|Giuseppe Verdi |
Don CarlosOpera 1867.
Grand opera in 5 acts. After Schiller's dramatic poem Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien. Also: Don Carlo.
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Don Carlos is a five-act Grand Opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi to a French language libretto by Camille du Locle and Joseph Méry, based on the dramatic play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien ("Don Carlos, Infante of Spain") by Friedrich Schiller. The story is based on conflicts in the life of Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568) after his betrothed Elisabeth of Valois was married instead to his father Philip II of Spain as part of the peace treaty ending the Italian War of 1551-1559 between the Houses of Habsburg and Valois. It received its first performance at the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra on 11 March 1867.
Over the following twenty years, cuts and additions were made to the opera, resulting in a number of versions being available to directors and conductors. No other Verdi opera exists in so many versions. At its full-length (including the ballet and the cuts made before the first performance), it contains about four hours of music, and is Verdi's longest opera.
Revisions and translation
Pre-première cuts and first published edition
Verdi made a number of cuts in 1866, after finishing the opera but before composing the ballet, simply because the work was becoming too long. These comprised:
After the ballet had been composed, it emerged during the 1867 rehearsal period that, without further cuts, the opera would not finish before midnight (the time by which patrons would need to leave in order to catch the last trains to the Paris suburbs). Verdi then authorised some further cuts, as follows:
The opera, as first published at the time of the première, consisted of Verdi's original conception, minus all of the above cuts but including the ballet.
After the première and before leaving Paris, Verdi authorised the Opéra authorities to end Act 4, Scene 2 with the death of Posa (thus omitting the insurrection scene) if they thought fit. After his departure, further (unauthorised) cuts were apparently made during the remaining performances.
First translation into Italian
A translation of Don Carlos into Italian was in preparation by Achille de Lauzières as early as the autumn of 1866, and Verdi insisted that the opera, still referred to as Don Carlos, be given in the same five act version plus ballet as at the Paris Opera. This Italian translation - with some cuts and alterations - was presented first at the Royal Italian Opera House, Covent Garden in London (now the Royal Opera House) on 4 June 1867 (conductor: Michael Costa), and received its Italian premiere - uncut - at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna on 27 October of that year, conducted by Angelo Mariani.
Further revisions to the music and the text
The idea of reducing the scope and scale of Don Carlos had originally come to Verdi in 1875, partly as a result of his having heard reports of productions, such as Costa's, which had removed Act 1 and the ballet and introduced cuts to other parts of the opera. By April 1882, he was in Paris where he was ready to make changes. He was already familiar with the work of Charles-Louis-Etienne Nuitter, who had worked on French translations of Macbeth, La forza del destino, and Aida with du Locle, and the three proceeded to spend nine months on major revisions of the French text and the music to create a 4-act version. This omitted Act 1 and the ballet, and was completed by March 1883.
Revised Italian translation
An Italian translation of this revised French text, re-using much of the original 1866 translation by de Lauzières, was made by Angelo Zanardini. The La Scala, Milan, première of the revision, now re-titled Don Carlo, took place on 10 January 1884.
Although Verdi had accepted the need to remove the first act, it seems that he changed his mind and allowed a performance on 29 December 1886 in Modena which presented the “Fontainebleau’’ first act along with the revised 4-act version. This version was published by Ricordi as “a new edition in five acts without ballet”.
Subsequent performance history
Performances of Don Carlos/Don Carlo in the first half of the twentieth century were rare, but in the post Second World War period it has been regularly performed, particularly in the four-act 1883 'Milanese' version. Following the notable 1958 staging of the 1886 five-act Italian version at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (director Luchino Visconti), this version has increasingly been performed elsewhere and has been recorded by, among others, Georg Solti and Carlo Maria Giulini. Charles Mackerras conducted the 5-act version (complete with Verdi's original prelude, the woodcutters' scene and the original ending) in an English translation for English National Opera at the London Coliseum in 1975.
Finally, stagings and recordings of the original five-act French version of the opera have become more frequent, performances having been given at the Teatro alla Scala in 1970 featuring Plácido Domingo with Katia Ricciarelli, at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 1996, with Roberto Alagna as Don Carlos (which has been released on CD and DVD), and at the San Francisco Opera in 2003. A five-act version including the parts not performed in the first Paris première (but omitting the ballet "La Pérégrina") was staged and conducted by Sarah Caldwell with the Opera Company of Boston in 1973. The complete uncut French version was performed at the Staatsoper in Vienna (2006) and at the Liceu, Barcelona; its conductor was Bertrand de Billy.
A prelude and chorus of woodcutters and their wives is heard. They complain of their hard life, made worse by war with Spain. Elisabeth, daughter of the King of France, arrives with her attendants. She reassures the people that her impending marriage to Don Carlos, son of the King of Spain, will bring the war to an end, and departs
Carlos, coming out from hiding, has seen Elisabeth and fallen in love with her (Aria: "Je l'ai vue" / "Io la vidi"). When she reappears, he initially pretends to be a member of the Count of Lerma's delegation, but then reveals his identity and his feelings, which she reciprocates (Duet: "De quels transports poignants et doux" / "Di quale amor, di quanto ardor"). A cannon-shot signifies that peace has been declared between Spain and France, and Thibault informs Elisabeth that her hand is to be claimed not by Carlos but by his father, Philip II. Lerma and his followers confirm this, and Elisabeth feels bound to accept, in order to consolidate the peace. She departs for Spain, leaving Carlos devastated.
Scene 1: The monastery of Saint-Just (San Jerónimo de Yuste) in Spain
Monks pray for the soul of the Emperor Charles V ("Carlo Quinto"). His grandson Don Carlos enters, anguished that the woman he loves is now married to his father.
A monk resembling the former emperor offers him eventual consolation of peace through God. Carlos's friend Rodrigue, Marquis of Posa, has just come from the oppressed land of Flanders (Aria: "J'étais en Flandres")
He asks for the Infante's aid on behalf of the suffering people there. Carlos reveals that he loves his stepmother. Posa encourages him to leave Spain and go to Flanders. The two men swear eternal friendship (Duet: "Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes" / "Dio, che nell'alma infondere"). King Philip and his new wife, with their attendants, enter to do homage at Charles V's tomb, while Don Carlos laments his lost love.
Scene 2: A garden near Saint-Just
Princess Eboli sings the Veil Song ("Au palais des fées" / "Nel giardin del bello") about a Moorish King and an alluring veiled beauty that turned out to be his neglected wife. Elisabeth enters. Posa delivers a letter from France (and secretly a note from Don Carlos). At his urging (Aria: "L'Infant Carlos, notre espérance" / "Carlo ch'è sol il nostro amore"), Elisabeth agrees to see the Infante alone. Eboli notices Don Carlos' agitation and infers that she, Eboli, is the one Don Carlos loves.
When they are alone, Don Carlos tells Elisabeth that he is miserable, and asks her to request Philip to send him to Flanders. She promptly agrees, provoking Carlos to renew his declarations of love, which she piously rejects. Don Carlos exits in a frenzy, shouting that he must be under a curse. The King enters and becomes angry because the Queen is alone and unattended. He orders her lady-in-waiting, the Countess of Aremberg, to return to France, prompting Elizabeth to sing a sorrowful goodbye-aria. (Aria: "Oh ma chère compagne" / "Non pianger, mia compagna"). The King approaches Posa, whose character and activism have impressed him favorably. Posa begs the King to stop oppressing the people of Flanders. The King calls Posa's idealistic request unrealistic, and warns him that the Grand Inquisitor is watching him.
Scene 1: Evening in the Queen's garden in Madrid
Elisabeth is tired, and wishes to concentrate on the following days's coronation of the King. To avoid the divertissement planned for the evening, she exchanges masks with Eboli, assuming that thereby her absence will not be noticed, and leaves
Don Carlos enters. He has received a note suggesting a tryst in the gardens, which he thinks is from Elisabeth, but which is really from Eboli, to whom he mistakenly declares his love. The disguised Eboli realizes that he thinks that she is the Queen, and Carlos is horrified that she now knows his secret. When Posa enters, she threatens to tell the King that Elisabeth and Carlos are lovers. Carlos prevents Posa from stabbing her, and she exits in a vengeful rage. Posa asks Carlos to entrust to him any sensitive political documents that he may have, and, when Carlos agrees, they reaffirm their friendship.
Scene 2: In front of the Cathedral of Valladolid
Preparations are being made an "Auto-da-fé", the public parade and burning of condemned heretics. While the people celebrate, monks drag the condemned to the woodpile. The royal procession follows, and the King addresses the populace, but Don Carlos brings forward six Flemish deputies, who plead with the King for their country's freedom. The people and the court are sympathetic, but the King, supported by the monks, orders the deputies' arrest. Carlos draws his sword against the King. The King calls for help but the guards will not attack Don Carlos. Posa steps in, and persuades Carlos to surrender his sword. The King then promotes Posa to Duke, the woodpile is fired, and, as the flames start to rise, a heavenly voice can be heard promising peace to the condemned souls.
Scene 1: Dawn in King Philip's study in Madrid
Alone, the King, in a reverie, laments that Elisabeth has never loved him, that his position means that he has to be eternally vigilant, and that he will only sleep properly when he is in his tomb in the Escorial (Aria: "Elle ne m'aime pas" / "Ella giammai m'amò"). The blind, ninety-year-old Grand Inquisitor is announced. The King asks if the Church will object to his putting his own son to death, and the Inquisitor replies that the King will be in good company: God sacrificed His own son. In return, the Inquisitor demands that the King have Posa killed. The King refuses to kill his friend, whom he admires and likes, but the Inquisitor reminds the King that the Inquisition can take down any king; he has destroyed other kings before. The King admits that he is powerless to save his friend and begs the Grand Inquisitor to forget about the whole discussion. The Grand Inqusitor replies "We'll see," and leaves. Elisabeth enters, alarmed at the apparent theft of her jewel casket, but the King produces it and points to the portrait of Don Carlos which it contains, and accuses her of adultery. She protests her innocence, and, when the King threatens her, she faints. He calls for help. Eboli and Posa appear, and a quartet ("Maudit soit le soupçon infâme" / "Ah, sii maledetto, sospetto fatale") develops. The King realises that he has wronged his wife. Posa resolves to save Carlos, though it may mean his own death. Eboli feels remorse for betraying Elisabeth; the latter, recovering, expresses her despair.
The two women are left together. A duet, "J'ai tout compris", was cut before the première. Eboli confesses not only that she stole the casket because she loved Carlos and he rejected her, but, worse, she has also been the mistress of the King. Elisabeth tells her that she must go into exile or enter a convent, and exits. Eboli, alone, curses the fatal pride that her beauty has bestowed on her, chooses the convent over exile, and resolves to try to save Carlos from the Inquisition (Aria: "O don fatal" / "O don fatale").
Scene 2: A prison
Don Carlos has been imprisoned. Posa arrives to tell him that he will be saved but that he himself will have to die, incriminated by the politically sensitive documents which Carlos had entrusted to him (Aria, part 1: "C'est mon jour suprème" / "Per me giunto è il di supreme"). A shadowy figure shoots Posa in the chest. As he dies, Posa tells Carlos that Elisabeth will meet him at Saint-Just on the following day, and says that he is content to die if his friend can save Flanders and rule over a happier Spain (Aria, part 2: "Ah, je meurs, l'âme joyeuse" / "Io morrò, ma lieto in core"). After his death, Philip enters, offering his son freedom. Carlos repulses him for having murdered Posa. The King sees that Posa has been killed, and cries out in his sorrow.
Bells ring, and Elisabeth, Eboli and the Grand Inquisitor arrive, while a crowd demands the release of Carlos and threatens the King. In the confusion, Eboli escapes with Carlos. The people are brave enough to threaten the King, but they are terrified by the Grand Inquisitor, and they instantly obey his angry command to quiet down and bow to the King.
The moonlit monastery of Saint-Just
Elisabeth kneels before the tomb of Charles V. She is committed to help Don Carlos on his way to fulfil his destiny in Flanders, but she herself longs only for death (Aria: "Toi qui sus le néant" / "Tu che le vanità"). Carlos appears and they say a final farewell, promising to meet again in Heaven (Duet: "Au revoir dans un monde où la vie est meilleure" / "Ma lassù ci vedremo in un mondo migliore").
Philip and the Grand Inquisitor enter: the King declares that there will be a double sacrifice, and the Inquisitor confirms that the Inquisition will do its duty. A short summary trial follows.
Carlos, calling on God, draws his sword to defend himself against the Inquisitor's guards, when suddenly, the Monk emerges from the tomb of Charles V. He grabs Carlos by the shoulder, and loudly proclaims that the turbulence of the world persists even in the Church; we cannot rest except in Heaven. Philip and the Inquisitor recognize the Monk's voice as that of the King's father, former-Emperor Carlo V ("Carlo Quinto") himself. Everyone screams in shock and terror, and the Monk/former-Emperor drags Carlos forcefully into the tomb and closes the outlet. The curtain falls.
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