In Verdi's pre-Cecil B. DeMille epic Aida, the music given to Radames is more interesting than he himself is as a dramatic character. Take his opening aria "Celeste Aida", and the preceding recitative, "Se quel guerriero": it's a simple piece in good old ABA form, just like any hit tune by, say, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In contrast, all other solo set pieces in the opera are monologues of Shakespearean grandeur, with evolving emotional and mental states and subtle psychology.
But Radames is a wading pool next to the oceanic depths of Amneris and Aida. Basically, he has two things and only two things on his mind, as the recitative makes clear:
1) Making love to Aida five and possibly six times a day, and
2) Slaughtering as many yucky Ethiopians as possible.
That's it! He has a two-track, testosterone-infused mind. To make this observation is in no way an attempt to denigrate Aida, which is a genuine masterpiece; it's just stating the obvious. In Hitchcockian terms, Radames is the "MacGuffin" of the libretto; the "object" desired by both principal females, thus driving all the action.
But there's one aspect of his character which, as simple as he is, puzzled me. Here's what I couldn't figure out about Radames:
GIVEN that he is extremely ambitious, with the career goal of becoming Commander In Chief of the Egyptian armed forces; and
GIVEN that currying favor with the Pharoah is an excellent tool towards achieving that goal, and
GIVEN that Pharoah has a beautiful unmarried daughter (Amneris) who just so happens to be crazy in love with Radames;
THEREFORE: wouldn't the smart play be to woo Amneris and end up as Pharoah's son-in-law, paving the way for a successful and richly-rewarded lifestyle? Isn't this the no-brainer of all no-brainers, halleluia, amen? YES! So here's the puzzle:
How come he rejects Amneris and moons over the Ethiopian-prisoner-turned-humble-slave-girl Aida? I mean, she's pretty and all, but so is Amneris. I don't get it. Remember: he is not aware (until it's too late) that Aida is royalty herself; that's a deep, dark secret. I sought professional help from an authority to explain Radames' psyche in terms I could understand.
Men - we're such pigs!! Can I get an "amen", ladies? And thanks, Duana!