Don Carlo, 1867

Quick Links

Synopsis  Libretto  Our production  (trailer)

Our production, Friday June 22nd

1886 version,  Royal Opera House 2008, Cond. Antonio Pappano. Don Carlo - Rolando Villazon (ten), Elizabeth of Valois - Marina Poplavskaya (sop), Rodrigo Marquis of Posa - Simon Keenlyside (bar), Philip II - Ferrucio Furlandetto (bass),  Princess Eboli (mez), Grand Inquisitor - Eric Halfvarson (bass), King Carlos V/monk - Robert Lloyd (bass).

The Greatest of Verdi Operas?

“Any production of Verdi's most monumental work that reminds you it is one of the very greatest of all operas has to be accounted a success… It's the power of Verdi's astonishing score, driven by his withering critique of the evils of organised religion, that one takes from this production, and it's no disgrace to any of the performers that that is how it should be.” Read the Guardian review of our production, and from Variety.

The story

No, it’s not a true story, though Philip, his young wife Elizabeth and his son Don Carlo were historical figures. The real story is worse – details here. Verdi used a version from a 1787 dramatic poem by Friedrich Schiller – and revised it over 20 years. The final revision has 5 acts. “‘Nothing in the drama is historical’, Verdi wrote, ‘but it contains a Shakespearean truth and profundity of characterizations’. In other words, he treated his material as myth. The story was too good not to set.” These are all vivid characters, shown in complex music, dark for the Grand Inquisitor, bright for Marquis of Posa in his duet with Don Carlo about friendship and freedom. The women, Eboli and Elizabeth, are given fine, heroic music.

The Music

Within this complex music, Verdi is exploring further the combination of voices. The Grand Inquisitor duet ‘Son io dinanzi al Re?’ (Am I before the king?) with Philip is a gripping struggle between church and state - between two basses. “In this highly charged duet, there is no sustained melody, rather a set of questions and answers, sometimes direct statements, each shifting musical direction to generate a constant air of unease: what is going to happen next? Both characters are sung by bass voices, and the instrumentation is often low and sonorous. So there is a weight and darkness in the music to match the mood, as the Inquisitor threatens the King under the pretence of it being God’s will.” (ROH). Compare with Don Carlo and Posa’s ‘Dio che nell’almo infonde’: that uncomplicated duet (tenor and baritone) about freedom and friendship, for two
young male voices. And in Princess Eboli, the composer continues his exploration of mezzo soprano voice in opera. Remember Azucena? Listen to Eboli’s famous “O don fatale” (O fatal gift) with Elina Garanča.