ACT I, scene 1

In ancient Egypt in a room in the Royal Palace in Memphis

Radames hopes that he will be the choice as commander of the Egyptian army in a war against the advancing Ethiopians. In his only solo aria in the opera, he sings of his love for the "Heavenly Aida" ('Celeste Aida').
Aida is the Ethiopian slave who fell into the hands of the Egyptians after a recent victory. It will be revealed later that she is the daughter of the Ethiopian king. Radames loves only Aida, but two daughters of kings love him--a love triangle. One of those, Aida, has become the slave of the other, Amneris. Amneris will experience tremendous jealousy and Aida will experience a conflict of emotions over her love for Radames and her love of family and country.
Royal Opera House performance

The opera is appropriately titled "Aida" because it is really her story that drives the action. There is a hero who becomes a traitor to his nation, there is a princess who does everything to win his love, and there are festive scenes and ritual dances, but AIDA...her emotional journey and final decision are highlights of the opera.

Metropolitan Opera performance
"I sacri nomi di padre"
comes at the end of the first scene.

The scared names father, of lover,
I cannot utter or remember,
For the one, the other,
Confused, trembling, I want to weep,
I want to pray...fatal love, terrible love
Break my heart, make me die
Gods have pity on my suffering.

ACT I, scene 2

Inside the temple of Vulcan in Memphis

The priests gather before Radames is brought into the temple for the solemn rites, including sacred dance and great atmospheric music. By the end of the scene, he is filled with pride and prepared for battle--the battle takes place out of sight between Act I and Act II.

Tim Cordell: 6 October 2013