Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > Don Carlos (Verdi)
An Opera by Giuseppe Verdi
"Don Carlos," produced at the Grand Opéra, Paris, March 11, 1867, during the Universal Exposition, was the last opera composed by Verdi before he took the musical world by storm with "Aida." The work is in four acts, the libretto, by Méry and du Locle, having been reduced from Schillers tragedy of the same title as the opera.
The characters are Philip II, of Spain, bass; Don Carlos, his son, tenor; Rodrigo, Marquis de Posa, baritone; Grand Inquisitor, bass, Elizabeth de Valois, Queen of Philip II, and stepmother of Don Carlos, soprano; Princess Eboli, soprano. In the original production the fine role of Rodrigo was taken by Faure.
Don Carlos and Elizabeth de Valois have been in love with each other, but for reasons of state Elizabeth has been obliged to marry Philip II, Don Carloss father. The son is counseled by Rodrigo to absent himself from Spain by obtaining from his father a commission to go to the Netherlands, there to mitigate the cruelties practiced by the Spaniards upon the Flemings. Don Carlos seeks an audience with Elizabeth, in order to gain her intercession with Philip. The result, however, of the meeting, is that their passion for each other returns with even greater intensity than before. Princess Eboli, who is in love with Don Carlos, becomes cognizant of the Queens affection for her stepson, and informs the King. Don Carlos is thrown into prison. Rodrigo, who visits him there, is shot by order of Philip, who suspects him of aiding Spains enemies in the Low Countries. Don Carlos, having been freed, makes a tryst with the Queen. Discovered by the King, he is handed over by him to the Inquisition to be put to death.
"La Forza del Destino" and "Don Carlos" lie between Verdis middle period, ranging from "Luisa Miller" to "Un Ballo in Maschera" and including "Rigoletto," "Il Trovatore, and "La Traviata," and his final period, which began with "Aida." It can be said that in "La Forza" and "Don Carlos" Verdi had absorbed considerable of Meyerbeer and Gounod, while in "Aida," in addition to these, he had assimilated as much of Wagner as is good for an Italian. The enrichment of the orchestration in the two immediate predecessors of "Aida" is apparent, but not so much so as in that masterpiece of operatic composition. He produced in "Aida" a far more finished score than in "Il Forza" or "Don Carlos," sought and obtained many exquisite instrumental effects, but always remained true to the Italian principle of the supremacy of melody in the voice.