Giuseppe Verdi

Don Carlo, opera

    Description by John Palmer

    Schiller's Don Carlos was first suggested to Verdi in 1850 by the Paris Opéra. Verdi rejected the idea, but continued negotiations led to the composition and production of Les vêpres siciliennes in 1855. When the new director of the Paris Opéra, Auguste Perrin, approached Verdi in 1865 concerning a new work for Napoleon III's Universal Exhibition of 1867, Verdi had become tired of the intolerance of Italian theatergoers. Paris seemed to offer more creative potential, a stable company of singers and players, and a large budget. Verdi accepted Perrin's proposition, hoping to score a major success in grand opera.

    After considering several librettos, Verdi decided on one by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle that adapted the dramatic poem Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien, by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). However, Verdi felt that the story lacked the spectacle necessary for grand opera, and suggested the addition of the immense and colorful coronation scene in Act Three. No one has yet successfully explained why Philip should be crowned in the middle of his reign.

    Such additions made the work run beyond the maximum time allowed by the Opéra, and numerous cuts were made during the eight months of rehearsals. (These sections remained unknown until 1969.) Finally, the original, five-act, French version of Don Carlos was performed at the Académie Impériale de Musique in Paris on March 11, 1867. A revised version in Italian was first staged on January 10, 1884, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

    Throughout the composition process, Verdi shaped the libretto to his liking, suggesting meters and occasionally writing lines and drafting scenes such the final one, in which Elizabeth makes her fateful decision. He also added the Philip-Inquisitor duet that is part of Schiller's play. In general the work, especially through the character of the Marquis de Posa, advocates freedom of thought; Verdi may have been reacting in part to Pope Pius IX's "Syllabus of Errors" of 1864, which denounces this very idea.

    Conflicts of a political sort abound in Don Carlos, in which the titular hero is in love with Elizabeth de Valois, who has become the wife of his father, King Philip II, as the result of a political marriage. Furthermore, the Marquis de Posa, Don Carlos's best friend, is wanted by the Grand Inquisitor because he is a "freethinker." Philip discovers his wife's infidelity and must decide what to do about his son while the Grand Inquisitor asserts his power over him. According to Verdi, the climax of the opera is the auto-da-fé scene in Act Three.

    The revised version sets an Italian translation by Angelo Zanardini of the revised libretto by Camille du Locle. Verdi and Zanardini dropped the entire first act, placing all of the action in Spain. One problem that results is that when we hear the "love theme" for Don Carlos and Elizabeth, returning in leitmotiv fashion, we have no context from which to make sense of it; it originally appeared in the abandoned first act. Also, the opening Prelude and Introduction of the original Act One provide important links to the beginning of Act Four.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Su, cacciator! pronti o la belva... (Le cerf s'enfuit sous la remure)
    2. Fontainebleau! Foresta immensa e solitaria! (...Forêt immense et solitaire!)
    3. Il suon del corno alfin nel bosco tace. (Le bruit du cor)
    4. Al mio pie' perché?
    5. Di qual amor, di quanto ardor (De quands transports)
    6. Al fedel ch'ora viene, or signora (A celui qui vous vient)
    7. L'ora fatale è suonata! (L'heure fatale est sonnée!)
    8. Inni di festa lieta echeggiate (Chants de Fête)
    9. Il glorioso Re di Francia (Le trè-glorieux Roi de France)
    10. Carlo il sommo Imperatore (Charles-Quint, l'auguste Empereur)
    11. Al chiostro di San Giusto (Au couvent de Saint-Just)
    12. È lui! desso! l'Infante! (Le voilà! C'est l'Infant!)
    13. Ascolta! Le porte dell'asil s'apron già
    14. Dio, che nell'alma infondere amor... (Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes)
    15. Sotto ai folti, immensi abeti (Sous ces bois)
    16. Tra queste mura pie la Regina...
    17. Nel giardin, del bello... (Au palais des fées) [Veil Song]
    18. La Regina!... Un'arcana mestizia... (La Reine!)
    19. Che mai si fa nel suol francese (Que fait-on à la cour de France)
    20. Carlo ch'è sol il nostro amore (L'Infant Carlos)
    21. Io vengo a domandar (Je viens solliciter de la Reine)
    22. Oh! Carlo! oh! Carlo!
    23. Il Re!... Perché sola è la Regina? (Le Roi!)
    24. Non pianger, mia compagna (Ô ma chère compagne)
    25. Restate! Al mio regal cospetto (Restez! Auprès de ma personne)
    26. O Signor, di Fiandra arrivo (O Roi! J'arrive de Flandre)
    27. Quest'è la pace che voi date al mondo?
    28. Osò lo sguardo tuo penetrar il mio soglio
    29. Preludio
    30. A mezzanotte, ai giardin della Regina (A minuit, aux jardins de la Reine)
    31. Ed io, che tremava al suo aspetto! (Et moi qui tremblais devant elle!)
    32. Spuntato ecco il dì d'esultanza (Ce jour heureux)
    33. Schiusa or sia la porta del tempio!
    34. Il corteggio reale
    35. Nel posar sul mio capo la corona (En plaçant sur mon front)
    36. Sire! egli è tempo ch'io viva! (Sire, il est temps!)
    37. O ciel! Tu! Rodrigo!
    38. Introduzione e Scena. Ella giammai m'amò! (Elle ne m'aime pas!)
    39. Il Grand' Inquisitor! (Le Grand Inquisiteur!)
    40. Giustizia, giustizia, Sire! (Justice! Sire! J'ai foi)
    41. Arditta troppo voi favellate!
    42. Ah! sii maledetto, sospetto fatale (Maudit soit le soupçon infâme)
    43. Scena. Pietà! Pietà! perdon! (Pitié! Pardon!)
    44. O don fatale, o don crudel (O don fatal)
    45. Son io, mio Carlo (C'est moi, Carlos!)
    46. Per me giunto è il dì supremo / O Carlo ascolta, la madre... (Oui, Carlos!)
    47. Io morrò ma lieto in core (Ah! Je meurs l'âme joyeuse)
    48. Mio Carlo a te la spada io rendo. (Mon fils, reprenez votre épée)
    49. Tu che le vanità... (Toi qui sus le néant des grandeurs)
    50. È dessa!... Un detto, un sol (C'est elle!... Un mot)
    51. Ma lassù ci vedremo (Au revoir dans un monde)
    52. Io l'ho perduta (for Italian 4 act version)
    53. L'hiver est long! (Omitted, Prelude & Intro)
    54. Que e fleurs...Viens Eboli (Omitted, Intro & chorus)
    55. Le Ballet de la Reine (Omitted)
    56. J'ai tout compris (Omitted)
    57. Mons fils, reprenez votre épée (Omitted)
    58. Oui, pour toujours! (Omitted)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Dynamic DYNCDS 777603
    2015 Walhall WLCD 0336
    2013 Gala Records 100598
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791919
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099941674
    2012 Krescendo Records / Zebralution
    2011 Urania 112
    2011 Sony Classical 8869791004
    2009 Myto Records 0009
    2009 Chandos 3162(3)
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 001303802
    2009 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099996685
    2008 EMI Classics 13937
    2008 EMI Classics 11973
    2008 EMI Music Distribution 5674012
    2007 Allegro Corporation 9903
    2007 Royal Opera House Heritage Series BTRCRS 007CD
    2007 TDK DVWW-OPCARLOS
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 58631
    2006 Opera D'Oro 7034
    2006 Myto Records 55320
    2006 EMI Classics
    2006 Document / Documents Classics 223480
    2006 GOP Great Opera Performances 66350
    2006 Gala Records 761
    2006 Opera Rara 305
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2005 Orfeo 649053
    2005 Orfeo 648054
    2004 Living Stage 1089
    2004 Great Opera Performances 66311
    2003 Living Stage 1027
    2003 Myto Records 34287
    2003 Philips 475252
    2003 Naxos 8660096-98
    2002 Warner Fonit 82649
    2002 Ponto Recordings 1003
    2001 Opera D'Oro 1296
    2001 Angel Records 67479
    2001 Bella Voce 107404
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 67449
    2000 Myto Records 983189
    2000 Angel Records 67397
    2000 Opera D'Oro 1239
    2000 Myto Records 981175
    2000 Myto Records 001038
    1999 Bella Voce BLV 107405
    1999 Myto Records 993210
    1997 Philips / Polygram 454463
    1997 Opera D'Oro 1131
    1997 EMI Music Distribution 56152
    1995 Myto Records 94197
    1994 Standing Room Only 850
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 54867
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 52500
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 69304
    1988 EMI
    1988 EMI Classics 69304
    1988 Decca 421114
    1987 EMI Music Distribution 747701-8
    1985 Deutsche Grammophon 415316
    Legato Classics 223
    Arkadia 220
    Pantheon 6614.16
    Musical Heritage Society 534743
    Mondo Musica 10271
    Fonit-Cetra Italia 25
    Great Opera Performances 777
    Arkadia 582
    Ornamenti 110
    Melodram 370104
    Pantheon 6614