Calendar
ALL SHOWS ARE PERFORMED AT THE MONTE CARLO OPERA except those in November
November 2023
Thursday
02 November
20 H

Choral concert
Subscription Galas
Subscription Soirées
Messa da requiem
Verdi
Sunday
19 November
19 H (by invitation from the Palais)

Staged Concert
Caruso à Monaco
Wednesday
22 November
20 H

Opera
Subscription Galas
Don Carlo
Verdi
Friday
24 November
20 H

Opera
Subscription Soirées
Don Carlo
Verdi
Sunday
26 November
15 H

Opera
Subscription Matinées
Don Carlo
Verdi
December 2023
Saturday
16 December
20 H (Gala)

Musical
Subscription Galas
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Sunday
17 December
15 H

Musical
Subscription Matinées
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Tuesday
19 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Wednesday
20 December
20 H

Musical
Subscription Soirées
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Thursday
21 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Friday
22 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Friday
22 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Saturday
23 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Saturday
23 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Monday
25 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Tuesday
26 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Tuesday
26 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Wednesday
27 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Wednesday
27 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Friday
29 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Friday
29 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Saturday
30 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Saturday
30 December
20 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Sunday
31 December
15 H

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
Sunday
31 December
20 H (masquerade night)

Musical
The Phantom of the Opera
Lloyd Webber
January 2024
Wednesday
24 January
19 H (Gala)

Opera
Subscription Galas
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Haendel
Friday
26 January
19 H

Opera
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Haendel
Sunday
28 January
15 H

Opera
Subscription Matinées
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Haendel
Monday
29 January
20 H

Choral concert
Subscription Galas
Ein deutsches Requiem
Brahms
Tuesday
30 January
19 H

Opera
Subscription Soirées
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Haendel
February 2024
Friday
23 February
20 H (Gala)

Opera
Subscription Galas
Cavalleria rusticana & Gianni Schicchi
Mascagni & Puccini
Saturday
24 February
20 H

Aria Recital
Subscription Soirées
Rolando Villazón
Sunday
25 February
15 H

Opera
Subscription Matinées
Cavalleria rusticana & Gianni Schicchi
Mascagni & Puccini
Tuesday
27 February
20 H

Opera
Subscription Soirées
Cavalleria rusticana & Gianni Schicchi
Mascagni & Puccini
Thursday
29 February
20 H

Opera
Cavalleria rusticana & Gianni Schicchi
Mascagni & Puccini
March 2024
Saturday
23 March
17 H

Recital
Cecilia Bartoli & Lang Lang
Sunday
24 March
15 H

Opera
Subscription Matinées
La Fille du régiment
Donizetti
Tuesday
26 March
20 H (Gala)

Opera
Subscription Galas
La Fille du régiment
Donizetti
Thursday
28 March
20 H

Opera
Subscription Soirées
La Fille du régiment
Donizetti
Saturday
30 March
20 H

Opera
La Fille du régiment
Donizetti
April 2024
Sunday
07 April
19 H

Staged Concert
Subscription Galas
Their Master’s Voice
Malkovich - Bartoli
Image de la banniere en mobile
Verdi Don Carlo 22, 24 & 26 November 2023 Opera
Conductor Massimo Zanetti
Director Davide Livermore

Verdi Don Carlo

Opera
Wednesday 22 November 2023 - 20 h
Friday 24 November 2023 - 20 h
Sunday 26 November 2023 - 15 h
Grimaldi Forum

Grand opera in five acts 
Music by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Libretto by Camille Du Locle and Joseph Méry, based on the tragic poem Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (1787) from Friedrich von Schiller
Premiere : Académie impériale de musique, Paris, 11 march 1867 
Premiere 2nd revised version, in Italian and in four acts: Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 10 january 1884

New production

For foreign composers seeking fame, 19th century Paris was a veritable magnet. Since the fall of the House of Orléans, however, the bourgeois class had triumphed and its taste turned toward a genre of opera with rigid conventions and an obligatory ballet included, a form established by Giacomo Meyerbeer. In 1867 Giuseppe Verdi, disappointed by his previous experiences in Paris, defiantly thrust himself into composing Don Carlos. The result was a grand and powerful fresco with strong, profound characters. One of his most splendid compositions, this opera turns into music a weighty text where the battles between religious and political power, love and duty, friendship and reason of state, are described with remarkable accuracy. In order to preserve the dramatic tension, Verdi later condensed his work into 4 acts (in Italian) for La Scala. It is in this form and with a magnificent cast that we shall see this work in Monte Carlo in a new production by one of today’s great stage directors, Davide Livermore.

Video

1 ©OMC - Cassette Vidéo
Production Team
Conductor | Massimo Zanetti
Director | Davide Livermore
Sets | GioForma
Costumes | Sofia Tasmagambetova
Lighting design | Antonio Castro
Videos | D-Wok
Choirmaster | Stefano Visconti
REPETITOR | ANDREA DEL BIANCO
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR | DIEGO MINGOLLA
Cast
Philip II, king of Spain | Ildar Abdrazakov
Don Carlo, Infante of Spain | Sergey Skorokhodov
Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa | Artur Rucinski
The Grand Inquisitor | Alexey Tikhomirov
Elisabeth of Valois | Joyce El-Khoury
Princess Eboli | Varduhi Abrahamyan
Count of Lerma | Reinaldo Macias
A voice from heaven | Madison Nonoa
A Monk | Giorgi Manoshvili
Tebaldo, page to Elisabeth | Mirjam Mesak
Countess of Aremberg | Sophie Boursier
Royal herald | Vincenzo di Nocera
MONTE CARLO OPERA CHOIR

MONTE CARLO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Artists' biographies
Artistic and technical teams

PRODUCTION TEAM

Conductor
Massimo Zanetti

Director
Davide Livermore

Assistant director
Diego Mingolla

Sets
Giò Forma

Costumes
Sofia TASMAGAMBETOVA

Lighting design
Antonio CASTRO

Videos
D-Wok

Repetitor
Andrea DEL BIANCO

Choirmaster
Stefano Visconti

SOLOISTS

Philip II, King of Spain
Ildar Abdrazakov

Don Carlo, infante of Spain
Sergey Skorokhodov

Rodrigo, marquis of Posa
Artur Rucinski

The Grand Inquisitor
Alexey Tikhomirov

Elisabeth of Valois
Joyce El-Khoury

Princess Eboli
Varduhi Abrahamyan

Comte of Lerma
Reinaldo Macias

A voice from heaven
Madison Nonoa

A Monk
Giorgi Manoshvili

Tebaldo, page to Elisabeth
Mirjam Mesak

Countess of Aremberg
Sophie Boursier

Royal herald
Vincenzo di Nocera

FIGURATION

Soldiers 
Olivier ARDAIN
Olivier FAZIO
Guillaume FUNEL
Guillaume GALLO MANRIQUE
Alain LOUIS-JACQUET
Nicolas LEROY
Benjamin LE DUFF
Paul NGO SI XUYEN
Dmitri TSOURIKOV
Artem USTINOV

Militiamen
Moa FERREIRA
Arnaud JOUAN
Thierry SALERNO
Daniel SZUTS
Nicolas VITALE

Heretics
Didier DUPUIS
Nicolas HOUSSIN
Hugo LAMBERET
Bastien LEBLANC
Vincent VAN HEGHE
Nicolo BONAVITA

Flagelants
Heathcliff BONNET
Adrian CEROU
Yan FOURRIER 
Kevin PASTORE
Paul Vincent SISOWATH
Anthony YAMMINE

Dancers
Julia ZOLYNSKI
Gleb LYAMENKOV

CHORUS of the OPÉRA DE MONTE-CARLO

Choirmaster
Stefano Visconti

Pianist assistant to the choirmaster & consultant for the musical organisation
Aurelio Scotto

Chorus manager & librarian
Colette Audat

Sopranos I
Galia BAKALOV
Antonella CESARIO
Chiara IAIA
MARIKO IIZUKA*
Giovanna MINNITI
MARNIE MIGLIORE*
Felicity MURPHY
BIAGIA PUCCIO*
ERICA RONDINI*
ILENIA TOSATTO*
Paola VIARA-VALLE
YUE WU*

Sopranos II
DAMIANA AVOGADRO*
Rossella ANTONACCI
ELISABETTA DAMBRUOSO*
Valérie MARRET
Letizia PIANIGIANI
Laura Maria ROMO CONTRERAS
VITTORIA GIACOBAZZI
VITTORIA VITALI*

Mezzosopranos
FRANCESCA BARGELLINI*
CECILIA BERNINI*
Teresa BRAMWELL-DAVIES
TINA CHIKVINIDZE*
FRANCESCA COPERTINO*
MATILDE LAZZARONI*
Géraldine MELAC
Suma MELLANO
Federica SPATOLA
VIKTORIIA TKACHUK*

Altos
ORNELLA CORVI
Maria-Elisabetta DE GIORGI
CHIARA LA PORTA*
CARLA MATTIOLI*
TANIA PACILIO*
Catia PIZZI
JANETA SAPOUNDJIEVA*
Paola SCALTRITI
LEONORA SOFIA*
Rosa TORTORA

Tenors I
Walter BARBARIA
Lorenzo CALTAGIRONE
Domenico CAPPUCCIO
ANDREA CIVETTA*
Vincenzo DI NOCERA
Thierry DIMEO
Nicolo LA FARCIOLA
MANFREDO MENEGHETTI*
JAIME ANDRES CANTO NAVARRO*
MICHELE PINTO*
DAVIDE URBANI*

Tenors II
HALIL UFUK ASLAN*
ARTURO ALBERTO CAPRARO*
Gianni COSSU
Pasquale FERRARO
BENOIT GUNALONS*
Fabio MARZI
EDER SANDOVAL GUEVARA*
Adolfo SCOTTO DI LUZIO
Salvatore TAIELLO

Baritones
Jorge Abarza Sutter*
JEAN-FRANCOIS BARON*
GABRIELE BARRIA*
Nicolo Bartoli*
Fabio BONAVITA
Giulio Ceccarelli*
HYUNMO CHO*
Vincenzo CRISTOFOLI
Daniele di Nunzio*
Daniele DEL BUE
Leandro GAUNA*
ROSARIO GRAUSO*
DEVIS LONGO*
Armando Napoletano*
KYLE PATRICK SULLIVAN*
Luca VIANELLO

Basses
Andrea ALBERTOLLI
STEFANO ARNAUDO*
Przemyslaw BARANEK
Eugenij Bogdanowicz*
Piersilvio DE SANTIS*
LUCIO DI GIOVANNI*
THOMAS EPSTEIN*
HUGUES GEORGES*
Paolo MARCHINI
MAX MEDERO*
Giuseppe OLIVERI*
FILIPPO QUARTI*
Edgardo RINALDI
Giacomo SELICATO*
Matthew THISTLETON
GIUSEPPE ZEMA*

*additional chorus members for performances of Don Carlo

ORCHESTRE PHILHARMONIQUE DE MONTE-CARLO

Artistic and musical director
KAZUKI YAMADA

Violins I
David Lefèvre
Liza Kerob
Sibylle Duchesne
Ilyoung Chae
Diana Mykhalevych
Gabriel Milito
Sorin Turc
Mitchell Huang
Thierry Bautz
Zhang Zhang
Isabelle Josso
Morgan Bodinaud
Milena Legourska
Jae-Eun Lee
Adela Urcan
NN

Violins II
Peter Szüts
Nicolas Delclaud
Camille Ameriguian-Musco
Frédéric Gheorghiu
Nicolas Slusznis
Alexandre Guerchovitch
Gian Battista Ermacora
Laetitia Abraham
Katalin Szüts-Lukacs
Eric Thoreux
Raluca Hood-Marinescu
Andriy Ostapchuk
Sofija Radic
Hubert Touzery

Altos
François Méreaux
Federico Andres Hood
François Duchesne
Charles Lockie
Richard Chauvel
Mireille Wojciechowski
Sofia Timofeeva
Tristan Dely
Raphaël Chazal
Ying Xiong
Thomas Bouzy
Ruggero Mastrolorenzi

Cellos
Thierry Amadi
Delphine Perrone
Alexandre Fougeroux
Florence Riquet
Bruno Posadas
Thomas Ducloy
Patrick Bautz
Florence Leblond
Thibault Leroy
Caroline Roeland

Double basses
Matthias Bensmana
Tarik Bahous
Mariana Vouytcheva
Jenny Boulanger
Sylvain Rastoul
Eric Chapelle
Dorian Marcel
NN

Flutes
ANNE MAUGUE 
RAPHAËLLE TRUCHOT BARRAYA
DELPHINE HUEBER

Piccolo
MALCY GOUGET

Oboe
MATTHIEU BLOCH
MATTHIEU PETITJEAN 
MARTIN LEFÈVRE

English horn
Mathilde Rampelberg

Clarinets
MARIE-B. BARRIÈRE-BILOTE 
nn

E-flat clarinet
DIANA SAMPAIO

Bass clarinet
Véronique Audard

Bassoons
FRANCK LAVOGEZ 
ARTHUR MENRATH 
MICHEL MUGOT

Contrabassoon 
FRÉDÉRIC CHASLINE

Horns
PATRICK PEIGNIER 
ANDREA CESARI 
DIDIER FAVRE 
BERTRAND RAQUET 
LAURENT BETH 
DAVID PAUVERT

Trumpets
MATTHIAS PERSSON 
GÉRALD ROLLAND 
SAMUEL TUPIN 
RÉMY LABARTHE

Trombones
JEAN-YVES MONIER 
GILLES GONNEAU 
LUDOVIC MILHIET

Tuba
FLORIAN WIELGOSIK

Timpani & Percussions 
Julien Bourgeois
Mathieu Draux
Antoine Lardeau
Noé Ferro

Harp
SOPHIA STECKELER

STAGE STAFF

Stage Director
Xavier Laforge

Main stage manager
Nathalie Bruno

Stage manager
Elisabetta Acella

Lighting manager
Ferxel Fourgon

Assistant lighting manager
Léa Smith

Surtitling manager
Sarah Caussé

TECHNIQUE

Technical Director
Vincent Payen

Technical adviser
Nicola Schmid

Head Machinists
Carlos Grenier
Olivier Kinoo

Deputy head machinists
Yann Moreau
Franck Satizelle

Decorative painter
Gérard Périchon

Stage technicians
Francomarah Augustin
Laurent Barcelo
Tom Cressi
Morgan Dubouil
Jean-Philippe Faraut
Axel Gbedo
Schama Imbert
Frédéric Laugier
David M’Bappé
Khalid Negraoui

Chief electrician
Benoît Vigan

Deputy chief electrician
Dino Bastieri
GAEL LE MAUX

Lighting technicians
Nicolas ALCARAZ
Harley BASILE
Guillaume BREMOND
Grégory CAMPANELLA
Florian CAPELLO
Ludovic DRUIT
Laurent RENAUX

Pupitreurs
Dylan Castori
Grégory Masse

Head of audio/video
Benjamin Grunler

Video technician
Felipe Manrique

Head prop maker
Audrey Moravec

Accessorists
Franck ESCOBAR
Roland BIREN
Landry BASILE
Emilie TRABONA

Head of costumes
Eliane Mezzanotte

Deputy head of costume
Emilie Bouneau

Assistant wardrobe manager
Edwige Galli
Véronique Tetu

Dressers
Roxane AVELLO
Justine BORDARIER
Christian CALVIERA
Carla CAPUANO
Laure CHABOT
Nadine CIMBOLINI
Henda DRIDI
Lili FORTIN
Anaïs GILLOUX
Karinne MARTIN
Florence RINALDINO
Lauriane SENET
Mathieu TARKOWSKI
Anne-Louise VAIDIE

Chief wig and make-up
Déborah Nelson

Deputy Chief wig and make-up
Alicia Bovis

Hairdressers
Mylène AUGET
Jean-Pierre GALLINA
Christine OTASSO
Marilyn RIEUL
Natasha SANNA

Make-up artists
Margot JOURDAN
Sophie KILIAN
Agnès LOZANO
Rémy REBAUDO
Francine RICHARD
Patricia ROCHWERG

TICKET OFFICE

Box office Manager
Virginie Hautot

Deputy Box office Manager
Jenna Brethenoux

Ticket service
Ambre Gaillard
Dima Khabout
Assmaa Moussalli

Synopsis

The 1884 version presented this evening is in 4 acts, all located in Spain. However, in order to clarify the drama we have summarized the preliminary act of the original version, in French, which takes place in Fontainebleau.

 

Act located in Fontainebleau

In Fontainebleau Forest, Don Carlo, the infante of Spain, is observing incognito the young lady who has been chosen for him as his future wife. She is Elisabetta di Valois, daughter of King Henry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. Don Carlo falls in love with her. Before revealing his true identity he approaches her and talks to her about her fiancé, pretending to be a Spanish gentleman sent by the infante. The young couple declare their love. At this moment the page Tebaldo arrives to announce that Henry II has decided to offer his daughter’s hand to Don Carlo’s father, Filippo II. This marriage is to ensure lasting peace between Spain and France. Overcome with grief, Elisabetta obeys her father and agrees to the marriage.

 

Act I

First tableau

Don Carlo retires to the convent of St. Just in order to seek comfort and forget Elisabetta. He is suddenly startled to hear the voice of the Monk, and imagines it is the voice of his grandfather, Emperor Carlo V (coro ed aria by the Monk “Carlo il sommo imperator”). He is joined by his friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, who has come to tell him of the plight of the people of Flanders. Carlo reveals to him the terrible secret which is tormenting him: he is in love with his father’s wife. Posa advises him to overcome his sorrow by joining him in the battle for freedom. The two friends vow mutual loyalty until death (scena e duetto “Dio, che nell’alma infondere amore”).

Second tableau

Close by the convent of St. Just, Princess Eboli entertains the ladies-in-waiting by singing the song of the Veil (“Nel giardin del bello”). Elisabetta enters, followed by Posa, who hands her a note from Don Carlo. Posa asks the young queen to meet with the infante, while in an aside Eboli confesses her love for Don Carlo (scena, terzettino dialogato e romanza di Rodrigo “Carlo ch’è sol”). Elisabetta and Don Carlo meet. Overcome with emotion Don Carlo faints. When he reveals his love for Elisabetta, she rejects him, horrified. Carlo leaves her just before his father arrives. Filippo is displeased at finding his queen alone and orders her personal dresser Countess Aremberg to return to France. Elisabetta consoles her (romanza “Non pianger, mia compagna”). The king asks Posa to confide his secret to him. The marquis relates his distress at the terror which rages in Flanders (scena e duetto “O Signore, di Fiandra arrivo”). Won over by Posa’s sincerity, Filippo confesses to him his suspicions concerning his son and Elisabetta. He appoints Posa as his personal adviser and warns him to beware of the Inquisitor.

 

Act II

First tableau

In the queen’s garden Don Carlo opens his heart to a masked lady whom he believes is Elisabetta (scena e duetto “Sei tu, sei tu, bell’adorata”). But it is in fact Eboli who has discovered his secret love. At this moment Posa enters and tries to silence the princess. Eboli warns them to beware of a woman scorned (terzetto “Al moi furor sfuggite invano”). Posa then asks Don Carlo to entrust to him any compromising document he has in his possession. After a moment’s hesitation the infante agrees to give them to him.

Second tableau

In the main square of Valladolid the citizens have gathered to acclaim their sovereign. The bonfire of the Inquisition has been built, into which the heretics will be thrown. Filippo II vows to avenge his crown by fire and by sword. Carlo enters leading a delegation of six Flemish deputies. The King refuses to accept their demand; the infante draws his sword against the King. Posa disarms Carlo and Filippo appoints him Duke (gran finale).

 

Act III

First tableau

Alone in his chambers at Escorial the King is filled with bitterness. Elisabetta has never loved him and the solitude of being in power is hard to bear (introduzione e scena “Ella giammai m’amo… Dormirò sol”). In a terrifyingly tense duo the Inquisitor explains to him that it is perfectly in order for him to have his son burned at the stake, as God himself sacrificed his son (scena “Son io dinanzi al re?”). The Inquisitor also demands Posa’s head, but the King refuses. The Inquisitor then intimates to the King that the Inquisition also has him in their sights. Elisabetta rushes in. Her casket has been stolen and she demands justice, but the King has it. It was given to him by Eboli. He orders Elisabetta to open it and discovers inside a portrait of the infante. Elisabetta tries to justify herself, reminding him that she had firstly been engaged to Carlo, and swearing that she has always been faithful to the King. The King accuses her of adultery, and she falls into a swoon (scena e quartetto “Giustizia! o sire »). Smitten with remorse Eboli confesses to the queen that it was she who stole the casket. Alone on stage, she curses herself for having given the casket to the King and vows to save Carlo (aria “O don fatale”).

Second tableau

Posa visits Carlo in his prison cell. He reassures him. Documents proving Posa’s guilt have been found in his possession and his days are numbered (“Per me giunto”). At this moment, two men enter and kill him. In his dying breath he makes Carlo swear to save Flanders. Meanwhile outside, at Eboli’s instigation, the people of Spain demonstrate their support for the infante. Filippo II arrives to return his son’s sword to him. Carlo refuses it vigorously and relates how Posa has sacrificed his life for him. The Inquisition quells the uprising and orders the people to bow down to the King (morte di Rodrigo e sommossa).

 

Act IV

In the convent of St Just, Elisabetta is kneeling beside the tomb of Carlo V, imploring him to bring her peace of mind (scena ed aria “Tu che la vanità”). Don Carlo joins her. He has overcome his love for her and has come to bid farewell before leaving for Flanders (scena e duetto d’addio “E’ dessa !”). Filippo overhears their conversation and misunderstanding their intentions he delivers his son to the Inquisition. The Monk rises from the tomb. Draped in the royal mantle and wearing Carlo V’s crown he takes Carlo under his protection and leads him away into the cloister.

 

Translated by Mary McCabe

Interview of Davide Livermore in d'art et de culture

Davide Livermore

THE DARK HEART OF POWER

Davide Livermore’s contemporary new production of Don Carlo at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo amplifies the work’s historical aesthetic with hi-tech visual effects.

 

Don Carlo is one of Verdi’s darkest operas. What is your vision of this work?

This incredible score takes us on a journey into the depths of the human soul, solitude, and the darkest part of power. Cecilia Bartoli invited me to the Opéra de Monte-Carlo to create a production that is faithful to the historical period in which the libretto was written, but that feels highly contemporary. I did a lot of visual research, and was fascinated with the relationship between the characters as a way of accessing the depths of the human soul. The 16th century is shown in a very hi-tech way that creates a constant interaction between the images and what is happening on stage. We use video, for example projections of a 16th-century Spanish painting. Everything is always in motion, just like history and the characters’ souls.

The visual worlds seem to reflect mental states…

Yes, and in a way we enter the souls of the characters, which influence the set changes and evolve with the narrative.

The characters in Don Carlo have great psychological depth.

Exactly, and we use the scenery to intensify the interior drama.

Tell us about the cast, in particular Vittorio Grigolo, who performs the title role of Don Carlo.

Last season we worked together on The Tales of Hoffmann at La Scala. He is very gifted, with an exceptional voice and timbre. We got along very well on this production, and made lots of new connections, especially in the pursuit of beauty.

You decided not to transpose Don Carlo to a different era. What about the costumes?

The costumes are in keeping with the period of the libretto, the reign of Philip II. I wanted people to experience the contemporary aspect of Don Carlo. This doesn’t depend on whether we choose period or modern costumes, but on the way we use them to tell the story, and I felt it important tokeep the historical context. In Barry Lindon, for example, Kubrick told an incredibly moving story by using a period aesthetic. Here, we are absolutely in the 16th century, but with the power of hi-tech set designs allied to that of period costumes.

Tell us about your relationship with the Opéra de Monte-Carlo and its new director, Cecilia Bartoli. In January you will be returning with a new production of Giulio Cesare in Egitto, which will later be presented in Vienna.

I’m grateful to Cecilia Bartoli for believing in me and for proposing this double partnership. I really like her – she is an outstanding artist and I’m very happy to be able to work with her on stage, because it’s wonderful to see someone who combines such excellent vocal skills on the one hand, and such a gift for acting on the other: she has the voice, looks and talent –  a true miracle! I’m delighted to stage Giulio Cesare in Egitto with Cecilia, although I already had a connection to Monaco, because I was previously invited by Jean-Louis Grinda (former director of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo from 2007 to 2022) to stage a production of Adriana Lecouvreur that won the Prix de l’Europe Francophone in 2017-2018. I am very pleased to be returning twice this season, with exceptional works that each represent in their own distinct way particular periods in opera that are very different, but equally interesting.

 

Interview by Emmanuelle de Baecke for D'art et de culture magazine n°63-Autumn 2023

Composing for Opéra de Paris

In 1867 a World Exhibition was organized to celebrate the splendour of the Second Empire. The Opéra de Paris, at that time known as the Académie impériale de musique, was to be the magnificent showcase. With this in mind, Giuseppe Verdi, the most prominent opera composer of that period, was commissioned. The maestro (from Emilia-Romagna) was far from unknown in what he called “the big department store”, where he had already premiered three works: Jérusalem (adaptation of I lombardi alla prima crociata) in 1847, Les Vêpres siciliennes (an entirely original piece) in 1855, and the French adaptation of Il trovatore (Le Trouvère) in 1857. However, his experience of the repeat performance of the Vêpres (6 July 1863) had left a bitter memory. But after his initial reaction to reject the proposition, he warmed to the idea of a new collaboration, reassured by the personality of the new director, Émile Perrin. On 19 June 1865 he wrote to the publisher Léon Escudier, who acted as intermediary, “Are you joking?”. Write for the Opéra!!! Are you sure there would be no risk for me after what happened two years ago at the repeats of Vêpres? Write for the Opéra with the airs Mme Meyerbeer puts on, showing off her bracelets, necklaces, snuff boxes, staff of command, etc. A fine business! For her, art becomes a bank and one has to be a millionaire, otherwise there can be no success! But let’s put aside these pathetic intrigues and pleasantries, for I would have the strength to confront all the anger and curses if I had by my side a director as intelligent and with as strong a character as Perrin”. Perrin became highly motivated. In July, in order to persudade the composer, he even sent Escudier to Sant’Agata, Verdi’s estate near Busseto, his birthplace. Perrin’s letter, entrusted to Escudier, proposed three options: a libretto on Cleopatra, a scenario based on Schiller’s Don Carlos, and an idea for a King Lear, a project Verdi had often cherished but never executed. In addition, the letter also assured Verdi that all means necessary would be at his disposal, as well as considerable freedom, for example in the choice of soloists. Verdi was perfectly aware of the restraints imposed by the Opéra de Paris and of the French grand opera tradition, whose prototype was still Meyerbeer’s works. Therefore, he decided to use these restraints as a launch pad for new dramatic and stylistic victories, and sent Escudier back to Paris bearing a letter of acceptance.

Perrin imposed as librettists the poet and playwright from Marseille, Joseph Méry, and a young author, Camille du Locle, who was also his son-in-law. The work took form rapidly, but on 17 June 1866 Méry died from illness. Inevitably, the libretto was delayed, despite du Locle’s best efforts and the composer’s habitual fastidious attention to detail.

Writing the last two acts was a painful process. As Verdi refused to leave his estate, arguing that he was unable to work in the French capital where the noise, arrogance and sophistication went against the simplicity and independence of a countryman, certain pieces had to make several return trips between Italy and Paris. Most importantly, however, war broke out in May between Austria and Italy. After Italy’s defeat at Custoza on 24 June, Verdi became furious at Napoleon III’s attitude (letter to Giuseppe Piroli of 5 July 1866): “I have just arrived from Genoa and read the bulletin that says: “Austria has decided to render Venice to the Emperor of France etc. Why to the Emperor of France?”

His attempts to break his contract were in vain. Thus it was with a heavy heart that that he set out for Paris, begging Escudier not to publicize his arrival. The first problems arose with the rehearsals: delays in the orchestration, rivalry between the creators of Élisabeth and Eboli and between the two principal basses (Philippe II and the Inquisitor), the limited vocal range of the tenor singing Don Carlos, the slow pace of the rehearsals. Added to these drawbacks was a very personal ordeal: the death of his father in early February. The general rehearsal on 24 February 1867 confirmed a number of Verdi’s fears regarding the duration of the work. He found himself bound hand and foot to certain established practices of the “shack”, that for example laid down once and for all the duration of an opera: between the indispensable supper before the performance and the timetables of the last trains to the suburbs, the duration was calculated down to the very minute. Verdi was forced to cut his work by a good 15 minutes. In turn, the imperial censorship added to the efforts to curtail the project, declaring certain passages calling for freedom as a danger to public order. Fortunately the Opéra’s archivist, Charles Truinet, alias Nuitter, foiled the censors by showing them a work by Prince Poniatowski where certain passages were just as provocative, a work performed in 1860 without any cuts.

Despite all the efforts to curtail the opera, the premiere took place, with mixed results, on 11 March 1867 at Le Peletier theatre (the Palais Garnier of the Opéra de Paris was not inaugurated until 1875). Théophile Gautier, for Le Moniteur, and Ernest Reyer, in Le Journal des débats, hailed the work, but other reporters made the composer pay for his contempt towards them: contrary to custom, the rehearsals had taken place behind closed doors. Above all, they blamed him for taking too many liberties with the Meyerbeer model. They deplored the morbid climate of the work, its unstable harmonies, the way in which Verdi increasingly did away with the traditional division into numbers, preferring a more flexible structure in which monologues and ensembles come together effortlessly, interlaced with subtle thematic reminiscences. This flaw had a name: Wagnerism, of which Verdi was not to hear the last. And the person most prompt to deliver this comparison was a young composer who would make his way: Georges Bizet, who no longer recognized in this new Verdi the composer he had loved so much in Il trovatore and Rigoletto.

Certainly, the orchestra played a major role in Don Carlos, but it remained an essentially lyric opera, pouring out admirable arias and duets, whose forms were just individual responses to the old systems of Italian opera. Above all, there was nothing Wagnerian about Verdi’s pessimism. Here, love is not a redeemer, but is simply an additional factor precipitating man towards his doom.

In truth, from its very origins the Verdi melodrama had followed its own path, even though it was nurtured by the experience of others (French opera much more than German opera, and especially the example of the great authors). And Don Carlos fully belongs to this progression: without the experimentations of the preceding operas, above all La forza del destino, the metamorphosis from a rigid model – French grand opera – into this veritable romantic masterpiece would never have taken place. In fact, the major concession of Don Carlos to France would be the respect and sensitivity with which Verdi approached the language of Méry and du Locle: his vocal lines lean to a more declamatory tone, the melody subtly adapts to prosody. For all that, Verdi renounced none of his fundamental values. Just as surrounding works had done, Don Carlos found its own unique colour (the tinta dear to Verdi): impelled by the Schiller model, this tinta is sombre and frail, drawn to the low registers of the voices and the brass, but always guided by the artistic and moral demands of a composer who, beyond the trends and the subjects he addressed, never once betrayed himself.

 

Claire Delamarche, translated by Mary McCabe

From Don Carlos to Don Carlo

In June 1867, less than four months after the Paris premiere, wonderful news arrived from the London premiere at Covent Garden, where the work had been presented under the title of Don Carlo and translated into Italian by Achille de Lauzières. However, cuts had been made in the Covent Garden version: the Fontainebleau Act and La peregrina, the ballet in Act III (Act II in the four act version, the numeration we shall now use). Then, in October the news from Bologna was just as satisfying: Angelo Mariano had been in charge of the Italian premiere, with his companion Teresa Stolz (Verdi’s fetish soprano) in the role of Elisabetta. The composer commented on the event in a letter to Escudier (30 October 1867): “Everyone says the performance is wonderful, and that there are very powerful effects. I can only express some thoughts here: at the Opéra we rehearse for eight months and end up with a performance that is cold and unemotional. You now see how right I am in saying that a firm, strong hand can work miracles! You saw this with Costa in London, you saw it even more with Mariani in Bologna. Will the Opéra never convince itself that its performances, on the musical level, are simply mediocre?”

And yet Don Carlo struggled to impose itself in the peninsula. In Rome, in February 1868, the papal censorship imposed certain changes: the Grand Inquisitor became the Gran Cancelliere [High Chancellor] and the Monk a Solitario [Hermit]. In 1871 the Neapolitan premiere was a flop. Despite this, the Teatro di San Carlo proposed to Verdi a performance in December of the following year. The composer seized the opportunity to make various changes: two sensitive cuts in the Carlo/Elisabetta duet at the end of Act I. Antonio Ghislanzoni, who had just written the libretto of Aida, wrote the new verses. The premiere had mixed results. Then Stolz became seriously ill, forcing the following performances to be cancelled. Verdi regretted the Neapolitan revisions, but nevertheless for the next twelve years they appeared in the successive editions of the version for piano. What is more, these efforts proved to be in vain: Don Carlo remained misconstrued, and the success of its performance in Milan in 1879 did little to attenuate the composer’s bitterness.

Since 1875 Verdi had been considering a more drastic revision of the opera, in order to make the dimensions more acceptable to the Italian public. But, he explained, he had to take his time so as not to “butcher” it. It was essential that the dimensions of the score not effect its coherence or richness. As the original version of Don Carlos had been written in accordance with the French language, Verdi wanted to write the revised version in the same language. (Conversely, for the performance at the Théâtre-Lyrique in Paris in 1865, it was in its original language, Italian, that Verdi had written his indepth revision of Macbeth, before translating it into French.) Thus, Verdi found himself obliged to reconnect with du Locle, with whom he had fallen out after an argument over debts. The revision of Don Carlos was to take nine months, in 1882-1883, twice as long as it had taken for the much greater revision a few months earlier of Simon Boccanegra.

The Fontainebleau Act disappeared almost entirely, except for Carlos’s romance which re-appeared in Act I with minor changes. A new prelude took up the theme at the beginning of Act II, replacing the ballet. Instead of contenting himself with cuts, Verdi preferred to rewrite entirely the pieces he considered the weakest. Certain recitatives he viewed as insipid were rewritten, and key scenes, such as the duet between Carlos and Posa and the scene of the revolt, were condensed in order to give them even more force. The quartet in Act II underwent many musical modifications, without really changing the text. But the most radically changed passage was the second part of the duet between Philippe II and Posa, at the end of Act I – the very same piece that Verdi had already tried to rearrange for Naples in 1872. Instead of a succession of short passages in the cantabile style, there was now a dramatic monument as imposing as the duet between Philippe II and the Inquisitor, where nothing of the melody, the harmony, the rhythm or the accompaniment is ever static. In this mobility we recognize the mark of the second Boccanegra (1881) and Otello (1887) is already perceivable. The orchestral brilliance is just as characteristic of the last Verdi, especially the clap of thunder saluting Posa’s words: “Paix horrible! c’est la paix des cimetières!” /  “Orrenda pace! la pace è dei sepolcri! 

However many parts remained unchanged: the cabaletta “Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes / “Dio, che nell’alma infondere of the duet Posa/Carlos, where the two friends pledge their loyalty on conventional thirds; Eboli’s picturesque and exotic Chanson du voile, a decorative piece par excellence; or the vast finale of Act II, formed by the scene of the Autodafé, where the French taste for huge crowd scenes and stage orchestras is transformed. But from 1866 onwards, other even more crucial passages had found the right tone: the Carlos/Eboli duet in Act II, which is transformed into a trio with the arrival of Posa; Eboli’s second aria “O don fatal in Act III; Élisabeth’s two arias, the romance “O ma chère compagne / “Non pianger mia compagna to Act I and “Toi qui sus le néant / “Tu, che la vanità conoscesti; the Carlos/Élisabeth duet in Act I; and especially the entire beginning of Act III, with Philippe II’s major scene, followed by his deeply moving confrontation with the Inquisitor.

The translation of the new texts was entrusted to Angelo Zanardini who, at the same time, revised de Lauzières’ text in Italian. The score of the version in four acts was completed in March 1883, but the premiere only took place the following 10 January in the holy of the holies: La Scala di Milano. “It was a strange evening”, wrote Filippo Filippi in the newspaper Il fanfulla della Domenica. Demonstrations of drunkenness, enthusiasm, alternated with periods of calm, of coldness even.” He attributed this phenomenon to ”certain uncertainties in the performance”, despite, however, the outstanding performance of the tenor Francesco Tamagno, who premiered the role of Gabriele in the second Boccanegra and the future Otello. The reporter also made the following calculations, concluding that in a format similar to this one, the original edition of Don Carlos amounted to 375 pages and 4548 bars, whereas the Milan version was reduced to 79 pages and had 1301 fewer bars.

The Don Carlos saga didn’t end there. Verdi was satisfied with the Milan version, which he considered livelier, more powerful than the previous ones. Nevertheless, two years later he decided to use the performance in Modena (19 December 1886) as an opportunity to begin a new revision of the score: Don Carlos was performed in its Milan version, with the addition of the Fontainebleau Act. Of course, Carlos’s romance was placed in its original position, at the beginning of the rediscovered act. It was this revised version in five acts that was printed, in Italian, the following year by Ricordi, apparently reflecting Verdi’s most recent thoughts on the subject.

Eager to present Don Carlos, the theatre was now faced with five main versions: the original 1866 French version in five acts with ballet, that Verdi had only heard during rehearsals; the version performed at the Paris premiere in 1867, corresponding to the previous one but with a cut of a good fifteen minutes (notably the initial hunters chorus and the Philippe II / Carlos duet “Qui me rendra ce mort” / “Chi rende a me quell’uom”, reused in the Requiem in the form of the “Lacrymosa”) in five acts with ballet; the 1872 Naples version, with a few changes that Verdi would subsequently denounce; the 1884 Milan version, largely reworked and condensed, but minus the Fontainebleau Act and the ballet; and the Modena version, corresponding to the Milan version, with the addition of the Fontainebleau Act, but without the ballet.

 

Claire Delamarche, translated by Mary McCabe

Don Carlos, from Schiller to Verdi

Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) was one of Verdi’s favourite authors, and he borrowed from him the subject of four operas. However, despite certain magnificent passages, Verdi’s first three operas do not figure among his major works. Giovanna d’Arco (1845), based on The Maid of Orleans, hardly revolutionized conventions, despite its powerful title-role. Written for the London public and the “Swedish nightingale” Jenny Lind, I masnadieri (1847) was inspired by The Robbers where the heroine returns to Bellini’s or even Rossini’s bel canto; the psychological force of the work relies more on the two bass roles, Francesco and Massimiliano. By plunging for the first time into the world of ordinary people, Luisa Miller (1849), based on Intrigue and Love, marked a change of direction, in keeping with the transformation initiated by Macbeth (1847): the heroes had exited the stage, the time had come for the characters. It still remained, however, a work of transition, its promises only fulfilled in the 1851-1853 “trilogy”: La traviata, Rigoletto and Il trovatore.

Don Carlos, one of Schiller’s early works (1787), did not really lend itself to opera. Of all Schiller’s plays, this is the longest and most complex: an intertwining of dramatic lines so imbricated that, at first glance, it seems possible to remove a single stitch without unravelling the entire work. Yet Verdi and his librettists managed to achieve the tour de force of bringing the clarity required for setting it to music, at the same time remaining faithful to its spirit. The changes were of course numerous. The restrictions imposed on operas demanded that the play be reduced to one sixth of its length and considerably limited the number of entrances, stage and décor changes. Whereas in Schiller’s play Carlos and Posa meet together three times to hatch their plans, for Verdi it required just one duet. Similarly, the first scene alone of Act II, bringing together Carlos, Eboli and Posa, is a compression of seven scenes and seven hundred verses of Schiller’s play.

To clarify the staging, Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle also redistributed the secondary roles: the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting (Countess Fuentes, Duchess Olivarez), certain Spanish aristocrats (Raimond de Taxis, Duke of Medina Sidonia, Duke of Feria) that Schiller had allowed to express individually, were replaced by choruses. Numerous other characters paid the price of this drastic simplification: secondary roles such as the Infante Clara Eugenia, Prince Alexander Farnese, the King’s nephew, or Merkado, the Queen’s personal physician; or leading roles such as Domingo, Monk, the King’s personal confessor, and more importantly the Duke of Alba, leader of the party opposed to Carlos, and his instrument Eboli. In fact the “negative” force of these last two characters is redistributed in the opera between the Inquisitor and Philip II who acquire new magnitude: the portrait of the King is so remarkable that he almost becomes the central character of the drama instead of the title role, his son Carlos.

To compensate and to satisfy the taste of the Parisian public a preliminary act was added, situated in Fontainebleau (sacrificed in the subsequent four act versions), as well as the spectacular auto-da-fé choral scene that concludes Act II. As for the character of Charles Quint (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor), alias the Monk, it was du Locle’s brainwave. For a long time Verdi rejected it, until he recognized its dramatic effectiveness.

These modifications in no way change the complex imbrication between numerous dramaturgical mechanisms (the politico-religious background, the traditional “love triangle”, the friendship between Carlos and Posa, the father-son relationship between the Infante and Philip II), that made it even more striking. Above all, the depth of the characters was in no way sacrificed. With six leading roles (Philip II, Carlos, Posa, the Inquisitor, Elisabeth and Eboli), not forgetting the two comprimarii roles (the Monk and Thibault), Don Carlos offered the most character-prolific of all of Verdi’s operas, at par with that of La forza del destino. But a highly efficient system of monologues and duets made it possible to work around each one in great detail: once and for all Verdi turned his back on the scena ed aria model, characteristic of his early works, in favour of more highly flexible productions, mainly inspired by the declamatory character of the French language (the original language of the Paris version of 1867, of course, but also of the two Italian versions of 1884 and 1886, which were only translated at a later stage).

Don Carlos clearly bears “traces” of Verdi’s previous style, the most evident being the sort of cabaletta accentuating the duet between Carlos and Posa, in Act I, in which the two friends pledge eternal fidelity. These virile lines in thirds are clear evocations of the patriotic opera tradition, but they also have many justifications. Firstly, Verdi needed a theme that would create an impact: in certain subsequent scenes, its mere citation would bring to mind the power of this friendship far better than words (when, threatened by Eboli, Carlos returns compromising documents to Posa; during the Auto-da-fé when Posa disarms the Infante; and, lastly, at the death of Posa). Moreover, this episode is part of a much broader scene that fully responds to the latest Verdi’s criteria of formal liberty. The agitated form of this duet indicates Carlos’s distress when he confesses to Posa his love for Elisabeth, and is expressed again in the middle of the “cabaletta” of the pact, when the Infante sees his beloved appear on the arm of her royal husband. The pleas on the part of Posa and the Monk bring Carlos to his senses, but his fragile state of mind becomes clear.

The couple formed by Posa and Carlo, symbolizing the values of liberalism and progress, clashes with the values of the other male couple, formed by Philip II and the Inquisitor, that represent absolutism. Already, Schiller had Posa say: “The century is not mature enough for my ideal. I live as a citizen of those to come.” Verdi abided by the same judgement: “Posa is a veritable anachronism, given that, at the time of Philip II, he proclaims humanitarian ideas in their most modern sense”. For a moment we believe the two ideals will meet: at the end of Act I with the magnificent duet between Posa and Philip, when the King makes the Marquis his right-hand man. But Posa’s sacrifice, letting himself be killed in the prison where Carlos is locked up, will prove how incompatible the ideals are.

Philip is undeniably one of the most extraordinary characters created by Verdi. For reasons of state he married the young Élisabeth de Valois himself, even though she was promised to his son Carlos. From that moment he lives under a triple threat: an unsure love, an explosive political situation in the Flanders, and the horrific demands of the Inquisition. Although he is an extremely powerful king, he is also desperately alone and unhappy. This is expressed in his monumental monologue in Act III, introduced by a cello solo that perfectly reflects the sombre climate that reigns at the Escorial. Tormented by anxiety and bitterness, Philip is an easy prey for the Inquisitor, another monumental character that is conveyed by the orchestra in just four bars in the low register. In this extremely cruel confrontation between the political power and the religious power, the latter rapidly gains the upper hand: in the implacable initial harmonic march, it is the Inquisitor who takes the initiative of the modulations, with Philip slipping into this defined mold. Once the King bends to his will, the Inquisitor has only to say one word for Posa to be delivered to him, the only friend Philip ever had.

Faced with the King’s conflicting personality, the Inquisitor appears as a monolithic figure. A living corpse, presented as an old blind man, he has no human character: it is a character idea, symbolizing a brutal annihilating force; the only equivalent in Verdi’s works is Ramfis, the high priest in Aida.

Only a dead man can control this deathly being, in the event the Monk, who at the very last moment is revealed as the ghost of Charles Quint, Philip’s father. Just as the Inquisitor’s guards are about to seize Don Carlo, the ghost appears, wearing the Royal cloak and crown; he carries the distraught Infante into the cloister. Contrary to the play that ends in a bloodbath, the opera ends in soothing stillness and the dead Emperor’s promise of heavenly joy; his words echo those he had pronounced to Carlos in the first scene of Act I at the convent of St Just, thus ending the opera in a perfect symmetry (including in its original five act version, where the Fontainebleau Act figures as a form of prologue).

In this man’s world, the two feminine characters are far from being mere foils. As often the case with Verdi, their characters assert themselves in their arias, but even more in their ensembles, especially in their duets with Carlos. The music portrays every twist and turn of the Queen’s inner struggle, a French princess prisoner of the intolerable bigotry of the Spanish Court and a woman in prey to a forbidden love. But Elisabeth conducts herself as a sovereign, entrenched behind her duty. Her emotions often surface, as much in her farewells to her lady-in-waiting sent away by the King in Act I, as in her two duets with Carlos in Acts I and IV. But above all she is renouncement, as expressed in her final aria. Faced with Philip who harasses her, her only way out is to faint; at the end of the opera, as Verdi pointed out, all that remains for her to do is die.

Far more active is Eboli who triggers the drama. She is driven by her unreciprocated love for Carlos, that transforms into jealous hatred; when she discovers the secret of Carlos’s love for Elisabeth, she steals a box from the Queen that contains a portrait of the Infante and gives it to the King, whose mistress she once was. Her remorse, expressed in one of the most spirited arias of the opera, comes too late: banished from the Court by the Queen, she drags everyone around her down with her. At the end of Act III she incites the people to revolt to demand the release of Carlos, but in vain. The revolt is crushed by Philip and the Inquisitor whose alliance Eboli has in fact reinforced.

Constantly reworked from scratch during two decades, Don Carlos never found its ideal form. It does not have the sharp concision, the formal perfection of Otello (1887) that Verdi was already working on while toiling over the two Italian revisions of his Schillerian masterpiece. Torn between exhilaration and despair, the work does not embrace as considerable a range of atmospheres as Un ballo in maschera (1859) and especially La forza del destino (1862), a motley kaleidoscope where the picturesque and the farcical contend with the purest of tragedy. Moreover, Don Carlos is certainly one of the operas where Verdi’s intimate life is least present, preferring a religious and political register that, although dear to his heart, resonated less painfully. An approach in opposition to the opera which was almost its contemporary and was to have a similar destiny, i.e. Simon Boccanegra, premiered in 1857 and completely rewritten in 1881: centred on the father/son relationship that was so essential for the composer it is undoubtedly his most personal work, and perhaps the most beautiful.

Yet Don Carlos is considered, rightly so, as the opera most representative of Verdi’s genius. It is his most ambitious and, in the five act version, the longest. The care Verdi took in the successive revisions proves the importance he attached to it. An intimate blend of the best that Italian melodrama and French opera could offer, Don Carlos remains a thrilling work, even though there is not a single version capable of conveying its extraordinary richness: a performance of Don Carlos always demands choices, therefore sacrifices. And it is perhaps this flexible aspect that makes it so moving.

 

Claire Delamarche, translated by Mary McCabe