Guide to "Aida" opera costume paintings C0473
Published by George Mason University Libraries
"Aida" is a four-act opera by Giuseppe Verde that premiered in 1871. Set in the Old Kingdom of Egypt and sung in Italian, it tells the story of an enslaved Ethiopian princess, the titular Aida, who is brought to the Egyptian court. Unbeknownst to the court, the Egyptian military commander Radames is in love with Aida, who also returns his love. Throughout the opera the couple struggles to assert their love, while also honoring their respective countries and dealing with the war that ensues between Egypt and Ethiopia. "Aida" was immensely popular when it premiered and is still considered one of the most beloved operas today.
"Aida" has a performance history of brown and blackface, with white singers often performing characters of another race. This occurred as recently as early 2020, though there has been more effort in the opera world to cast racially appropriate singers in these roles, particularly that of Aida.
Seven pen and watercolor paintings on paper of character and chorus member costume designs for the opera "Aida," made circa early 1870s. Featured are Radames in Act I, Scene 1 and Act II, Scene 4; Ax-bearers from Act II, Scene 4; Officers of the chorus, Act I, Scene 1 and Act II, Scene 4; Amneris in Act II, Scene 4; and The King, Act II, Scene 4 and Act I, Scene 1. Notably absent are the roles of Aida, Amonasro, and Ramfis. Each painting has the name of the role written in pen on the lower left corner and the act and scene numbers on the bottom right corner. The main roles have the voice range written next to the role name. All text is written in French.
This is a single folder collection.
There are no access restrictions.
Public Domain. There are no known restrictions.
The Special Collections Research Center also holds the Single "Aida" opera costume painting (C0474) and the "Cavalleria rusticana" opera costume paintings, as well as other materials related to opera, costume design, and the performing arts.
Verdi, Giuseppe, 1813-1901. (Title of work: Aida.)
"Aida" opera costume paintings, C0473, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
Purchased by Steve Gerber from J & J Lubrano Music Antiquarians in September 2016.
Processing completed by Amanda Brent in March 2021. EAD markup completed by Amanda Brent in March 2021. This item was formerly part of the Performing Arts Manuscript Materials collection, C0215.
Groenert, Kaeli, "Blackface at the Met: An exploration of the casting of performers of color in the roles of Aida and Othello from 2007-2017" (2019). Music. 1. https://scholarsarchive.library.albany.edu/honorscollege_music/1.
Holmes, Helen. "The Met Casts Anna Netrebko as 'Aida' Despite Her Past Controversy in the Role," February 13, 2020. Observer. https://observer.com/2020/02/anna-netrebko-aida-met-opera-casting-2020-2021-season-details/.
"Synopsis: Aida." The Metropolitan Opera. Accessed March 15, 2021. https://www.metopera.org/user-information/synopses-archive/aida.