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Aida: the story.


Long ago in the faraway land of Ethiopia there lived a royal princess named Aida. She was gentle as moonlight, beautiful as the morning star, and more than anything else she loved her father King Amonasro and her country.

Here, in one of the great love stories of all time, Aida, the proud princess, is captured by Egyptial soldiers and forced into slavery by her country's worst enemy. A terrible emotional struggle begins when Aida falls in love with Radames, leader of the Egyptian army. Should she forsake loyalty to her father and her country for her true love--a warrior destined to destroy both?

Giuseppe Verdi is said to have based this powerful tale on an actual historical incident brought to light during an archaeological excavation in Egypt. And who but Leontyne Price, known worldwide for her operatic portrayal of Aida, could do justice to the princess's intimate emotions?

As the story unfolds, Radames has been chosen by the Pharaoh to lead the Egyptian army in a final decisive battle against the enemy. The Pharaoh's daughter Amneris, who is also in love with Radames, suspects he may have secret feelings for another.

Amneris sat before her mirror. Surrounded by slaves and adorned in her most beautiful gown and jewels, she was pleased with her reflection. Surely today when Radames returned, he would be struck by her radiance. Yet despite her vanity, she secretly burned with jealousy to think that Aida, a mere handmaiden, might truly be loved by Radames.

So Amneris decided to test her privileged slave. And hen gentle Aida entered the royal chambers, Amneris sobbed, pretending great grief.

"Oh, Aida, Aida!" she cried in a shaking voice. "Egypt has lost its finest warrior. Radames has been killed in battle!"

Immediately Aida wept with the paid of one whose heat has been broken forever. There was no longer any doubt in Amneris's mind.

"It is all a lie!" she shouted. "Radames was not killed. He lives!"

Aida's tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy.

Overcome with fury, Amneris hurled Aida to the floor. "How dare you, a lowly slave, love the same man loved by the Princess of Egypt?"

But Aida, too, was a Princess. She rose proudly. She was about to tell Amneris the truth, but she stopped herself. Instead, with great difficulty, she asked to be forgiven.

"Have mercy on me," she begged. "Your power is unquestioned--you have all that a person could want. But what do I have to live for? My love of Radames, and that alone."

Aida's plea only fueled Amneris's rage. She stormed out of the chamber, leaving Aida to fear the worst.

Flags flew, and the entire city gathered to see the grand spectacle of the victory parade led by the Pharaoh, the Princess, and the High Priest. Trumpets blared, and dancing girls threw rose petals to form a welcoming carpet before the magnificent chariot of Radames.

The handsome warrior dismounted and knelt before the royal throne. When Amneris placed a laurel wreat on his head, the crowd was wild with joy.

"Hail to the conqueror!" they roared. "Hail to Radames!"

The Pharaoh proclaimed, "Radames, you are my greatest soldier. As a reward, whatever you wish shall be yours."

When Radames rose, he saw Aida. Amneris saw the look of love on his face, and she was consumed with jealousy. Yet he dared not ask for Aida's hand, not at that moment in public court.

"Mighty Pharaoh," he said instead, "I ask that you allow me to call forth our prisoners of war."

The Pharaoh granted Radames's request, and the Ethiopians were led to the square in chains. One tall, proud man stood out above the rest. Aida gasped. It was her father!

The crowd was shocked to see her run and embrance him, but he whispered to her, "Do not betray that I am King."

Amonarso addressed the Pharaoh. "I am Aidas's father, and I have faithfully fought for my sovereign, who died in battle. I am prepared to die for him and my country, but I beseech you to have mercy on those who have been defeated."

With outstretched arms, Aida joined the Ethiopians. "Let the prisoners go free," she begged Radames and the Pharaoh.

So moved by her appeal, the Egyptian people joined in, and their cries urged the Pharoah to allow the captured soldiers to be released.

"No!" the High Priest, Ramfis, cried. "The Ethiopians are a threat and should be put to death."

"Their freedom is my wish," Radames told the Pharaoh.

"Unchain the Ethiopians!" the Pharaoh ordered. "But you, Aida's father, must remain my prisoner as a pledge of your people's good faith."

An even greater reward was now to be bestowed upon Egypt's greatest warrior. The Pharaoh led Amneris to Radames.

"My daughter will be your bride," he proclaimed, joining their hands. "One day, you shall be Pharaoh, and together you will rule."

Radames was horrified. He dared not refuse the Pharaoh. He bowed and pretended gratitude, but his heart was filled with sorrow. Amneris looked scornfully at her handmaiden.

Aida wept into her father's arms as the triumphant Egyptian Princess held Radames's hand and led him to the palace.

"Do not lose faith," Amonasro whispered to his daughter. "Etiopia will soon avenge our conquerors."

It was the eve of the great wedding, and a full moon shone on the dark waters of the River Nile beside the Temple of Isis. By boat, the High Priest, Ramfis, brought Amneris to the Temple. There she was to pray that her marriage be blessed. Little did she know that Radames had sent a message to Aida, who was waiting to meet him nearby.

Aida sadly watched the moonlit river and longed with all her heart and soul to return to her beloved homeland. Suddenly she heard Radames approach. But when the man came closer, she was stunned to see that it was her father, King Amonasro.

"Listen carefully, Aida," he said sternly. "My plan will bring both you and Radames back to Ethiopia. Our soldiers stand ready to attack when I signal. There is a secret, unguarded road, but only Radames knows it. It is your duty as Princess of Ethiopia to make him reveal this path."

"Father!" she cried. "I cannot betray Radames!"

With anger and disdain, King Amonasro forced her to her knees. "You are no longer my daughter! You are nothing more than a lowly slave of the Egyptians and a betrayer of your country! Have you forgotten your loved ones who were slaughtered without mercy by these, your enemies?"

"You are wrong! I am not and will never be a slave to anyone! I am the Princess of Ethiopia, and I have never forgotten my royal blood. My duty to you and my country will always be first in my heart!"

Even as she swore to obey his command, she cried inside for what her father and her dear country would cost her. Amonasro embranced her to give her courage, and he hid in the bushes to listen.

When Radames finally came, he was breathless with love. But Aida turned on him scornfully.

"How could you betray me and marry Amneris as your reward?"

"Aida, you have always been my love. My passion for you is deeper than the Nile, deeper than life itself," Radames told her.

"Then show me," Aida demanded. "You have betrayed me. And if you truly love me, you will leave Egypt tonight and flee with me to Ethiopia. Only there will we find happiness and peace."

Radames was torn. The thought of leaving Egypt was unbearable, but the thought of living without Aida was even more painful. At last, after much persuasion, he agreed to flee.

"The roads are heavily guarded by your soldiers. How will we escape?" she asked.

"All the roads are guarded except one," he told her. "The Gorges of Napata."

"The Gorges of Napata!" a voice rang out. Amonasro sprang from his hiding place. He was ready to attack with his army.

Radames could not believe it. "You, Aida's father, are King of Ethiopia?" He was overcome. "I have sacrified my country for the love of you!" he cried to Aida.

"Come with us now," Amonasro told Radames.

"You and Aida will reign happily in Ethiopia."

But as the King took Radames's hand to lead him away, a shout rang out in the darkness. "Traitor!"

It was Amneris. She and the High Priest had come from the temple and had overheard the plot.

"Traitor!" she screamed again.

Amonasro lept to kill Amneris with his dagger, but Radames ran between them to shield her.

"Go quickly!" he warned Aida and Amonasro, and the King ran, dragging Aida with him.

Radames stood before Amneris and the High Priest. He did not try to escape. Instead, he threw down his sword.

"I surrender!" he cried. "I am your prisoner!"

The treason of Radames shocked and infuriated all of Egypt. Guards locked him in the deepest dungeon in the palace. soon his trial would begin, and he would be sentenced to a horrible death.

Amneris was in a state of grief. Her love of Radames had not diminished. Deep in her heart, she knew he had not meant to betray his country. Her own jealousy had made the mighty warrior a prisoner. She longed to beg her father, the Pharaoh, to release him, but she knew Radames still loved Aida. She also knew soldiers had killed Amonasro, but Aida had escaped and was still alive--somewhere.

In desperation, Amneris commanded the guards to bring Radames to her. She humbled herself and pleaded with him to forget Aida.

"I will find a way to set you free, free to marry me and share the throne of Egypt," she said. "But you must never see Aida again."

Radames refused. "You are Princess of Egypt, my country; and you have all that anyone could ask for. Yet I will always love Aida, and there will never be room in my heart for anyone else."

The more Amneris begged him, the more strongly he refused.

When the priests came to take Radames, Amneris was in a rage of anger and jealousy, and she made no attempt to stop them. But when he left, she fell to the ground in tears, cringing as she heard the priests loudly accuse Radames of betrayal.

"Traitor! Traitor!" the High Priest, Ramfis, shouted again and again, but Radames never uttered a word to defend himself. Louder and louder the cruel accusations wre hurled at him.

Amneris prayed to Isis and the other gods of Egypt to show mercy and save the man she loved, but the gods were silent.

The tribunal of priests pronounced Radames guilty of treason and sentenced him to be buried alive.

As the priests passed from the trial, Amneris flung herself before the High Priest. She insulted him and threatened revenged, but her cries were in vain.

"Radames, the traitor, will die," he said coldly.

Only the priests and guards were allowed to watch Radames walk into the deepest vault below. They sealed the last opening, shutting out all light and the last breath of fresh air. Alone, waiting quietly for death, Radames thought only of Aida. He would never see her sparkling eyes and gentle smile again.

Suddenly, in the darkness, he heard Aida's voice. At first, Radames thought it was a dream. But no--she escaped and was hiding in the vault, waiting for him.

"Aida, my love, you are too young and beautiful to die."

Radames pushed in vain, trying to open the vault.

But Aida gently placed her arms around him. With a tender kiss, she told him to stop:

"Remeber, we will never be separated again. For eternity, we will be together."

And with all the love in the world, they held each other close--so close--as if they would never part.

Above their tomb, dressed in black, Princess Amneris prayed to the gods to forgive her and to grant heavenly rest to Radames, her love.

The gods granted her wish, but not as she hoped. For as she prayed to the gods and wept, a peaceful death had come to the Ethiopian Princess Aida and Radames, the greatest warrior of Egypt. Finally they were together--forever in each other's arms.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:excerpt; short story
Author:Price, Leontyne; Dillon, Leo; Dillon, Diane
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:illustration
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:Mr. Bowman's solution.
Next Article:Snap, crackle and wham!

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