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Giuseppe Verdi

Don Carlos

Giuseppe Verdi - Don Carlo

Don Carlo Verdi - Domingo, Bruson, Price, Obraztsova 1978 

Don Carlos is a fine, mature work, but it is seldom given. One reason is that it demands so large a cast of many fine singers. It requires not only the customary leading soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, and bass, but an extra equally fine basso, and an extra coloratura soprano—no less—in a comparatively minor role. The first performance, in Paris in 1867, was (perhaps for this reason) a comparative failure. Fifteen years later Verdi shortened and revised the whole opera, omitting one whole act. He modeled it, then, more closely on Schiller’s play of Don Carlos, and in this form it has had at least а succes d'estime in many opera houses. The following description is based on the revised version.



Opera in five acts by Giuseppe Verdi with libretto in French by Fransois Joseph Мeгу and Camille du Locle based on the play by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. Usually sung in the revised Italian four-act version by Antonio Ghislanzoni


Philip II, King of Spain
Elisabeth de Valois, later Queen of Spain
Princess Eboli, her lady-in-waiting

Don Carlos, Infante of Spain

Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa

Grand Inquisitor

Tebaldo, Elizabeth's page

Time: 1559
Place: Madrid

First performance at the Paris Opéra on 11th March 1867


King Philip II:


Bass. King of Spain, father of the Infante Don Carlos, who has been betrothed to Elisabeth de Valois in an attempt to bring peace between their countries. Philip decides to marry Elisabeth himself, and for the sake of her country she agrees, although she is in love with Carlos. Philip is suspicious of the relationship between his wife and his son. Despite her denials of unfaithfulness, he has Carlos arrested and imprisoned, assured by the Grand Inquisitor that he can even have him killed for the sake of the faith of the country. At the tomb of his father, the Emperor Carlos V, Philip hides and watches Elisabeth bid farewell to Carlos. Philip orders him to be arrested, but is thwarted as the tomb of the Emperor opens and Carlos is dragged inside to the safety of the cloister. Arias: Elle ne m'aime pas! (‘She does not love me!’); duet (with Posa): Votre regard hardi s'est levé sur mon trône (‘Your daring glance has been raised to my throne’). This is one of three male roles in the lower register in this opera (the others being Posa and the Grand Inquisitor), and Verdi's skill in differentiating between them vocally can be heard in the various duets and ensembles. Created (Fr. vers. 1867) by Louis‐Henri Obin; (It. vers. 1884) by Alessandro Silvestri. 

Giuseppe Verdi Don Carlos: "Elle ne m'aime pas!" Ferruccio Furlanetto Conductor Bertrand De Billy, orchester der Wiener Staatsoper


Philip II (21 May 1527 – 13 September 1598), called "the Prudent" (el Prudente), was King of Spain, King of Portugal, King of Naples and Sicily, and jure uxoris King of England and Ireland (during his marriage to Queen Mary I from 1554–58).

Known in Spain as "Felipe el Prudente" ('"Philip the Prudent'"), his empire included territories on every continent then known to Europeans, including his namesake the Philippines. During his reign, Spain reached the height of its influence and power. This is sometimes called the Golden Age. The expression "the empire on which the sun never sets" was coined during Philip's time to reflect the extent of his dominion.

During Philip's reign there were separate state bankruptcies in 1557, 1560, 1569, 1575, and 1596. This was partly the cause of the declaration of independence that created the Dutch Republic in 1581. A devout Catholic, Philip is also known for organising a naval expedition against Protestant England in 1588, the Spanish Armada, which was unsuccessful, mostly due to storms and serious logistical problems.

Philip II
Portrait by Titian, c. 1550

Elisabeth de Valois:

Soprano. Daughter of Henri II of France, betrothed unseen to the Infante of Spain, in the hope of ending the wars between their two countries. She is attracted to a young Spaniard she meets and is delighted when she realizes this is Carlos, her future husband. However, his father, King Philip, decides to marry Elisabeth himself, and for the sake of her country she has to agree. Carlos, now her step‐son, asks her to persuade his father to send him to Flanders. On the eve of Philip's Coronation, Elisabeth sends her lady‐in‐waiting, Eboli, to deputize for her at the festivities, masked and dressed in the queen's clothes. Mistaking her identity, Carlos declares his love, thus giving away their secret and Eboli vows to expose them. The King accuses Elisabeth of adultery after finding Carlos's portrait in her jewel‐box, his attention having been drawn to it by Eboli, who admits her involvement and also her adultery with Philip. Elisabeth is unable to pardon her adultery—she can go into exile or into a nunnery. At the monastery at San Yuste, Elisabeth kneels in prayer near the tomb of Carlos's grandfather. She says farewell to Carlos who is about to leave for Flanders. They are interrupted by the arrival of the King and the Grand Inquisitor, come to arrest Carlos, but the tomb opens and Carlos is dragged inside. Aria: Toi qui sus le néant des grandeurs de ce monde (‘You who knew the emptiness of the pomp of this world’); duet (with Carlos): De quels transports (‘What rapture’). Created (Fr. vers. 1867) by Marie‐Constance Sasse; (It. vers. 1884) by Abigaille Bruschi‐Chiatti.

Toi qui sus le neant from Verdi's Don Carlos (Paris 1867) Helen Lyons


Elisabeth of Valois (2 April 1545 – 3 October 1568) was a Spanish queen consort as the third spouse of Philip II of Spain. She was the eldest daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici.
Elisabeth married King Philip of Spain, son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. They originally married with a proxy wedding at Notre Dame before leaving France. The actual ceremony took place in Guadalajara, Spain, upon her arrival. The marriage was a result of the Peace of Cateau Cambrésis of 1559. 
Philip was completely enchanted by his 14-year-old bride, and within a short period of time had given up his mistress. Despite the significant age difference, Elisabeth was also quite pleased with her husband. Philip enjoyed hosting chivalric tournaments to entertain his wife. Elisabeth would play liege lady to the three young princes of the Spanish Court: Don Carlos, John of Austria, and Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma.

Elisabeth relationship with her troubled stepson Don Carlos was warm and friendly. Despite reports of his progressively bizarre behavior, Carlos was always kind and gentle to Elisabeth. When it eventually became necessary for Philip to lock him away, Elisabeth cried for days. Prince Carlos died soon after. 

Élisabeth de Valois, by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, 1565

Princess Eboli: 

Mezzo-soprano. Lady‐in‐waiting to Elisabeth de Valois (who becomes Queen of Spain). She is in love with the Spanish Infante, Don Carlos, who was betrothed to Elisabeth until his father decided to marry her himself. On the night before the Coronation, Elisabeth sends Eboli to represent her at the festivities—there is a masked ball and Eboli is masked and dressed in the Queen's clothes. Carlos mistakes her for Elisabeth and pours out his love for her. Eboli, realizing that he and the Queen are lovers, determines to expose them to the King (with whom she has had an adulterous relationship). When she admits her role in encouraging the King's jealousy, and begs the Queen's pardon, Elisabeth gives her a choice—exile or a nunnery. Before leaving, she helps Carlos escape from prison where his father has kept him incarcerated. Aria (with chorus): Au palais des fées (‘In the fairy palace’)—known as the Song of the Veil, this is a lovely display‐aria for a mez. with a wide range; O don fatal (‘O fatal gift’). Eboli is traditionally portrayed wearing an eye‐patch. There is much controversy about the authenticity of this patch. It is variously said that she needed to wear it because of an injury to her eye in childhood; that she wore it to hide a squint; or that it was worn just to add to the effect of her appearance. Created (Fr. vers. 1867) by Pauline Gueymard‐Lauters; (It. vers. 1884) by Giuseppina Pasqua.

Don Carlo: 'O don fatale'. Dolora Zajick


Ana de Mendoza de la Cerda y de Silva Cifuentes, Princess of Eboli, Duchess of Pastrana, (in full, Spanish: Doña Ana de Mendoza y de la Cerda), (29 June 1540 – 2 February 1592) was a Spanish aristocrat, suo jure 2nd Princess of Mélito, 2nd Duchess of Francavilla and 3rd Countess of Aliano.

Ana, Countess of Melito and Duchess of Pastrana, married Rui Gomes da Silva, 1st Prince of Éboli when she was 13 years old (1553), by recommendation of the regent of Spain, the future King Philip II. Her husband was a chief councillor and favourite with Philip, and from 1559 Prince of Éboli. Although she may have been blind in one eye, the Princess of Éboli was considered very attractive. She was an energetic person, and prominent in court life. One of her friends was the queen, Isabel de Valois.

There is a character called Princess Eboli based on Ana in Schiller's play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien, and Verdi's opera Don Carlos.

Élisabeth de Valois, by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, 1565

Don Carlos:

Tenor. Infante of Spain, son of King Philip II. Don Carlos arrives in France, in secret, anxious to see his proposed bride, Elisabeth de Valois, with whom he falls in love, revealing to her his true identity. She is warned that now the King of Spain himself desires her hand for himself and not for his son. In a monastery Don Carlos recalls the stories of how his grandfather, Charles V, did not die but remains as a monk. He is induced by his friend Rodrigo to support the people of Flanders, but is moved by the sight of the King and his Queen, as they pass the tomb of Charles V. Princess Eboli, herself in love with Carlos, imagines this love returned. A scene between Elisabeth and Don Carlos is filled with emotion, as Don Carlos rushes away distraught. Rodrigo asks the King to send him to Flanders and seeks a lessening of severity in Spain's official policy. The King warns him of the power of the Inquisition. In the palace gardens, while a masked ball is in progress within, Don Carlos waits for the arrival of the Queen, and seeing a figure whom he thinks to be Elisabeth declares his love, only to find that it is Princess Eboli, at which he cannot hide his true feelings. She is resolved on revenge. As heretics are to be put to death, Don Carlos pleads for Flanders before the King and has to be disarmed by Rodrigo. The Inquisitor advises the King that Rodrigo must be punished rather than Don Carlos. Finding the portrait of his son in the Queen's jewel-case, the King accuses her of adultery, and left together with Princess Eboli, who confesses her rôle in this and her adultery with the King, the Queen dismisses her from her service. Imprisoned, Carlos is visited by Rodrigo, who takes the blame for letters sent to Carlos from the Flemish patriots. Rodrigo is shot by an assassin who has followed him. The opera ends as the Queen and Don Carlos meet by the tomb of Charles V. The King has overheard and emerges from behind the tomb, with the Grand Inquisitor, demanding the death of his son. The voice of the old Emperor is heard and a figure comes forward, the old Emperor or a monk in disguise, to take Don Carlos into the safety of the monastery.

Verdi was induced to shorten his opera by omitting the ballet scene for the palace ball in the original third act and the first act, set in France. The score includes, for Princess Eboli, the Moorish romance, the Veil Song , Au palais des fées (At the fairies' palace), the tale of a Moorish king who by mistake wooed his own wife in the garden, a premonition of the mistake that Don Carlos is to make himself, when he mistakenly woos Princess Eboli. Elle ne m'aime pas (She does not love me), sung by the King, is followed by his duet with the old blind Grand Inquisitor, Suis-je devant le Roi? (Am I before the King?). There is much else in a powerful work, representative throughout of Verdi at the height of his powers.
Created (1887) by Francesco Tamagno.

Plácido Domingo. Aria "Per me giunto", de Don Carlo


Carlos de Austria, byname Don Carlos, (born July 8, 1545, Valladolid, Spain—died July 25, 1568, Madrid), prince of Asturias, son of King Philip II of Spain and Maria of Portugal, heir to the Spanish throne, whose hatred for his father led him to conspire with the king’s enemies in the Low Countries, thus provoking his arrest. His death contributed to the Black Legend of Philip II.

Don Carlos spent his first years at Alcalá de Henares with his aunts, the infantas Doña María and Doña Juana. Except for a short period, the prince did not see his father until he was 14 years of age. In 1554 Philip II entrusted his son’s education to Honorato Juan, but the humanist accomplished very little. Don Carlos was sickly and soon showed signs of mental instability, being given to outbursts of violence. In 1560 the Cortes (parliament) of Castile recognized him as heir to the throne, but Philip subsequently decided he was incapable of ruling and barred him from succession to the throne. In 1565 Don Carlos attempted to escape to Flanders and, two years later, to Germany. Finally, Philip II ordered his arrest in January 1568 when he learned of the intrigues of the prince with the marquis of Berghes and the baron of Montigny, nobles involved in the rebellion of the Low Countries. Don Carlos died in prison a few months later. Although his death occurred under mysterious circumstances, there is no evidence that he was executed by order of his father. The accounts that the prince was subject to a judicial process or that his death was caused by his love for Queen Isabella of Valois, Philip’s wife, or by his Protestant inclinations lack historical foundation. Don Carlos is probably best known as the hero of a tragedy by Friedrich von Schiller and of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Don Carlo.

Portrait by Alonso Sánchez Coello, 1564

Rodrigo, Marquis De Posa:

Bararitone. A loyal supporter of King Philip II of Spain and close friend of the Infante, Don Carlos. Carlos tells Posa of his love for Elisabeth, now married to his father. The Marquis advises him to try to forget his frustration by going to Flanders and helping the people there who have been oppressed by the Catholic rule imposed on them by Spain. Posa asks the King to allow Carlos to go to Flanders, begging him to treat the people there less severely. 
Already historically compromised by the great German dramatist Friedrich Schiller [1759–1805], the story of Don Carlos presents a complex backdrop of political‐religious—i.e. public—conflict by which the very personal dilemmas of love, jealousy, family, and faith are brought into sharp relief. But with Don Carlos the essentially metaphoric use of historical context accomplishes the recreation of the ambiguity of successive moments found in reality. There is no scene in the opera that ends in the same political or personal context in which it starts. One is caught in the ebb and flow of events in King Philip II's life as mercurially manipulated by his son, set against the backdrop of absolutist religious fervour.

The Marquis de Posa is the most metaphorical figure in the opera, not least because the very essence of his existence and behaviour would have been impossible in Philip II's court. Posa's mission (but not the man himself) is historically founded: to free Flanders of oppression. Even more to the point is his unwavering determination to realize for himself and ‘his kind’ self‐determination.

Verdi's concern that Posa would be perceived only as a martyred hero, not only demonstrates the composer's understanding of the theatre public's hunger for cliché, but also illuminates his ‘use’ of Posa in this work. Posa is a constant and consistent force throughout the opera. His unwavering mission which, in fact, borders on the zealous, finds him in the role of confidant to the very source (Philip) of the massacre he protests, just as it prepares him to become a murderer in the name of protection of his only ally (and therefore hope), Carlos. He compromises one apparent allegiance to fortify the appearance of another (auto‐da‐fé) in order to attain the greater goal of his ‘beliefs’) and he is even treasonous in the simple act of serving as messenger‐boy for his love‐sick friend, Carlos.

Each event, however, is greater than Posa's participation in it. If anything, Posa's metaphoric existence as the emerging cry for self‐determination and greater democratic ideals, though it is very sympathetic, is suffocated in a larger social, personal, political, religious conundrum that requires a dramatic martyrdom to achieve any permanence to his character's existence.

The challenge artistically to a role like Posa is, in fact, to avoid the heroic. If one sings exactly as the master wrote, constant in his use of pianissimi, trills, phrase markings, rests, there emerges a character who is more intent on finding his way in each new circumstance rather than an operatic figure bent on delivering his message. Posa is intentionally given a separate musical tone for each of his ‘partners’—Elisabeth, Carlos and, most importantly, Philip—regardless of what it is he has to say. His lyricism is not impotence, but a rather pliant, even manipulating, dialogue. His outbursts are always born of passion that surprises even himself and thus require immediate further dialogue. Throughout all Verdi's revisions and translations from the original French libretto, the role of Posa remained intact, the only character not to be altered in form, tessitura, presence, and, therefore, intent. Aria: Carlos ecoute... Ah! Je meurs l'ame Joyeuse ('Carlos, listen... Ah! I die with a happy soul'). Created (1884) by Paul Lherle.

Giuseppe Verdi - Don Carlo - Rodrigo's aria

Verdi's Don Carlo Christof Pohl as Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa

Grand Inquisitor:

Bass. An old man (aged about 90), blind and sometimes needing to be supported, he nevertheless has a strong personality. The King consults him on how to treat his son, who sympathizes with the heretics in Flanders. The Inquisitor points out that God gave his son in order to save the world, so it would not be wrong for Philip to sacrifice his son for the sake of his country. The Inquisitor tries to denounce the Marquis of Posa, but the King will not listen to this. At his grandfather's tomb, Carlos bids farewell to Elisabeth before leaving for Flanders. Philip demands that the Grand Inquisitor seize his son and punish him. As the Inquisitor reaches out, Carlos is pulled into the safety of the cloisters by his dead grandfather reaching from the tomb. Aria: Dans ce beau pays (‘In this beautiful country’). Created (1867) by Mons. David; (1884) by Francesco Navarini.

G Verdi Don Carlos Le Grand Inquisiteur! Dans ce beau pays R Raimondi N Ghiaurov


Fernando de Valdés y Salas, (Salas, Asturias, 1483 – Madrid, 1568) was a Spanish churchman and jurist, Professor of Canon Law at the University of Salamanca, and later its Chancellor.

He was member of the Supreme Council of the Spanish Inquisition from 1516, Bishop of Ourense (1529–1532), Bishop of Oviedo (July 1532 – May 1539), Bishop of León,(1539), Bishop of Sigüenza (October 1539 – August 1546), Archbishop of Seville (August 1546 – December 1566), President of the Royal Council of Castile, Inquisitor General/Grand Inquisitor (1547–1566). He published an "Index of Forbidden books" in 1559, including Erasmus of Rotterdam (October 27, 1466/1469 – July 12, 1536), Frey Louis of Granada (Granada, 1505 – Lisbon, Portugal, December 31, 1588), Saint Francisco de Borja ( 3 October 1510 – 28 September 1572), and other authors.

He tried to clean out heterodox people, associated to Jewish and Moslem "conversos" and Erasmist and Lutheran circles, discovered in 1558, from the high nobility and the high ecclesiastical positions around Valladolid and Sevilla, with the Archbishop of Toledo (1558 – May 2, 1576), born in 1503 at Miranda de Arga, Navarre, Bartolomé Carranza.



Scene 1  The story takes place in sixteenth-century Madrid. In the monastery of San Giusto a mysterious monk,
accompanied by other monks, prays for the peace of soul of Charles V, once the proud Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. His grandson, Don Carlos, enters a moment later, and imagines be hears the voice of Charles still haunting the convent. In an aria he speaks of his love for the beautiful Elizabeth of Vaiois. Elizabeth, whom be had met in France, was forced, for political reasons, to marry Carlos's father, Philip II of Spain. As Carlos pours but his heart, his great friend Rodrigo enters. He advises Carlos to ask for the governorship of Flanders: there the people are suffering and there he may forget Elizabeth. The two men, in a fine duet, swear eternal friendship (Dio, che nell'alma infondere amor—"God, who has filled our hearts with love"). As the scene closes, they see Philip and his queen going to prayers in the monastery, and they renew their vows of frienaship.

Scene 2 takes place in a garden and begins with a Moorish love song sung by the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, led by thе Princess Eboli. We shall be hearing more of this Princess, for she is in love with Don Carlos, just as the Queen is. Following the love song, Rodngo has an interview with Queen Elizabeths He begs her to persuade Philip to send Carlos to Flanders as Governor. When Rodrigo retires in the company of Princess Eboli, there is a scene between Elizabeth and Carlos. At first he restrains nimself, but soon be is passionately declaring his love, and Elizabeth summons the strength to deny Ыпь King Philip enters a moment after Carlos has departed, and he is furious when he finds his Queen unattended. Yet he softens somewhat in his interview with Rodrigo, for he honors and trusts this nobleman. He explains to Rodrigo (but does not convince him) that Flanders must continue to suffer for the good of Spain, and he more than hints that the Church, in the person of the Grand Inquisitor, is the real power to beware.


Scene 1 takes place at night in the Queen's garden. Carlos, who has received an unsigned letter, is expecting to meet Elizabeth,and when a veiled lady comes, he begins to make love to hex. But it is the Princess Eboli, in love with Carlos, who has written the letter and kept the tryst When Carlos, greatly confused, discovers his mistake, he reveals that be really loves the Queen. Well—hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; and even the interference of Rodrigo, who threatens to murder the Princess, cannot restrain the Princess from promising herself vengeance. Nevertheless, the scene ends without bloodshed as Carlos turns over some incriminating papers to Rodrigo for safekeeping, and the two again swear eternal friendship.

Scene 2 shows the Spanish Inquisition at work. A group of heretics is about to be burned alive. When King Philip enters, many plead to him for mercy, but he and the monks stand fast. Then Don Carlos, the King's son, requests that he may be sent to Flanders to give that suffering country a kindlier government The King refuses; Carlos draws his sword, swearing to avenge Flanders; and the King demands that he be disarmed Only Rodrigo dares to do this for his King, and he is rewarded by being made a duke.

The scene then ends with the fires being lighted to bum the victims of the Inquisition, and strangely (or so it seems to me) everyone joins in a chorus of rqoicing. At the very dose a voice from heaven pardons the dying men and women.


Scene 1 opens with King Philip's great soliloquy, Ella giammai mm'ato. Elizabeth, he says, has never loved him; he must always be alone. There follows an uncomfortable dialogue with the Grand Inquisitor, a stern, forbidding, blind old man. Philip offers to have his own son executed for геbellion. The Grand Inquisitor not only approves; be also demands the death of Rodrigo, who, he says, is far more dangerous. The interview ends with distrust on both sides, and then Elizabeth comes in to the King, demanding that her stolen jewel casket be found. Philip has it there. He opens it and be discovers a picture of Carlos. She denies his accusations of infidelity, and when Rodrigo and the Princess Eboli enter, he realizes that Elizabeth was faithful.A great quartet develops, and then the two women are left alone. Repentant, Princess Eboli admits she had stolen the casket and given it to the King. She had done it out of love for Carlos and jealousy when he repulsed her. Elizabeth demands that her former friend choose between exile and the convent, and the scene ends with the Princess Eboli's famous aria О don fatale, wherein she laments the beauty that has led het to this ruin.

In Scene 2 Don Carlos is already in his prison cell. Rodrigo comes to him and tells him that the incriminating papers have been found on him. Carlos must now be the man to save Flanders, for Rodrigo is marked for death. Even as he speaks, a man sneaks into the cell and shoots Rodrigo dead. With his dying breath Rodrigo tells his friend that Elizabeth knows everything, and that she awaits him at the convent of San Giusto.


The brief last act begins with an aria by Queen Elizabeth (Tu che la yanita). Awaiting hег lover at the convent, she

resigns herself to her fate; and when Don Carlos joins her, they sing a sad duet of farewell, for Carlos, to honor his dead friend Rodrigo, must lead the Flemish people to liberty. But as they breathe their last farewells, the King and the Grand Inquisitor find them together. The King demands the death of both, and the Grand Inquisitor agrees. But the mysterious priest appears from the tomb of Charles Everyone believes it to be the ghost of the old Emperor himself, and the opera closes as Don Carlos is dragged by the priest into the tomb, to the profound amazement of everyone.



Chief among the comparatively few historically reliable underpinnings of this drama is the fact that Don Carlos was affianced to Elizabeth of Valois in 1559 (when he was only fourteen) and that his father married her a few months later. Don Carlos later on aspired to be sent to govern Flanders, but the notorious Duke of Alva was sent in his stead, very likely because the Don, always a willful and difficult young man, was rapidly going insane. At the age of 23, Carlos was imprisoned on the orders of Philip, and he died some months later, possibly assassinated. Elizabeth died very soon after.

No one knows exactly what happened-or at least how or why. But the father-wife-son triangle situation inspired not only the German Schiller to produce a tragedy on the subject but also the Englishman Otway, the Italian Alfieri, the Frenchman Chenier (brother of the hero of the opera), and many others.

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