Giuseppe Verdi (born Busseto, 10 October 1813; died Milan, 27 January 1901)
Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle.
Drama Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (1787) by Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805).
First performance: Paris (Opéra), 22 November 1867.
Revised version (4 Acts): Milan (Teatro alla Scala), 10 January 1884.
Revised version (5 Acts): Modena (), 29 December 1886.
First UK performance: London (Covent Garden), 4 June 1867.
First performance in Scotland: To be confirmed.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.
Don Carlos is sometimes considered to be Verdi’s greatest work because of its scale and the seriousness of its subject matter. However the complexity of its history and the number of different versions that may be performed make it difficult to decide on an ideal version. It is based on Schiller, augmented with sections from Philippe II, roi d’ Espagne (1846) by Eugène Cormon. The Paris premiere was already shortened, and the cut sections were only rediscovered in the Paris archives in 1970. Two Italian versions were made in Verdi’s lifetime, but neither is perfect, though he also revised some music which is better than his original ideas. It is a wonderful work in whatever version.
Elisabeth de Valois (soprano)
Thibault, her page (soprano)
Don Carlos (tenor)
Rodrigue, Marquis of Posa (baritone)
Philippe II, King of Spain (bass)
Princess Eboli (mezzo-soprano)
Grand Inquisitor (bass)
In a peace treaty between France and Spain, Don Carlos, Philip’s heir, is to marry Princess Elisabeth. He travels to Fontainebleau with the delegation, and meets secretly with Elisabeth. They fall in love. The terms of the treaty are changed, however, and it is agreed that Elisabeth will marry Philip, thus becoming Carlos’s stepmother. The marriage is clearly unhappy, and matters come to a head on a visit to the monastery where Philip’s father had retired, when Philip discovers her alone with Carlos. The lady in waiting responsible is sent back to France. Posa is in favour of independence for Flanders and convinces his friend Carlos to join the cause, but Philip warns him to be wary of the Inquisition. Eboli, secretly the king’s mistress, is herself in love with Carlos. When the queen asks her to fill her place at a reception so that the queen can pray, Eboli discovers the situation when Carlos mistakes her for the queen and reveals his love. She becomes jealous, but is silenced by Posa. At an auto-da-fé, Carlos leads a demonstration about Flanders and is arrested. Philip is heartbroken at the collapse of his marriage, and appalled when the Grand Inquisitor tells him his son must die. When Posa visits Carlos in prison, he is murdered by the Inquisition, adding to Philip’s sense of loss. Carlos is rescued from prison by a repentant Eboli, and has a final meeting with Elisabeth at the monastery before leaving for Flanders, but Philip and the Inquisitor discover them.
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