Khedive Ismail loved Paris. He had gone to college
there in the 1840s, but when he visited again to
inaugurate the Egyptian exhibition at the Exposition
Universelle in 1867, everything had changed.
The Emperor Napoleon III had had the winding
medieval alleyways replaced with long, straight gaslit
boulevards. Handsome new buildings were being
constructed at major intersections, including the
famous Opera Garnier, the Paris opera house.
Khedive Ismail returned to Cairo with a new vision of
what he wanted his city to look like. And just in time,
too; because in 1869, all the world would be coming to
Cairo for the opening of the new Suez Canal. Led by
Empress Eugenie of France, the wife of Napoleon III,
thousands of guests were expected.
Like Paris, Cairo would have broad avenues, new
buildings--and a crimson, white and gold opera house
with gilded boxes and glittering chandeliers.
What opera could be presented to mark the historic
event? There was no Egyptian opera, so the khedive
determined to commission one--from his favorite
composer, Giuseppe Verdi.
The opening of the Suez Canal
(left) with Empress Eugenie
(above), Khedive Ismail (right).
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An Opera to
Other articles in this website are about
digging the Suez Canal, the archaeologist
who wrote the story of the opera and
designed the set and costumes, and the
story of the making of the opera Aida itself.
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