Opera – Aida
Isma’il Pasha, Khedive of Egypt, commissioned Verdi to write the opera for performance in January 1871, paying him 150,000 francs, but the premiere was delayed because of the Franco-Prussian War. One scholar has argued that the scenario was written by Temistocle Solera and not by Auguste Mariette.Metastasio’s libretto Nitteti (1756) was a major source of the plot. Contrary to popular belief, the opera was not written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, nor that of the Khedivial Opera House (which opened with Verdi’s Rigoletto) in the same year. (Verdi had been asked to compose an ode for the opening of the Canal, but declined on the grounds that he did not write “occasional pieces”.)
Aida met with great acclaim when it finally opened in Cairo on 24 December 1871. The costumes, accessories and stages for the premiere were designed by Auguste Mariette. Although Verdi did not attend the premiere in Cairo, he was most dissatisfied with the fact that the audience consisted of invited dignitaries, politicians and critics, but no members of the general public. He therefore considered the Italian (and European) premiere, held at La Scala, Milan on 8 February 1872, and in which he was heavily involved at every stage, to be its real premiere.