Verdi - Aida

It’s fair to say that Verdi was playing hard to get when it came to his grand opera Aida. He was being pursued seemingly constantly by Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, to write for various state events, the opening of the Suez Canal being one of them.

When the Cairo Opera House was being unveiled in 1869, Verdi finally agreed to compose something. Even then, he asked for a phenomenal fee, almost as if trying to price himself out of the market. Fee agreed, though, he set about working on an opera with a specially commissioned Egyptian archaeology theme. Sadly, the Franco-Prussian war displaced the best-laid plans; costumes and sets got stuck in Paris. In the end, Cairo opened with Verdi’s Rigoletto, which was by then eighteen years old.

Aida made it to Cairo only in 1871, nearly two years late. Sadly, a century later almost to the day, the Khedival Opera House, as it was known, was completely destroyed by fire. A new opera house opened in 1988, the funds a gift from the people of Japan.