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Theatre / Aida (John/Rice)

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"This is a story of a love that flourished in a time of hate
Of lovers no tyranny could separate"
- Amneris, "Every Story is a Love Story."

Aida is a musical based on Verdi's opera of the same name, with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice. It premiered on Broadway in 2000, garnering five Tony Award nominations, of which it won all but one, including Best Original Score and Best Actress in a Musical (Heather Headley as Aida).

The title character, Aida, is the Princess of Nubia. Her country has been invaded by the neighboring Egyptians, and their captain, Radames, captures her with a group of women, and not recognizing her, brings them back to Egypt. Aida becomes a slave to Egyptian Princess Amneris, who is betrothed to Radames. Another slave in the palace, Mereb, recognizes Aida and reveals her to the other captives, who beg her to lead them to freedom. Aida tries to deal with her feelings for Radames when she hears her father has been captured.


Rumours of it being filmed by Disney circulated in 2007, with Beyonce Knowles as Aida and Christina Aguilera as Amneris, but nothing more has ever been announced. Since the film was supposed to release in 2010 and hasn't started production, it's likely that it got swallowed up in Development Hell.

As for the opera it's based on, the story is slightly different: Radames, an officer in the Egyptian army, wants to become the commander of the invasion of Nubia, so that he may request to marry his beloved Aida, a slave of the pharaoh's daughter Amneris. He doesn't know that Amneris is in love with him, or that Aida is the daughter of the Nubian king. Suspecting something between them, Amneris deceives Aida into revealing her love for Radames by claiming he died in the campaign against Nubia. Radames gets his wish and defeats Nubia, bringing in many hostages, including Aida's father. Seeing Aida's anguish, Radames uses up his one wish from the pharaoh to free the Nubian slaves instead of asking for Aida's hand, and the pharaoh publicly engages him to Amneris.


While attempting to meet Radames at a temple before the wedding proceeds, Aida is blackmailed by her father to get Radames to reveal where the Egyptian army will be passing through on its way to defeat the rebelling Nubians. Aida convinces Radames to run away with her and he tells her the secret of the army's route. Aida's father chooses that moment to spring out of the bushes, announce that that's where they'll attack the Egyptians and reveal to Radames exactly who he is. Horrified, Radames refuses the chance to rule Nubia with Aida and surrenders to Amneris and the priests, who catch him as Aida and her father flee. He is condemned to be Buried Alive, but Aida sneaks into his tomb before it gets sealed, since she cannot choose between her love and her homeland. The curtain falls as she dies.

This work includes examples of:

  • Action Girl: Aida herself has a lot of backbone and subdues a guard in an early scene. That said, the story isn't very action-oriented, so this aspect isn't very prominent. It's still nice to see, though.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Amneris is more sympathetic and less of a Clingy Jealous Girl than in the original opera.
  • Anachronism Stew: During a war planning scene, the city Khartoum is mentioned. Khartoum was not founded until 1821.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: While the racial difference isn't mentioned often, it's brought up enough for the audience to know that this is the major reason why Aida and Radames relationship is forbidden.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Nubian King escapes, at the cost of Mereb's life. Zoser is captured as a traitor, but so are Aida and Radames. A heartbroken Amneris, realizing she will soon lose everyone she has ever loved, allows Aida and Radames to be buried in the same tomb. The two die but Amneris learns from them and becomes a great and peaceful Pharaoh. Centuries later the reincarnations of Aida and Radames meet in a museum, as the spirit of Amneris looks on.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Aida and Radames suspect they may be this in "Written in the Stars".
  • Darker and Edgier: Than most Disney musicals. Hotter and Sexier too—the sight of a clearly post-coital Aida and Radames can be quite shocking.
  • Disneyfication: The one who suffers most from this is Amneris. In the opera, she's a Clingy Jealous Girl who is rather ruthless to her rival in love, and they were only engaged initially because Radames had no other choice.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The imprisoned and chained Aida is alone in a room with her captor. He says "You know what happens next" as he takes off his shirt... he then orders her to wash his back.
    • A later scene (before they admit their love for each other) has them arguing and him demanding that she respect him. She snaps that he can't command her to show him affection, and he responds by outright telling her "I could have your 'affection' right here if I commanded it."
    • Plus, Aida' s slave status (and the way it happened, with her and her companions being abducted) and their racial difference seems eerily—and perhaps deliberately—reminiscent of slave days in the US.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Downplayed — Zoser's voice is most definitely not "deep," but he's still the lowest voiced of the male cast (being a bari-tenor as opposed to Radames' and Mereb's firm Tenor Boy-ness).
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Every Story Is A Love Story" turns into "Fortune Favors The Brave". On the original cast recording, one can even hear Amneris singing the final note of the first song as the second one begins.
  • Faux Action Girl: Maybe if Aida, who supposedly has skill with a sword, had done something during the climactic fight at the end, Mereb wouldn't have died.
  • Final Love Duet: "Written in the Stars" for Radames and Aida. Or, probably actually "Enchantment Passing Through (Reprise)" sung as the two lovers are dying from deprivation of light and air whilst being buried alive for treason.
  • Framing Device: It begins and ends in a modern day museum, with the reincarnated Radames and Aida being drawn to each other.
  • I Am Spartacus: When Zoser's minions come to the slave quarters to find Aida, one of the slave girls quickly claims to be her, thus saving Aida's life while sacrificing her own.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than the opera it's based on.
  • Love Triangle: Aida, Radames and Amneris. The show may make it even more blatant by having a laser triangle light up behind the three or positioning them to form a triangle while they sing "A Step Too Far" at the beginning of Act II.
  • Odd Friendship: Aida and Amneris, though she technically owns Aida, Amenris treats her kindly, and the two are able to relate well to one another, due to the fact that, unknown to Amneris, they are both princesses.
    Aida: (about speaking to Radames on Amneris behalf) Princess... Please don't make me.
    Amneris: (tenderly) I would never make you, I am asking you, as my friend.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Elton John wrote the songs for the show.
  • Reincarnation Romance: At the end, Radames and Aida are reunited in the modern-day museum, having been reincarnated.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Aida and Radames embrace passionately at the end of "Elaborate Lives". The scene fades to black. When it fades back in, they're lying in each other's arms, with him shirtless and her dress now wrapped around her in Modesty Bedsheet style.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Radames doesn't seem attracted to anyone before getting to know Aida, and Amneris is really frustrated about it.
  • Sinister Minister: Though his role as "Chief Minister" is sometimes strictly political, Zoser, the only person in the show that can really be called a villain, is Egypt's high priest in most versions.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Aida's father is killed in the opera, but escapes in the musical, with Mereb killed instead.
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Zoser's ministers who are helping him plot to kill the Pharoah so Zoser's son, Radames, can rule alongside Amneris. Unbeknownst to Radames. They seem to be dancing perfectly in time, that must mean they are surely evil. See Radames and his soldiers' dancing (or lack of) in "Fortune Favors the Brave".
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Hint: the two characters who sing a song together about how every force in the universe is colluding to keep them apart.
  • Stepford Smiler:
    • Aida as of "Dance Of The Robe". She does, however, state later on in "Easy As Life" that her duty will not let "a coward run".
      I know expectations are wild
      And almost beyond my fulfillment
      But they won't hear a word of doubt
      Or see sign of a weakness.
    • Also, Amneris. It kicks into high gear during "I Know The Truth", where she sings about her realization that her upcoming marriage is a sham—as she's dressing for her wedding.
      I feel better when beguiling
      Find that fashion keeps me smiling
      But in my heart i know it's sad...
      So I'll flutter to deceive
      No, you must believe, that one day you'll find a different
      A stronger suit.
  • Tenor Boy: Radames and Mereb. They both have pop tenor voices and fit different sides of the Tenor Boy character type. Mereb is by no means innocent and is completely fed up with everyone and everything around him after so many years as a slave, but he is painfully idealistic and naive when it comes to his mental image of his princess and their escape from Egypt. Radames is world-wise and older than Mereb, but he's the one who is hopelessly gaga over the lead female character.
  • Triang Relations: Type 8: Radames and Amneris as childhood friends/arranged marriage, Amneris and Aida as friends, Aida and Radames as lovers. On romantic feelings alone, towards the beginning it's a type 5 or 10, and by the end more of a type 4 (Amneris A, Radames B, Aida C in both cases).


Example of: