In 1871, on Christmas eve, the Opera House of Egypt presented the world premiere of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida.” It was a grand success.
Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt, commissioned the work for the grand opening of his new theatre. Verdi initially declined, but the Khedive wore him down. Here’s how Verdi himself self-deprecatingly puts it:
“I was invited to write an opera for a very distant country. I replied no. I was approached again and offered a very large sum. I still said no. A month later I was sent a printed synopsis, and told it was the work of a person in high authority (which I don’t believe). Even so, I found it excellent and replied that I would set it to music on such and such terms. Three days later I received a telegram that read: ACCCEPTED.”
Verdi himself chose to be home for the holidays, so he missed the sweet applause the followed the premiere.
Aida therefore has a strong link with the Christmas season, in some ways even more so than the Nutcracker or Swan Lake.
Why isn’t it performed more often this time of year then? I have absolutely no Aida.
Merry Christmas, everyone!