fans.
Silence! Aïda is coming toward me—a daughter of the conquered race, to me her grief is sacred.
[At a sign from Amneris all the slaves retire.]
Seeing her again, the dreadful doubt awakens in my heart! At last I’ll wrest her fatal secret from her!
(To Aïda, with pretended affection.)
The chances of battle have proved disastrous to thee, my poor Aïda! Be sure that I divide with thee the sorrow that weighs down thy heart. I am thy friend—ask what thou wilt of me, I would make thee happy!
How can I be happy, far from my native land and ignorant of the fate of my father and brothers!
I feel with thee deeply; and yet there is a limit to all sorrow here below. Time will cure the anguish of thy heart. And there is a powerful God, greater than time—Love.
What meanest thou?
Wretch, to say so!
Yes, Rhadames by thy tribe is slaughtered—And thou mourn’st him?
Forever I shall mourn!
The gods have avenged thee.
Forever hostile to me have been the gods—
(Bursting forth with rage.)
Ah! Tremble! In thy heart of hearts thou lovest him—
Away with seeming! A little word and I shall know the truth. Look on my face—I told thee falsely—Rhadames lives.
(Kneeling in ecstasy.)
He lives! The gods be praised!
Dost thou hope still to deceive me! Yes, thou lovest him—but I love him (with the utmost Edition: current; Page: [] fury)—even I—dost thou hear me? Thy rival is a daughter of the Pharaohs!
(Drawing herself up with pride.)
My rival! If ’twere true—even I—
(Checking herself and falling at Amneris’ feet.)
Entrance gate to the city of Thebes.—In front a cluster of palms.—To the right a temple of Ammon; to the left a throne with a purple canopy above; at the back a triumphal arch.—The stage is crowded with people.
Enter the King, followed by Ministers, Priests, Captains, Fan-bearers, Standard-bearers, etc., etc.—After them, Amneris with Aida and Slaves.—The King takes his seat upon the throne.—Amneris places herself on the King’s left.
(Descends from the throne to embrace Rhadames.)
Saviour of thy country, I salute thee. Come, and my daughter, with her own hand, shall give thee the crown of triumph.
[Rhadames bows before Amneris, who gives him the crown.]
Ask what thou wilt and freely will I grant it. Naught shall be denied thee on such a day as this. I swear it by my crown and by the holy gods.
First deign to order that the captives be brought before thee.
[Enter the Ethiopian captives surrounded by a guard. Amonasro last, in the dress of simple officer.]
Whom see I! Is he here? My father?
And in our power!
(Embracing her father.)
Thou! A prisoner!
(Aside to Aïda.)
Betray me not!
Approach thou—so then—thou art—?
(To the King.)
O King, by the holy gods and by the splendor of thy crown, thou didst swear to give me whatever I might ask.
I swore it.
Even so: I pray that thou grant life and liberty to these Ethiopian captives.
All of them!
Death to Egypt’s enemies!
Mercy for the wretched!
Hear me, O King;
And thou, too, youthful hero, the voice of prudence hear:
With Amonasro, their warrior king slain, all hope of vengeance is lost.
At least, we should detain Aïda’s father, as a hostage to peace and safety. Set all the others free.
I yield to thy advice. Yet now a surer bond of peace and safety will I give you. Rhadames, thy Edition: current; Page: [] country owes thee all. The hand of Amneris, my daughter, shall be thy reward. Sovereign of Egypt shalt thou reign with her hereafter.
Now, now, let the slave-girl rob me of my love—she dare not!
The banks of the Nile—Granite hills covered with palm trees.—On the summit a temple of Isis, half hidden by the foliage.—Night full of stars and the splendor of the moon.
Come to the temple of Isis, on the eve before thy marriage, and pray for the goddess’s favor. To Isis are all hearts open. To her thy inmost thoughts are known.
Yes, and I will pray that Rhadames may give me all his heart, as my heart to him has e’er been wholly given.
Pray thou until dawn. I shall be near thee.
[All enter the temple.—The chorus repeat their hymn.]
Heavens! My father!
The weightiest reasons have brought me to thy side, Aïda. Naught escapes my eye. For love of Rhadames thou art dying. He loves thee, thou awaitest him. A daughter of the Pharaohs is thy rival.
O race accursed, abhorred and fatal to us! And I am in her power! I, Amonasro’s daughter!
In her power! No! If thou wishest, thou shalt conquer thy powerful rival; and country and throne and love, all shall be thine. Thou shalt see again our balmy forests, our verdant vales, our temples built of gold!
I shall see again our balmy forests, our verdant vales, our temples built of gold!
Go, misbegotten, thou art not my daughter. Thou art the Pharaohs’ slave.
Not love thee! Ne’er god nor mortal burned with such devouring passion.
In vain, thou sayest? Then fall the axe on me and on my father!
Nay, tell me by what path we may avoid their rising army?
By the path that we have chosen to fall upon the Ethiopians. It will be deserted until morning.
And what path is that?
The passes of Napata!
The passes of Napata! There I’ll post my troops.
Oh! Who has overheard us?
Aïda’s father, Ethiopia’s King.
(In great surprise.)
Thou! Amonasro! Thou, the King! Heavens! What sayest thou? No! ’Tis false! I dream, I rave in madness!
For thee I have betrayed my country, lost my honor!
(Enter Amneris from the temple, then Ramphis, priests, guards, as above.)
(Rushing toward Amneris with a dagger.)
Thou comest to mar my plans! Die, then!
Nay, strike not, madman!
Guards, advance there!
(To Aïda and Amonasro.)
This instant! Fly!
(Dragging Aida away.)
Come thou, my daughter!
(To the guards.)
Quickly! Follow them!
Holy priest, to thee I yield.
A hall in the King’s palace.—On the left, a great gate leading to a subterranean hall of justice.—A passage on the right leading to Rhadames’ prison.—Amneris, crouching sorrowfully before the great gate.
My hated rival has escaped me, and from the priests Rhadames is awaiting a traitor’s doom. Yet traitor he is none. Though he disclosed a weighty secret of war—he meant to fly—to fly with her. Traitors are they all! To death! To death! Oh, what have I said? I love him, I love him still. Yes, desperate, mad is this love that is eating out my heart. Oh, if he could only love me! Fain would I save him! But how? I’ll try it! Guards, Rhadames bring hither.
(Led in by guards.)
For her, I have staked my country and my honour!
No more of her!
I, the cause of her death! No, Aïda lives.
They were beaten and fled in wild confusion. Her father perished.
Life’s thread thou wouldst sever?
Ready for death am I.
(Falling disconsolate upon a seat.)
Ah, me! I feel death approaching. Oh, who will save him? Now he is in their power and I have sealed his fate! Oh, how I curse thee, outrageous jealousy, that hast doomed him to death and me to endless sorrow!
[She turns and sees the priests, who cross the stage to enter the subterranean chamber.]
What do I see? There come the fatal, inexorable ministers of death—let me not look upon those white-robed spectres!
[She covers her face with her hands.]
Rhadames, Rhadames: thou hast betrayed the secrets of thy country to the enemy.
He is silent.
Rhadames, Rhadames: thou wast absent from the camp the day before the battle!
He is silent.
Rhadames, Rhadames: thou hast been false to country, king and honour.
He is silent.
He is a traitor. Let him die!
He is a traitor. Let him die!
The stage is divided into two floors.—The upper floor represents the temple of Vulcan resplendent with gold and light; the lower floor is a vault.—Long arcades vanishing in the gloom.—Colossal statues of Osiris, with crossed hands, support the pillars of the vault.
Rhadames is discovered at the foot of the steps by which he has descended into the vault.—Above two priests are letting down the stone that closes it.
Thou—in this tomb!
That sad chanting!
’Tis the sacred dance of the priesthood.
And our death chant sounding!