Aida: Off the Chain
At the heart of Verdi's opera “Aida” is an African love story, where an Egyptian general and an Ethiopian princess fall in love. It premiered in Cairo in 1871, but the truth is, very few Africans went to see it, let alone could afford the price of a ticket. This was a European conception of the East, for European audiences at a time when Egypt’s leadership was attempting to make Egypt ‘the Paris of the East.’
Verdi’s “Aida” often portrays Egyptians as white and free and Ethiopians and black and enslaved, reinforcing colonial stereotypes and colorism, still present in many modern day productions.
Verdi’s “Aida” opera painted a picture of Africa for colonial consumption, and subjected its Egypt and Ethiopian characters to stereotypes and colorism that run rampant through even modern productions.
In this episode of Every Voice with Terrance Mcknight: Joined by bass baritone Sir Willard White as the King of Egypt, soprano Angela Brown as Aida, and mezzo soprano Raehann Bryce Davis as Amneris; we hear from “Aida’s” African characters in their own voices.
This episode is hosted by Terrance McKnight. The Executive Producer is Tony Phillips. The Executive Producer for WQXR Podcasts is Elizabeth Nonemaker. Our research team includes Ariel Elizabeth Davis, Pranathi Diwakar, Ian George, and Jasmine Ogiste. Sound design and engineering by Alan Goffinski. Original music composed by Jeromy Thomas and Ashley Jackson. Special thanks to The Met archives.
This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit