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8.557894 - VERDI: Don Carlos (Highlights)
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Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Don Carlos (Highlights)

(1886 Modena / 1867 Paris versions)

Opera in Five Acts (sung in Italian)
Libretto: Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on Friedrich Schiller
Italian translation: Achille de Lauzières and Angelo Zanardini

Philip II (King of Spain) - Jaakko Ryhänen (Bass and Bass-baritone)
Don Carlos (Infante of Spain) - Lars Cleveman (Tenor)
Rodrigo (Marquis of Posa) - Peter Mattei (Baritone)
The Grand Inquisitor - Bengt Rundgren (Bass)
Elisabeth de Valois (Philip's Queen) - Hillevi Martinpelto (Soprano)
Princess Eboli (Elisabeth's lady-in-waiting) - Ingrid Tobiasson (Mezzosoprano)
Tebaldo (Elisabeth's page) - Iwa Sörenson (Soprano)
The Count of Lerma / A Royal Herald - Klas Hedlund (Tenor)
An Old Monk - Martti Wallén (Bass)
A Voice from Heaven - Hilda Leidland (Soprano)
Flemish Deputies - Göran Swartz, Mikael Magnell, Torbjörn Pettersson, Jan Sörberg, Mattias Nilsson, Johan Wållberg

Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Swedish Opera, Stockholm
(Chorus masters: Christina Hörnell and Folke Alin)
Alberto Hold-Garrido

This version of Don Carlos was assembled by the director Friedrich Meyer-Oertel with Alberto Hold-Garrido and Stefan Johansson



The final Italian version of Verdi's opera Don Carlos was first staged at La Scala, Milan, in 1884. Schiller's play had been proposed to Verdi as a subject for opera for Paris in 1850, but it was in 1866 that he saw the possibilities of the work, now with a French libretto, to be staged at the Paris Opéra in March 1867. The opera proved too long and Verdi made various cuts before the first performance, and found it necessary to continue with revisions, most significantly in 1882 and 1883. These changes were made using the French libretto, of which the final Italian version is a translation. The various existing versions of the opera have led to an element of individual choice for directors and conductors. The version recorded by the Royal Swedish Opera, sung in Italian, includes a great deal of the original version, in order to present as clearly as possible the original narrative of Schiller's drama.



Act I

[Track 1] Don Carlos, son of Philip II, King of Spain, is to marry Elisabeth de Valois and has secretly accompanied the Spanish envoy to Fontainebleau to catch a glimpse of his future bride. The winter scene opens in the forest of Fontainebleau, where Carlos, alone, hears the sound of royal huntsmen.

[2] Don Carlos awaits the arrival of Elisabeth, anticipating the delight of true love.

On their meeting Elisabeth and Don Carlos fall in love with each other, but it is soon announced from the palace that negotiations have led to the decision that she should, instead, become the wife of King Philip, to the distress of the young couple.

Act II

[3] The second act opens in the cloister of the Spanish monastery of St Yuste, where Don Carlos seeks consolation at the tomb of his ancestor, Charles V, who had abdicated his throne to become a monk.

[4] Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, joins him, welcomed by his friend. Rodrigo has recently returned from Flanders, and seeks the help of Don Carlos in securing freedom for the people there, oppressed by the power of Spain.

Don Carlos admits to Rodrigo his love for Elisabeth, his father's wife.

[5] The second scene of Act II is set in a garden by the monastery gate, where the ladies of the Spanish court, with Princess Eboli, are seen. Accompanied by a page on the mandolin, Eboli sings an old Moorish love-song.

When Elisabeth arrives, Rodrigo comes forward to give her a letter from France from her mother. He also gives her a note from Don Carlos telling her to trust Rodrigo and arrange a meeting with him. Eboli, however, believes that Carlos is secretly in love with her.

[6] Rodrigo pleads for Carlos and Elisabeth agrees to meet him. Rodrigo and Eboli leave together.

Carlos appears, begging Elisabeth's indulgence, asking her to intercede with his father to have him appointed envoy to Flanders. He finds her cold-hearted, but she rejects the accusation, pleading the demands of duty, in spite of her feelings. He tells her of his love for her.

[7] Carlos must declare his love for her, and seizes her in his arms, but she warns of the danger he runs, as he leaves her, and she falls to her knees in prayer.

The King appears, angry that the Queen has apparently been left unattended, and dismisses the Countess of Aremberg, sending her back to France.

[8] Elisabeth tries to comfort the Countess, telling her that she has a place in the Queen's heart, even if banished from Spain. She gives her a ring, as they part.

Rodrigo, who has been present, comes forward and tells the King of the suffering of the people of Flanders under the Inquisition. Philip, however, has no sympathy with the heretics and warns Rodrigo to beware of the Grand Inquisitor, although he admires the young man's courage and honesty.


The scene is set in the Queen's garden, while a masked ball takes place in the palace. Elisabeth, weary, wants to spend time alone in prayer, and tells Eboli to wear her cloak, so that people may still think the Queen is present.

[9] The court ladies admire the starry sky, while Eboli enjoys the rôle of Queen that she can now play.

Carlos has received a note telling him to come to the garden, and when he arrives and sees what he thinks is the Queen, he declares his love for her. Princess Eboli is angry and disappointed and vows revenge on the Queen and Carlos. Rodrigo, an observer of the scene, wants to kill Eboli, but is restrained by Carlos.

[10] In front of the cathedral of Valladolid, the people celebrate the coming burning of heretics.

The prisoners are led in and Carlos appears with a group of envoys from Flanders. They beg for mercy for their people, but their pleas are rejected by the King. Carlos impetuously draws his sword and the King orders him to be disarmed. None of those present dare obey, until Rodrigo takes the sword, and Carlos, thinking himself betrayed, gives in.

Act IV

[11] In his chamber the King is troubled by the need to sentence his son.

[12] He is worried that he will never have the love of his wife.

[13] The Grand Inquisitor is announced and is adamant that Carlos must die.

The old man goes on to declare that Rodrigo too must be put to death.

[14] Left alone for a moment, the King is joined by Elisabeth, who falls at his feet, seeking his help against palace intrigue: her jewels have been stolen and she must have justice. Philip tells her that the jewels are in his possession and among them a portrait of Don Carlos. She pleads her innocence, as one formerly betrothed to Carlos.

He pushes her aside, and she falls down, fainting. Rodrigo and Princess Eboli rush to her side, to help her.

[15] The four react each in their own way to these events.

Eboli now admits that she had given the jewel casket to the King, and admits that she has been the King's mistress. Elisabeth banishes her to a convent.

[16] Eboli curses her own beauty.

She now plans revenge by fomenting an armed rebellion to rescue Don Carlos.

Rodrigo has tried to take the blame for the disaffection in Flanders, proving his guilt to the King by papers in his possession.

[17] In the prison he comes to bid farewell to his friend Carlos, telling him of his confession of guilt to the King. He urges Carlos to take his place in Flanders, but a shot rings out and he falls dying.

[18] With his last words, Rodrigo tells Carlos that Elisabeth knows everything and will meet him at the monastery: it is his duty to save Spain.

The King comes to set his son free, but is accused by him of murdering Rodrigo, revealing that Rodrigo has died in his place. News comes of the approach of a mob, raised by Princess Eboli, in her attempt to save Carlos. The rioters are forced to kneel before their King and Eboli, in the guise of a page, makes clear to Elisabeth the depth of her feelings for Carlos.

Act V

[19] In the monastery of St Yuste Elisabeth kneels in prayer before the tomb of Charles V, thinking of her earlier happiness at Fontainebleau and ready to bid farewell to Don Carlos, who is to leave for Flanders.

[20] Elisabeth and Carlos take leave of each other.

[21] Philip and the Grand Inquisitor come forward, ready to lay hands on Carlos as a traitor and heretic. At this moment a figure appears, seemingly that of Charles V, to the terror of those present, and drags Carlos away into the cloister.

Keith Anderson



Four versions, seven adaptations: note on the Royal Swedish Opera recording of Don Carlos

Today Don Carlos is performed in French as often as it is in Italian. However, different productions and recordings vary considerably as regards the choice of scenes and music. The extent of the original material is such that directors, dramaturgists and conductors tend to stage the work in a highly individualistic manner, sometimes without clearly stating their intentions. People sometimes speak of a French and an "Italian" version of Don Carlos. But there is no "Italian" version, merely an Italian translation, since Verdi composed almost all the music on the basis of a libretto in French. Although Verdi approved four different versions, Don Carlos is frequently staged in a form he would have found it difficult to recognise.

1. Paris 1866-67

A. The French opera in five acts composed by Verdi for the Paris Opera in 1866.

B. The shortened opera performed in five acts with ballet at the dress rehearsal on 24 February 1867. Material was cut primarily from Act 4, in particular Eboli's confession to the Queen before the aria "O don fatal" and the prison scene.

C. The further shortened opera, though still in five acts, performed at the première on 11 March. The passages removed now included the scene between Elisabeth and the starving people in Act 1 and the depiction of conditions in Flanders as described to Carlos by the Marquis of Posa in Act 2.

D. The second performance, given on 13 March, was identical with that of the première, except that the prison scene of Act 4 now ended with Posa's death. In this adaptation but shortened still further and now translated into Italian, Don Carlos was first performed in London in 1867. The Italian première was staged in Bologna in the same year.

2. Naples 1872

E. A new Italian translation of a somewhat shortened adaptation D, now with new music for part of Philip and Posa's duet in Act 2 – the only passage of Don Carlos for which Verdi composed music to an Italian text.

3. Milan, La Scala, 1884

F. A comprehensive revision scaled down to four acts, partly with new music composed on the basis of a revised French libretto that was then translated into Italian. Now Act 1 was removed, as were the masked ball and ballet that had been included in the previous Act 3. The great duets between Carlos and Posa, Posa and Philip and Carlos and Elisabeth vary considerably from earlier adaptations. The same applies to the mob scene and closing finale.

4. Modena 1886

G. Five acts in Italian. Now a shortened Act 1 (= Paris) precedes a revised adaptation F of Acts 2-5 (= Milan).


Which Don Carlos?

The ambition behind the adaptation performed by the Royal Swedish Opera since December 1999, has been to tell – as intelligibly as possible – Schiller's and Verdi's tale of the tragic impact of the power struggle between Church and State on the fate of five individuals without having to cut too sharply between the various versions.

Right from the start, the director, Friedrich Meyer- Oertel, wished to retain most of the first act – the scene in Fontainebleau in which Carlos and Elisabeth meet and fall in love – which had not been staged in Stockholm since the thirties; and he wished to round off the drama with the fifth act's original, mysteriously subdued ending. The conductor, Alberto Hold-Garrido, held out for Philip's and the male choir's grief at the Marquis of Posa's death in prison, strains that recur in Verdi's Requiem.

In dramaturgical terms, Don Carlos's French libretto is well constructed and leaves no important step of the plot unexplained. There is therefore no good reason for excluding – as is often the case – the short scene of Act 3 in which the Queen and Princess Eboli, with fatal consequences, exchange the costumes in which they appear at the masked ball. We have also included sufficient of the mob scene of the fourth act, when Carlos is in prison, to enable audiences to grasp who lies behind the uprising – Eboli again – and how it prepares the ground for the meeting of the lovers in the final act. The version here sung in Italian by the Royal Swedish Opera thus largely conforms to the Modena version of 1886 with the addition of certain important components of the 1867 Paris version.

Stefan Johansson
Head of dramaturgy, Royal Swedish Opera


The libretto of the entire opera may be accessed at http://www.naxos.com/libretti/doncarlos.htm.

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