Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle after the play of the same name by Friedrich von Schiller
Stage Director: Yuri Alexandrov
Set Designer: Teimuraz Murvanidze
Costume Designer: Tatiana Noginova
Lighting Designer: Vladimir Lukasevich
Lighting Adaptation for the Primorsky Stage: Sergei Lukin
Musical Preparation: Andrey Annenkov
Concertmaster: Olga Krukovich
Principal Chorus Master: Larisa Shveikovskaya
Assistant Director: Anna Shishkina
In 1556, the Emperor Charles V abdicated, celebrated his own funeral and retired to the monastery of San Jeronimo at Yuste. His son Philip II is now on the throne of Spain. To seal the peace between France and Spain after a long war, Philip marries Elisabeth of Valois, who has long been betrothed to his son Don Carlo.
The cloister of the Yuste monastery
Monks meditate by the tomb of Emperor Charles V, Don Carlos’ grandfather. Carlo is startled by the resemblance of one of the monks to Charles V. He is joined by his dearest friend Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, who has just returned from Flanders; Posa paints a grim picture of the oppression it suffers, and when he hears of Carlo’s love for Élisabeth he urges Carlos to go to Flanders and ease the suffering of the people and cure himself of his criminal passion. They renew their vows of fellowship in the service of liberty.
Outside the Yuste monastery gates
Tebaldo, Eboli and the ladies of the Court take shelter from the heat and pass the time singing. The Queen joins them, followed by di Posa who delivers two letters, one from her father and the other from Carlo. As Élisabeth reads, Rodrigo engages Eboli in gallantries. He asks the Queen for an audience with the Infante to whom the King has been rather cool. Eboli imagines Carlo may be in love with her. Carlo appears and, dismissing her attendants, Élisabeth struggles to remain calm; she agrees to help persuade the King to send his son to Flanders. Carlo, however, is unable to resist and declares his ardent love for her. After Don Carlo departs King Filippo enters. Finding the Queen unattended and alone, something inadmissible for Court etiquette, the furious Filippo orders the guilty lady-in-waiting, the Countess d’Aremberg, back to France; Élisabeth bids her farewell sadly. Di Posa is summoned by the King and seizes the opportunity to protest about the plight of Flanders; he urges him to give the people their freedom. Impressed by di Posa’s integrity and sincerity, Filippo warns him to be wary of the Grand Inquisitor and confides his worries about Carlo and Élisabeth, asking him to keep watch on them.
A sheltered grove in the Queen’s gardens
At midnight Don Carlo, who has received an anonymous message and believes it to be from the Queen, strolls in the garden. Someone dressed as the Queen appears. The young man ardently declares his passion, but falls silent when he realises it is Eboli in disguise. When Eboli realises that his declarations were not intended for her she wrathfully promises to have her revenge on both. She threatens to tell Filippo about the Infante’s criminal love for the Queen. Carlo is assisted by Rodrigo. He threatens to kill Eboli, but the Princess cannot be placated. Rodrigo asks Carlo for all the documents that compromise him.
The piazza in front of the Valladolid Cathedral
Flemish Protestants are being burnt on the square, heretics in the eyes of the Catholic church. A throng of people, gathered to view this cremation, sings the King’s praises. Carlo comes to Filippo with a deputation from Flanders and Brabant: the Flemish beg Filippo to show clemency, a prayer in which the Queen, di Posa and most of the crowd join; but Filippo’s persecuting obduracy is encouraged by the monks. Carlo now demands that his father entrust to him the regency of Flanders; when Filippo dismisses the request, the Infante draws his sword and vows to be the saviour of unhappy Flanders. All are scandalised. Di Posa disarms Carlo and is elevated to the rank of Duke by Filippo in thanks. The auto-da-fé continues; a heavenly voice is heard comforting the dying.
The King’s chambers in Valladolid
Filippo muses wretchedly over his failure to win Élisabeth’s love. The Grand Inquisitor is led in; he assures the King that, if it is for the good of the faith, there can be no objection to having Carlo killed. But Rodrigo, he believes, represents a greater danger, and if Filippo persists in protecting a heretic he will have to answer for it to the Holy Church. Élisabeth runs in in confusion; her jewel box has been stolen. Suddenly she sees it on the King’s table. Élisabeth refuses to open it and then Filippo forces it himself to discover a portrait of Carlo among her treasures. He denounces the Queen as an adulteress and she faints.
At the King’s summons Eboli and Rodrigo enter; he realises that immediate action must be taken. Left alone with the Queen, Eboli admits her love of Don Carlo and says it was she who stole the jewel casket. She begs forgiveness. The Queen banishes her from the Court: she must choose exile or the cloister. Eboli curses her own beauty; before taking leave of the world she resolves to save Carlo.
Carlo’s prison cell
The Marquis di Posa enters. He says he has accepted Carlo’s guilt as his own and declared the Infante’s secret papers, found on the former, to be his. The Marquis bids his friend farewell and encourages him again in his mission to free Flanders. Two men appear at the cell door and Rodrigo is shot. As he dies, he tells Carlo that Élisabeth will be at Yuste the next day. The King enters and states that Carlo has been declared innocent, but his son repels him. The clanging of the tocsin signals a popular uprising: for a moment Filippo seems to be in danger, but the appearance of the Grand Inquisitor reduces the mob to submission. Meanwhile Eboli enables Carlo to make good his escape.
The Cloister at Yuste
Élisabeth recognises that her earthly mission will soon be over. Carlo comes to bid farewell to his beloved; Élisabeth blesses his Flanders mission, and they look forward to meeting again in a better world. The King appears, attended by the Grand Inquisitor and his officers; Carlo is anathematised. As he tries to evade the inquisition he retreats towards Charles V’s tomb, which suddenly opens up; a monk appears and is recognised as the late Emperor. He hurries Carlo away into the monastery.
Don Carlo, along with Aida and Shakespeare’s masterpieces Othello and Falstaff, is one of Giuseppe Verdi’s greatest creations. Upon request of the director of the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra (Paris Opera), the composer turned to the dramatic play of one of his favorite playwrights, Friedrich von Schiller. Librettists François-Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle developed the plot according to the canons of the French “grand opera”, with its traditional five-act structure and de rigueur ballet. This “living, powerful work made of gold, mud, bile and blood” (as Georges Bizet described it) created by Verdi could not but contradict the tastes of the Parisian public. In 1868, just a year and a half after the French premiere, Don Carlo was presented at the Bolshoi (Kamenny) Theatre in St. Petersburg, performed by the Italian troupe. However, Giuseppe Verdi remained unsatisfied. No longer bound by the canons of the Parisian stage, he cut the ballet at the beginning of Act III, and also shortened the meeting of Carlo and Élisabeth in the Forest of Fontainebleau, but added one of the most striking ensembles, the duet of Philip II and Rodrigo. The La Scala premiere of the new four-act version with the Italian verses by Antonio Ghislanzoni (the author of libretto to Aida) took place in 1884.
After the first production in St. Petersburg, Don Carlo was banned on the Russian stage for censorship reasons. Only in 1917, Feodor Chaliapin achieved the return of the opera to the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and acted as Philip II, becoming the unsurpassed performer of that role.
Don Carlo premiered at the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre (Mariinsky Theatre) in 1976, and its Milano edition was shown in 1992 and in 1999. In 2012, the premiere of the five-act Modena version, including the scene in Fontainebleau, took place.
The Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre presents the historical performance by Stage Director Yuri Alexandrov, production design by Teimuraz Murvanidze. This magnificent production is framed with gloomy splendor: the massive scenery recreate the look and atmosphere of Escorial, the palace and monastery of Philip II, which is sometimes called the eighth wonder of the world, and sometimes, an architectural nightmare. The luxurious costumes by Tatiana Noginova seem to have come off the canvases of the great painters of the Spanish court.
The central idea of the performance follows Giuseppe Verdi’s plan: in the state ruled by Philip II, there is no place for human feelings and freedom, and the King himself is tragically lonely. “A grand opera of grand passions”, as Don Carlo is often correctly named, is a story of ruined love. The fate of every single main character is pathetic, and only the final duet of Carlo and Élisabeth brings some hope, as the lovers believe in their posthumous union in heaven. The genius Verdi conveys hypertrophied passions not so much in “portrait” arias, as in the dramatic ensembles, “clashes” of the characters.
The theatricality of the opera is determined by the extreme polarization of the images: Don Carlo and Philip II, Élisabeth and Eboli. A special position is held by Rodrigo, who is located, so to speak, at the intersection of these semantic coordinates: after all, he is both Carlo’s friend and the King’s confidant. A large role in the musical drama of the opera is played by crowd scenes and the orchestra. The expressive contours of vocal melodies are shaded by the voices of the musical instruments; the austere tinctures of church hymns can be traced in the chorales of the brass instruments. The emphasized contrasts of the juxtaposition of individual groups bestow declamatory pathos to the harmony of the orchestra.
World premiere: 11 March 1867, Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra, Paris
Premiere at the Primorsky Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre: 29 August 2020, Vladivostok
Running time: 4 hours
The performance has two intervals
The highlighting of performances by age represents recommendations.
This highlighting is being used in accordance with Federal Law N436-FZ dated 29 December 2010 (edition dated 1 May 2019) "On the protection of children from information that may be harmful to their health"