Aida (includes Grand March, Celeste Aida)
Giuseppe Verdi

104

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The second of Verdi's 5 entries in the Ultimate Hall of Fame and his first to appear in every chart since it began in 1996.

Aida is Verdi's most spectacular work, full of passion, pyramids, and processions. Contrary to popular belief, the opera was not written to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, for which Verdi had been invited to write an inaugural hymn. Rather it was commissioned for the opening of the Cairo Opera House in 1869, but the costumes and sets got stuck in Paris because of the Franco-Prussian War — so the theatre opened with Verdi's Rigoletto instead.

Aida finally made it to Cairo two years later and met with great acclaim. Since then it has remained one of the world's favourite operas. In 1949, a complete concert version from New York became the first to be televised, conducted by the great Arturo Toscanini. The Metropolitan Opera alone has given more than a thousand performances of the opera, making it the second most frequently performed work by the company after Puccini's La bohéme.

The Royal Opera's 2011 production of Aida. Photograph by Bill Cooper.