In the Act II, the Egyptian army lead by Radames, march triumphantly into the grand gate of the city of Thebes on its return following their victory over the Ethiopians. Musicians playing long trumpets lead the Egyptian troops into the city. Dancers follow, waving palms and banners, and the crowd of Egyptian women sing in chorus:
“Dance, sons of Egypt, circling round,
And sing your mystic praises,
As round the sun in mazes
Dance the bright stars of night.”
More troops enter, bringing with them slaves bearing gifts for the gods, and Radames appears in a golden chariot. At the height of the celebration, he meets the Pharaoh, who steps down from his throne to embrace him.
Aida is one of Verdi's best known and best loved operas. It encompasses all of Verdi's main signatures – human drama; conflict; subtle and effective use of music; and of course a dramatic ending. It is based on a love story that took place in the Egyptian Pharaonic era, found in Papyrus and re-written by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette.
Aida, an Arabic female name meaning "visitor" or "returning", shows how love can be forbidden when she gets stuck between her love for the Egyptian leader Radames and between her love for her father and country, Ethiopia. Through a portrait of brutal war between love and duty, Verdi explores the different aspects of a work in which individuals’ destinies are being shaped. Studying Egypt’s history, music and geography, Verdi composed varied Egyptian melodies harmonically. The composer had developed an extraordinarily clever ear for orchestral effects and theatrical atmosphere.
The opera revolves around its main character, Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is captured and made into a slave in Egypt during the war between the countries. But Aida and the Egyptian military commander Radames find that they have come together and fallen in love.
Radames, is also adored by Amneris, the daughter of the Egyptian king. However, the feeling is not a mutual one, and Amneris even suspects that this is the case. Suspecting Aida, she tricks the Ethiopian princess into declaring her true feelings after falsely claiming that Radames has died in combat.
After Radames returns successful from battle as a hero, the king says that he can have anything he wishes. However, his request for the release of Aida and her father the Ethiopian king Amonasro , now hostages, is denied. Instead, the Egyptian king proclaims that Radames will be wed to his daughter Amneris and will be a successor to the throne.
Aida and Radames plan to run away together so they can be happily married without the pressures of their countries, but are caught together. Separated, Radames believes that Aida has fled to her country, while he is imprisoned as a traitor of the country.
Having reported Radames for his plans to flee with Aida, Amneris now feels remorse at causing his imprisonment. But this remorse is mixed with her resentment towards Aida and the fact that Radames was willing to give up everything for her. She asks Radames to appear before her and tells him that, if he renounces Aida, she will save him from the judgement of the priests and death sentence. Radames says that his conscience is clear and that he would never renounce his love of Aida. This sends Amneris into a fury and she tells him that no one but she can save him. Still, Radames refuses to submit to her demand and is willing to go to his death.
The final scene gives this opera its overwhelming originality. Radames is in the tomb where he has been buried alive. He thinks about the fact that he will never see Aida again when she suddenly appears. Knowing that he would be sentenced to death in there, she has snuck into the tomb and been waiting for him so they can die together. He is horrified at first but the two of them bid farewell to the world together.
As the two bid farewell to the world, the music is heavenly as well as euphoric, suggesting that the two will meet again in heaven. The music becomes a trio in the final moments when Amneris joins in with her prayers. Her music has a peaceful tone as she prays for Radames, she wishes him “pace” (peace), and repeats the word as the opera ends in a murmur, “pace”…..