Verdi was commissioned by Khedive Ismail Pasha of Egypt to write Aida not for the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) as is often stated, but for the Italian Theatre in Cairo, where it opened with sensational success on 24 December 1871.

The composer asked for and got the phenomenal sum of $20,000 for the work, and in return the Khedive received what has gone on to be one of the composer