February 28, 2024

The cast and characters of Verdi's Aida

This March, Verdi’s Aida makes its triumphant return to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago for the first time in more than a decade. The bold production — directed by Lyric favorite Francesca Zambello — features choreography by the great Jessica Lang and designs by contemporary artist RETNA. On the podium, Music Director Enrique Mazzola tackles his 100th title as well as his first ever full-scale Aida. The timeless tale is one of longing, vulnerability, determination, and conflict. As grand as the work is, its real emotional force comes from the interactions of the main characters, who strive for love and triumph in a time of war.


The protagonist heroine has been captured and enslaved by opposing forces. Since she is the princess of her country, her capture is demonstrative of a bigger war between two enemies. During her captivity, Aida begins to develop feelings for rival military hero Radamès. The production follows Aida as conflicting sentiments of guilt and longing rise within her. The titular role will be taken on by Michelle Bradley, a talented Verdi soprano who wowed audiences as Floria Tosca in Lyric’s production of Tosca (2021/22).


The princess is daughter to the King of the country fighting with Aida’s homeland. Like Aida, she also has feelings for Radamès. When Amneris sees Aida and Radamès, she is overtaken with jealousy, and becomes willing to do whatever it takes to win the affections of the military hero. Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton will perform as Amneris. Barton is no stranger to Verdi, as she performed the iconic role of Azucena in Il trovatore at Lyric in the 2018/19 Season.


Venerated warrior and military hero Radamès wants to lead his country to victory in the oncoming conflict — and he is eventually chosen as his country’s primary military commander. When he meets Aida, he realizes that a victory in war might permit him to marry her. Radamès then faces the same conflict as Aida, as he grapples with his duty to his country and his developing feelings for a princess of the enemy. Following a stunning performance in the title role of Ernani in Lyric’s 2022/23 Season, the great Verdi tenor Russell Thomas returns as Radamès.


The King and father of Aida, Amonasro is similarly committed to ending the war and assuring a victory for his country. However, when he is captured by Radamès’ forces, Amonasro hides his identity as the King and pleads for the lives of his people. Grammy and Emmy winning baritone Reginald Smith, Jr. takes on the role of Amonasro. He first graced the Lyric stage as Uncle Paul in Terence Blanchard’s Fire Shut Up in My Bones in the 2021/22 Season and returned in Blanchard’s first opera, Champion, as the older Emile Griffith (2023/24). 


The high priest Ramfis advises the King of the opposing country and works with Radamès to ensure a sound victory. Ramfis also administers justice to individuals who violate the country’s laws. Turkish bass Önay Köse will make his Lyric debut as Ramfis. 

The King

The King, ruler of his country and father of Amneris, seeks for a swift end to the war. His decisions are often carried out by Ramfis and Radamès. In the role is bass Wm. Clay Thompson, a second year member of the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center Ensemble.

Experience the vivid lives of these characters, and opera at its most grand, March 9 through April 7. 

MARCH 9 - APRIL 7, 2024



Experience opera at its grandest with Verdi’s visually stunning and musically captivating Aida, featuring intimate arias, dramatic duets, and thrilling Verdi choruses. As a riveting love triangle unfolds in an alluring Egyptian setting, the story is brought to life by principal artists Michelle Bradley, Jamie Barton, and Russell Thomas, all led by Music Director Enrique Mazzola.

Header photo credit: Act One of Lyric's 2023/24 production of Verdi's Aida. Credit: Todd Rosenberg

Other photos: Todd Rosenberg, Robert Kusel