Ancient Egypt and the war with Ethiopia is the setting for Verdi’s grandest opera. It is the story of the love between Rhadames, the Egyptian general, and Aida, an Ethiopian slave, and the jealousy of Amneris, daughter of the King of Egypt. It was written in 1871 to a commission from the Khedive of Egypt to inaugurate the new opera house in Cairo. Aida generally is considered one of the most spectacular of Verdi’s operas.
But Thomson Smillie, in his fascinating introduction to the work, presented by actor David Timson, says it is, more accurately, "a chamber opera with a grand march through the middle of it". The historic background - how and why it came to be composed - is clearly explained. This is followed by the plot, the characters, and the principal arias and musical moments - a perfect way of getting to know the work.