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"Aida" opera costume paintings

 Collection — Folder: 1
Identifier: C0473

Scope and Content

Seven pen and watercolor paintings on paper of character and chorus member costume designs for the opera “Aida,” made circa early 1870s. Featured are Radames in Act I, Scene 1 and Act II, Scene 4; Ax-bearers from Act II, Scene 4; Officers of the chorus, Act I, Scene 1 and Act II, Scene 4; Amneris in Act II, Scene 4; and The King, Act II, Scene 4 and Act I, Scene 1. Notably absent are the roles of Aida, Amonasro, and Ramfis. Each painting has the name of the role written in pen on the lower left corner and the act and scene numbers on the bottom right corner. The main roles have the voice range written next to the role name. All text is written in French.


  • Creation: circa early 1870s


Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Public Domain. There are no known restrictions.

Historical Information

“Aida” is a four-act opera by Giuseppe Verde that premiered in 1871. Set in the Old Kingdom of Egypt and sung in Italian, it tells the story of an enslaved Ethiopian princess, the titular Aida, who is brought to the Egyptian court. Unbeknownst to the court, the Egyptian military commander Radames is in love with Aida, who also returns his love. Throughout the opera the couple struggles to assert their love, while also honoring their respective countries and dealing with the war that ensues between Egypt and Ethiopia. “Aida” was immensely popular when it premiered and is still considered one of the most beloved operas today.

“Aida” has a performance history of brown and blackface, with white singers often performing characters of another race. This occurred as recently as early 2020, though there has been more effort in the opera world to cast racially appropriate singers in these roles, particularly that of Aida.


.01 Linear Feet (7 paintings)

Language of Materials



Seven pen and watercolor paintings on paper of character and chorus member costume designs for the opera “Aida,” circa early 1870s.


This is a single folder collection.

Physical Location

R 72, C 3, S 5

Acquisition Information

Purchased by Steve Gerber from J & J Lubrano Music Antiquarians in September 2016.

Related Materials

The Special Collections Research Center also holds the Single 'Aida' opera costume painting (C0474) and the 'Cavalleria rusticana' opera costume paintings, as well as other materials related to opera, costume design, and the performing arts.


Groenert, Kaeli, "Blackface at the Met: An exploration of the casting of performers of color in the roles of Aida and Othello from 2007-2017" (2019). Music. 1.

Holmes, Helen. “The Met Casts Anna Netrebko as ‘Aida’ Despite Her Past Controversy in the Role,” February 13, 2020. Observer.

“Synopsis: Aida.” The Metropolitan Opera. Accessed March 15, 2021.

Processing Information

Processing completed by Amanda Brent in March 2021. EAD markup completed by Amanda Brent in March 2021. This item was formerly part of the Performing Arts Manuscript Materials collection, C0215.

Guide to "Aida" opera costume paintings
"Aida" opera costume paintings
Amanda Brent
March 2016, 2021
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Repository Details

Part of the George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections Research Center Repository

Fenwick Library, MS2FL
4400 University Dr.
Fairfax Virginia 22030 United States
703-993-8911 (Fax)