Explore the story behind the choruses...

In opera, the chorus has an important musical and dramatic purpose: it helps tell the story.

Up until the 20th Century, the plots of many operas centred around kings and queens, gods and goddesses, wars, fate mythology… In this context, the job of a chorus member is to represent the citizens, soldiers, courtiers or advisors – and everyone has their part to play.

Here’s a brief guide to the three choruses you’ll be learning (in English) as part of From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring.


Triumphal March

Aida was written by the ‘father of Italian opera’, Giuseppe Verdi, and premiered in 1871. Today, it is one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide!

What is the opera about?

A tragic tale of forbidden love (a reoccurring theme!) set against a bitter war between Egypt and neighbouring Ethiopia. Radames, commander of the Egyptian army, is secretly in love with Aida, a beautiful Ethiopian servant (BUT, plot twist, her father is in fact the King of Ethiopia). Will love or loyalty win?

Explore more with Aida in a nutshell »

How does this chorus fit in?

Radames returns to the city having scored a decisive victory against the enemy. The chorus (you) play the part of the excited crowd at the victory parade, thanking the goddess Isis for her protection, and the ladies sing about adorning Radames’ victorious hair with flowers!

Hear the Chorus of Opera North (and trumpets of the Orchestra) give a surprise performance in Trinity Leeds shopping centre…


‘Placido è il mar’ (Calmly the seas are calling)

Idomeneo was written by the one and only Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and premiered in 1781.

What is the opera about?

It’s just after the Trojan War (c.1200 BC) and we’re on the sun-kissed island of Crete. Ilia, daughter of the defeated Trojan King Priam, is in love with Prince Idamante, son of the Cretan King Idomeneo.

How does this chorus fit in?

Due to some trouble with Neptune, god of the sea, Idamante must leave and travel back to Argos. As the boat prepares to set sail, the crowd (you, the chorus) stand at the harbourside praising the calm seas. (Obviously there will be a storm, a sea monster, public unrest, an abdication… but hang in there, it’s a happy-ish ending!)

Hear this chorus in context in a 2006 production from the Salzburg Festival.


‘Květiny bílé po cestě’ (White are the Roses or Wedding Dance)

Rusalka was written by Czech composer Antonín Dvořák and premiered in 1901. It contains a famous soprano aria you may have heard known as ‘Song to the Moon‘.

What is the opera about?

Described as a ‘lyrical fairy tale’, this opera begins submerged under water. The water nymph, Rusalka falls in love with a human Prince when he swims in her lake. She longs to become human to be with him and turns to the witch Ježibaba’s potion to help, but there’s quite a big catch! Once human she will lose the power of speech and immortality, and if the Prince fails to love her back he will die and she will be eternally damned.

How does this chorus fit in?

We’re at the wedding of the Prince to his beautiful, silent, enigmatic bride. The guests are the chorus and although the music is light and happy, all is not well. The words paint a picture of pure white roses giving way to blood-red flowers, in an unfortunate warning of what’s to come…

Hear this chorus in context in a 2011 production filmed in Mexico.

Sessions for From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring begin on 24 February. Get in touch at lifelonglearning@operanorth.co.uk if you have any questions!


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