Aida The Musical: Synopsis, Songs & Characters

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  • 0:01 Aida
  • 1:07 Summary of Act I
  • 3:31 Summary of Act II
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kathryn Brown

Kathryn teaches high school vocal music, music history, music theory, and musical theatre. She also maintains an active piano teaching and performance schedule.

Based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi and libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, 'Aida' tells the story of star-crossed lovers bound by family and cultural expectations in Egypt during the time of the great pharaohs. In this lesson, you'll find a synopsis of the musical in relation to some of its key songs.


Aida was a Broadway musical and romance about star-crossed lovers that ran for four years at the Palace Theatre in New York City from March 23, 2000 - September 5, 2004. When it closed, it had generated profits of $12 million. Elton John composed the music, and Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. The show won four Tony Awards in 2000, including those for lighting design, set design, and original score. Heather Headley won Best Actress in a Musical. The original Broadway cast included Heather Headley as Aida, Adam Pasca as Radames, and Sheri Renee Scott as Amneris.

Aida was based on a 19th-century opera by Giuseppe Verdi and a libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Let's take a look at what happened in the 21st-century musical, as well as some of the key songs of the two big acts.

Summary of Act I

Act I opens in a modern museum filled with wandering patrons. As a man and woman take notice of each other, a statue of a female pharaoh, Amneris, starts to sing a song called 'Every Story Is a Love Story' to the tune of 'Fortune Favors the Brave.' The musical travels back in time to ancient Egypt, where Radames, an Egyptian soldier, has returned from an expedition into the enemy territory of Nubia. When Radames demands that Aida, one of the captured Nubian women, scrub his back, she refuses and expresses her determination to hold onto her pride through 'The Past is Another Land.'

To save Aida from slavery in a copper mine, Radames sends her to Princess Amneris, his fiancé and daughter of the Pharaoh, to work as a handmaiden. In 'Another Pyramid,' Radames' father, Zoser, prepares his son to ascend the ailing Pharaoh's throne, while secretly revealing his plot to poison the ruler. While escorting Aida to Amneris, Radames' servant, Mereb, recognizes the Nubian princess, but in 'How I Know You,' Aida warns him not to tell anyone, as she'll be put to death if the Egyptians discover her secret. Once in service to Amneris, Aida gains favor by offering to make some new clothing for the fashion-conscious princess in 'My Strongest Suit.'

During a reprise of 'Fortune Favors the Brave', we learn how Radames' marriage will put an end to what he loves most - traveling to new places - a dream he shares with Aida in 'Enchantment Passing Through.' Later, in a Nubian camp, Mereb pleads with an initially reluctant Aida to take her place as a leader, which she agrees to in 'Dance of the Robe.' At Aida's urging, Radames gives his belongings to the Nubians while the main characters sing 'Not Me.' Radames declares his love for Aida in 'Elaborate Lives,' but news that King Amonasro, Aida's father and the Nubian ruler, has been imprisoned, interrupts their happiness.

Act I ends with Aida giving the distraught Nubians comfort in 'The Gods Love Nubia.'

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