NPR logo Marches Madness: Walk Like An Egyptian


Marches Madness: Walk Like An Egyptian


Elephants, Egyptian palaces, politics and love triangles — now we're talking grand opera!

In an art form notorious for its excesses, Verdi's Aida can take the bigger-is-better approach to nearly laughable extremes. At a Shanghai production in 2000, the cast list bulged to 2,200. And at its 1871 debut in Cairo, a dozen elephants and 15 camels strode across the stage.

The creatures were essentially window dressing for what would become one of the most recognizable pieces of classical music — the great "Triumphal March" from Act 2.

But for all of Aida's splendor and spectacle, the music of the "Triumphal March" is surprisingly simple. Employing just a half-dozen notes in various combinations, Verdi created a memorable — and supremely hummable — tune fit for a stage filled with throngs of opera stars, extras and animals.

In this video from New York's Metropolitan Opera, you won't find any elephants, but the horses sure look pretty.