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. When performed in Italian, the opera is called Don Carlo. 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 was commissioned and produced by the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra (Paris Opera) and premiered at the company's theatre, the Salle Le Peletier, 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:
- a duet for Elisabeth and Eboli in act 4, scene 1
- a duet for Carlos and the King after the death of Posa in act 4, scene 2
- an exchange between Elisabeth and Eboli during the insurrection in the same scene
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 introduction to act 1, with a chorus of woodcutters and their wives, and including the first appearance of Elisabeth
- A short entry solo for Posa ("J'étais en Flandres") in act 2, scene 1
- Part of the dialogue between the King and Posa at the end of act 2, scene 2
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 
It was common practice at the time for most theatres (other than those in French-speaking communities) to perform operas in Italian, and an Italian translation of Don Carlos was prepared in the autumn of 1866 by Achille de Lauzières. On 18 November 1866 Verdi wrote to Giovanni Ricordi, offering the Milan publisher the Italian rights, but insisting that the opera "must be performed in its entirety as it will be performed for the first time at the Paris Opéra. Don Carlos is an opera in five acts with ballet: if nevertheless the management of Italian theatres would like to pair it with a different ballet, this must be placed either before or after the uncut opera, never in the middle, following the barbarous custom of our day."
The Italian translation was first performed on 4 June 1867, not in Italy but in London at the Royal Italian Opera House, Covent Garden (now the Royal Opera House), where it was produced and conducted by Michael Costa – not as Verdi desired, but in a cut and altered form. The first act was removed, the ballet in act 3 was omitted, and Carlo's aria "Io la vidi", originally in act 1, was moved to act 3, just before the terzetto. The duet between Philip and the Inquisitor was shortened by four lines, and Elisabeth's aria in act 5 consisted only of part of the middle section and the reprise. The production was initially considered a success, and Verdi sent a congratulatory note to Costa. Later when Verdi learned of the alterations, he was greatly irritated, but Costa's version anticipated revisions Verdi himself would make in 1882–83 (see below).
The Italian premiere on 27 October 1867 at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, conducted by Verdi's close friend Angelo Mariani, was an "instant success", and this version, although produced in Verdi's absence, was more complete and included the ballet. For the Rome premiere on 9 February 1868 at the Teatro Apollo, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Papal censor changed the Inquisitor into a Gran Cancelliere (Grand Chancellor) and the Monk/Emperor into a Solitario (Recluse). The opera was first performed in Milan at La Scala on 25 March 1868, and prestige productions in most other Italian opera houses followed, but it did not become a popular success. The length was a particular problem, and subsequent performances were generally heavily cut. The first production in Naples in 1871 was indisputably a failure.
Further revisions to the music and the text 
Following the unsuccessful performance in Naples in 1871, Verdi was persuaded to visit the city for further performances in November / December 1872, and he made two more modifications to the score:
- additions to the scene for Posa and the King in act 2, scene 2 (Italian verses by Antonio Ghislanzoni) to replace some of the previously cut material. This is the only portion of the entire opera that was ever composed by Verdi to an Italian rather than a French text.
- cuts to the duet between Carlos and Elisabeth in act 5.
The 1882/83 revision 
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-Étienne 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 four-act version. This omitted act 1 and the ballet, and was completed by March 1883. 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 1883 revised version took place on 10 January 1884 in Italian.
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 four-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 five-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 1986 and 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 first at the Hamburg State Opera in 2001, then and as filmed for DVD at the Staatsoper in Vienna (2004) and at the Liceu, Barcelona (2006); its conductor in Vienna was Bertrand de Billy. Conducting it for Hamburg and the Liceu have been Ingo Metzmacher and Maurizio Benini respectively.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast
11 March 1867
10 January 1884
(Conductor: Franco Faccio)
|Philippe II (Filippo II / Philip II), the King of Spain, son of Charles V and father of Don Carlos||bass||Louis-Henri Obin||Alessandro Silvestri|
|Don Carlos (Don Carlo), Infante of Spain, son and heir to the King||tenor||Jean Morère||Francesco Tamagno|
|Rodrigue (Rodrigo), Marquis of Posa, a friend of the Infante Don Carlos||baritone||Jean-Baptiste Faure||Paul Lhérie|
|Le Grand Inquisiteur (The Grand Inquisitor, (Diego, Cardinal de Espinosa at the time, but not mentioned as such in the opera)||bass||Joseph David||Francesco Navarini|
|Élisabeth de Valois (Elisabeth of Valois), a French princess initially betrothed to Don Carlos but then married to King Philip||soprano||Marie-Constance Sass||Abigaille Bruschi-Chiatti|
|Princess Eboli, an aristocrat in court||mezzo-soprano||Pauline Guéymard-Lauters||Giuseppina Pasqua|
|A monk, (the apparition of the deceased Emperor Charles V, or "Carlo Quinto")||bass||Armand Castelmary||Leopoldo Cromberg|
|Thibault (Tebaldo), page to Elisabeth||soprano||Leonia Levielly||Amelia Garten|
|A Voice from Heaven||soprano|
|The Count of Lerma, a Spanish delegate to France||tenor||Gaspard||Angelo Fiorentini|
|Royal Herald||tenor||Mermant||Angelo Fiorentini|
|Countess of Aremberg, a lady-in-waiting to Elisabeth||silent||Dominique||Angelina Pirola|
|Flemish deputies, Inquisitors, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Spanish Court, the people, Pages, Guards, Monks, Soldiers – chorus|
- [This synopsis is based on the original five-act version composed for Paris and completed in 1866. Important changes for subsequent versions are noted in indented brackets. First lines of arias, etc., are given in French and Italian].
Act 1 
- [This act was omitted in the 1883 revision.]
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, Infante and son of Philip II, King of Spain, will bring the war to an end, and departs.
- [This was cut before the Paris première and replaced by a short scene in which Elisabeth crosses the stage and hands out money to the woodcutters.]
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. She asks him about Don Carlos, whom she has not yet met. Before long, Carlos reveals his true 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. Thibault appears and gives Elisabeth the surprising news that her hand is to be claimed not by Carlos but by his father, Philip. When Lerma and his followers confirm this, Elisabeth is devastated but feels bound to accept, in order to consolidate the peace. She departs for Spain, leaving Carlos equally devastated.
Act 2 
- [This act is act 1 in the 1883 revision.]
Scene 1: The monastery of Saint-Just (San Jerónimo de Yuste) in Spain
The scene takes place some time after Philip II and Elisabeth are married. Monks pray for the soul of the former Emperor Charles V ("Carlo Quinto"). His grandson Don Carlos enters, anguished that the woman he loves is now his stepmother.
- [In the 1883 revision, he sings a revised version of the aria "Je l'ai vue" / "Io la vidi", which was salvaged from the omitted first act but with some different music and different text to reflect his current situation of already knowing he can't marry Elisabeth whereas in the original he was still supposed to marry her when he sings the aria.]
A monk resembling Carlo Quinto offers him eventual consolation of peace through God, an early herald of one of the opera's themes. Carlos greets his great friend Rodrigue, Marquis of Posa, who has just arrived from the oppressed land of Flanders (Aria: "J'étais en Flandres").
- [This was cut during the pre-première rehearsals.]
Posa asks for the Infante's aid on behalf of the suffering people there. Carlos reveals that he loves his stepmother. Posa is sympathetic but 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 also 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 gives her a letter from France together, secretly, with 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. Unaware of this relationship, Eboli 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 the lady-in-waiting who was meant to be attending her, 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, with whose character and activism he is impressed, intent on rewarding him. Posa begs the King to stop oppressing the people of Flanders. The King calls Posa's idealism unrealistic and warns that the Grand Inquisitor is watching him; Philip nevertheless asks if he can grant Posa another request.
- [This dialogue was revised three times by Verdi.]
Act 3 
- [This act is act 2 in the 1883 revision.]
Scene 1: Evening in the Queen's garden in Madrid
Elisabeth is tired, and wishes to concentrate on the following day'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.
- [This scene was omitted from the 1883 revision.]
- [The ballet (choreographed by Lucien Petipa and entitled "La Pérégrina") took place at this point in the première.]
Don Carlos enters, clutching a note suggesting a tryst in the gardens. Although he thinks this is from Elisabeth, it is really from Eboli, to whom he mistakenly declares his love. When Eboli discloses her identity and that she now knows his secret - that he was expecting the Queen - Carlos is horrified. When Posa enters, she threatens to tell the King that Elisabeth and Carlos are lovers. Eboli only just escapes from being stabbed by Posa, on Carlos intervention, and exits in a vengeful rage. Just in case, 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 for an "Auto-da-fé", the public parade and burning of condemned heretics. While the people celebrate, monks drag the condemned to the woodpile. A royal procession follows, with the King addressing the populace. Don Carlos interrupts it by bringing forward six Flemish deputies, who plead with the King for their country's freedom. Although the people and the court are sympathetic, 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 uses it to dub Posa Duke, the woodpile is fired and, as the flames start to rise, a heavenly voice can be heard promising peace to the condemned souls.
Act 4 
- [This act is act 3 in the 1883 revision.]
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 – returning to a central theme – 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 and shuffles into Philip's apartment. When the King asks if the Church will object to him putting his own son to death, the Inquisitor replies that the King will be in good company: God sacrificed His own son. The King questions such an extreme approach. However, undaunted, the Inquisitor demands that the King have Posa killed. The King refuses to kill his friend, whom he admires and likes, objecting to such wanton cruelty. However, the old monk reminds Philip that the Inquisition can take down any king; he has created and destroyed other rulers before. This moment highlights the symbiotic relationship between Church and State. Somewhat taken aback, the King suggests the Grand Inquisitor forget about the whole discussion. The latter replies "Forse!" – perhaps! – and leaves. In a moment of continuing high drama, Elisabeth enters, alarmed at the apparent theft of her jewel casket. However, the King produces it and points to the portrait of Don Carlos which it contains, accusing her of adultery. She protests her innocence but, when the King threatens her, she faints. In response to his calls for help, into the chamber come Eboli and Posa. Their laments of suspicion ("Maudit soit le soupçon infâme" / "Ah, sii maledetto, sospetto fatale"), cause the King to realise that he has wronged his wife. Posa then resolves to save Carlos, though it may mean his own death. Eboli feels remorse for betraying Elisabeth; the latter, recovering, expresses her despair.
- [This quartet was revised by Verdi in 1883.]
Elisabeth and Eboli 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 also that, even worse, she has been the King's mistress. Elisabeth takes this in her stride and tells Eboli that she must go into exile or enter a convent. After she exits, Eboli curses the fatal pride that her beauty has bestowed on her, chooses the convent over exile and resolves to try and 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 he had asked Carlos to entrust to him (Aria, part 1: "C'est mon jour suprème" / "Per me giunto è il di supremo"). A shadowy figure appears and shoots Posa in the chest. As he dies, Posa tells Carlos that Elisabeth will meet him at Saint-Just the following day. He adds 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"). At that moment, Philip enters, offering his son freedom. Carlos repulses him for having murdered Posa. The King has not noticed that Posa is dead and cries out in sorrow.
- [A duet included at this point for Carlos and the King was cut before the première. The music was later re-used by Verdi for the Lacrimosa in his Requiem.]
Bells ring as Elisabeth, Eboli and the Grand Inquisitor arrive, while a crowd threatens the King, demanding the release of Carlos. In the confusion, Eboli escapes with Carlos. Although the people are brave enough with the King, they are terrified by the Grand Inquisitor, instantly submitting to his angry command to quieten down and pay homage to Philip.
- [After the première, some productions ended this act with the death of Posa; however, in 1883 Verdi provided a much shortened version of the insurrection, as he felt that otherwise it would not be clear how Eboli had fulfilled her promise to rescue Carlos]
Act 5 
- [This act is act 4 in the 1883 revision.]
The moonlit monastery of Yuste
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").
- [This duet was twice revised by Verdi.]
Philip and the Grand Inquisitor enter. The King has submitted to the church's domination and declares that there will be a double sacrifice: Posa and Carlos. The Inquisitor confirms that the Inquisition will do its duty. A short summary trial follows, confirming Carlos's putative culpability.
- [The trial was omitted in 1883.]
Carlos, calling on God, draws his sword to defend himself against the Inquisitor's guards, when the old Monk suddenly emerges from the tomb of Charles V. He grabs Carlos by the shoulder, proclaiming that the turbulence of the world persists even in the Church; once again, 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. Everyone screams in shock and terror, whilst the Monk/former Emperor drags Carlos forcibly into the tomb and closes the entrance. The curtain falls.
- Strings: violins, violas, cellos, double basses
- Woodwinds: piccolo (doubling on flute), 2 flutes, 2 oboes (2nd doubling on English horn), 2 clarinets, 4 bassoons
- Brass: 4 horns, 3 cornets à pistons, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, cimbasso
- Percussion: timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, bells in F-sharp and E-flat
- Other: harp
- On-stage: clarinet in D, 2 clarinets in A, 4 horns, 2 flugelhorns, 2 trumpets, bass flugelhorn, 3 trombones, bombardon, double bass, harmonium, harp
See also 
- In the title of the opera and the play "Don" is used as the Spanish honorific rather than as the given name.
- Budden, pp. 23–25
- Budden, p. 25
- Budden, p. 25–26
- Budden, p. 156
- Budden, p. 26; for the Italian translation by Achille de Lauzières, see OCLC 21815071 (vocal score); OCLC 777337258 (libretto)
- Quoted and translated in Budden, p. 27
- Budden, p. 27
- Budden, p. 28
- Budden, p. 28; Walker, p. 326
- Walker, p. 417
- Budden, pp. 28–9
- Budden, pp. 31–38
- 1884 Milan version: Notice de spectacle at BnF
- Budden, p. 39
- Porter, Andrew. "Musical Events: Proper Bostonian" The New Yorker, 2 June 1973, pp. 102–108. Subscription required. Accessed 27 January 2010.
- HGO website Retrieved 6 May 2012
- Budden, p. 4
- "Don Carlos". Instituto Nazionale di Studi Verdiani. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
- Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia: Don Carlo, 10 Gennaio 1884
- Budden, Julian (1984). The Operas of Verdi, Volume 3: From Don Carlos to Falstaff. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-30740-8.
- Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane (1994). Verdi: A Biography, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-313204-4.
- Walker, Frank (1962). The Man Verdi. New York: Knopf. OCLC 351014. London: Dent. OCLC 2737784. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (1982 paperback reprint with a new introduction by Philip Gossett). ISBN 9780226871325.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Don Carlos (opera)|
- Libretto (Italian)
- Vocal scores (Italian and French, 4-act and 5-act versions): Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project