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December 24

Scene from Aida

Giuseppe Verdi gave his heroine Aida an Arabic female name that means “returning” or “visitor.” Aida continues to be staged by opera companies around the world.

Photo by Ron Scherl/Redferns/Getty Images

1871: Love on the Nile
Aida premieres in Cairo, Egypt
One of Giuseppe Verdi’s greatest operas, Aida, made its debut in Cairo, Egypt at the Khedivial Opera House. Why there? Well, an Egyptian prince named Ismail Pasha had commissioned Verdi to write the opera in the first place, paying him 150,000 francs to do so—equivalent to about $32,000 today.

Verdi composed the music for the story of Aida, an Ethiopian princess who is enslaved in Egypt, and her star-crossed relationship with Radames, an Egyptian soldier. Interestingly, Verdi was miffed that no members of the general public were in attendance at this premiere, so he considered the performance in Milan, Italy, the following year to be its true debut.
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