Verdi Don Carlo
Friday 24 November 2023 - 20 h
Sunday 26 November 2023 - 15 h
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
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.
MONTE CARLO PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
Massimo Zanetti was Music Director of the Flemish Opera Antwerp/Gent and the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra (Seoul). In 2023/2024 he will continue his 20 year long relationship with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin by conducting Don Carlo and La bohème. Recent seasons’ performances include Verdi La traviata and I due Foscari at Opéra de Monte-Carlo with Placido Domingo, Don Giovanni and La traviata at Staatsoper Berlin, Madama Butterfly at Sydney Opera House, Carmen and Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Teatro alla Scala Milan where he also conducted several concerts at the Accademia della Scala. On the symphonic side he has recently worked with the Tokyo Yomiuri Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of the Komische Oper Berlin, the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, Brucknerorchester Linz, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony Orchestra and the Rostropovich Festival with the Russian National Orchestra. In Asia he has developed close relationships with the NHK Symphony Tokyo, the China Philharmonic and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra. His discography includes The Verdi Album with Sonya Yoncheva (Sony Classical, 2018), Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra (Decca, 2013), as well as DVDs with CMajor as part of the Tutto Verdi project: Rigoletto and I Vespri siciliani (2010) recorded at Teatro Regio di Parma. He has also recorded Flavio Testi’s Saul with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (Naïve, 2004).
Born in Turin, Davide Livermore has been active as an opera and prose director since 1999. In his brilliant and eclectic career he has also worked as a set designer, costume designer, lighting designer, choreographer, screenwriter, actor and teacher, as well as performing as a singer in the most important theatres in the world alongside Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Mirella Freni. From 2002 to 2020 he has been Artistic Director of the CineTeatro Baretti in Turin, outpost of cultural militancy. As a pupil of Carlo Majer, he is a staunch supporter of public theatre and of the function of social promotion of culture. In 2013 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Centre de Perfeccionament Plácido Domingo at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, where he became, in January 2015, Superintendent and Artistic Director. He is the creator of Les Arts Volant, a mobile theatre on a truck on tour that has brought the opera for free to the Comunidad Valenciana for over 50,000 people. Among his most recent works: Idomeneo conducted by Fabio Biondi; Un ballo in maschera at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow; Manon Lescaut for the San Carlo of Naples. In 2017 he signed Tamerlano, his first direction for La Scala in Milan, which was followed by Don Pasquale, while the production of Aida in 2018 at the Sydney Opera House opened a next long collaboration with the Australian theatre. Adriana Lecouvreur inaugurated the 2017/18 season at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, winning the Prix de la Critique de l’Europe Francophone. He inaugurated La Scala 2018/19 season with Attila, and the 2019/20 one with Tosca. In Milan follow even the production of Macbeth, La Gioconda and Les Contes d’Hoffmann. On 7 December 2020, to replace the premiere of Lucia di Lammermoor (cancelled due to the Covid19 epidemic), he inaugurated the season of La Scala with the direction of a great concert/event, the first of its kind and live on TV worldwide.
GiòForma was founded in 1998 by Florian Boje, Cristiana Picco and Claudio Santucci, to explore and experiment in all fields of design, but with a special attention towards architecture, concerts, events and stage design. Their multi-disciplinary spirit has fuelled them in creating iconic experiences beyond compare, propelling them on their multi-faceted ever-growing journey. The milanese studio works worldwide: Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sydney, Chicago and more. In recent years they have designed sets for numerous Operas with Davide Livermore in some of the most prestigious opera houses around the world, including Teatro alla Scala in Milan (for which they did, unprecedented, 4 premieres in a row), The Bolshoi in Moscow, The Sydney Opera House, The Barcelona Opera, The Opera House of Muscat (Oman), The São Paolo Opera House, The Monte Carlo Opera, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, San Carlo in Naples and many more. Through the years the studio has grown to become a multi-talented force. Even if stages have helped them to launch into the world, for Giò Forma, “Everything Is a Stage”; by this they mean that everything has the potential of becoming, a show, an emotional experience of pure magic. Giò Forma fills the gap between the viewer and what they are viewing through deeply meaningful storytelling; this formula is carried into the world of architecture, generating award-winning iconic designs like the Cartier “Legendary Thrill” pavilion (Milan), the Maraya Concert Hall (Oasis of Al’Ula, Saudi Arabia) and the world’s first Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).
Awarded the Medal of Honoured Worker of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sofia Tasmagambetova studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in 1999/2000. She then graduated in 2004 in interior design at Middlesex University. In 2007 she obtained a Fine Arts Degree at the Kazakh Temirbek-Zhurgenev National Academy of Arts. Since 2010 she has participated in artistic exhibitions. From 2012 she has regularly worked as stage and costume designer at the Abai State National Opera in Almaty – ex-Gatob (Gosudarstvenny Akademichesky Teatre Opery i Baleta, the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet). She has worked on productions of Carmina Burana, the Kazakh composer Moukan Toulebaïev’s opera Birjan and Sara, and the ballet Legends of the Great Steppe set to the music of Kazakh composers. She has also collaborated on productions at Astana Opera including Turandot, Eugene Oneguin and Don Carlo (all three directed by Davide Livermore), as well as productions of Kazakh works: Birjan and Sara, Yevgeny Brusilovsky’s Kyz-Zhibek, and Yerkegali Rakhmadiyev’s Alpamys. She has also worked at the Novosibirsk Theatre (Turandot), the Kazan Theatre (Die Fledermaus), and the Teatro Carlo Felice Genova (Il trovatore).
Born in Cambil-Jaén, Andalusia, Antonio Castro began his career in lighting after training in electrical engineering and working as a lighting technician with Cánovas Theater in Málaga (Spain). After graduating with honors for his degree project, which consisted of a remodeling, design and lighting equipment of a stage, he joined several theatre companies as a technician on tours and later as a lighting designer for theatre, dance, and live music. He has worked with the School of Dramatic Arts, the Conservatory of Dance of Málaga and with Escénica (Andalusian Center for Performance Studies). Since 2006 he has been working at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (Valencia Opera House), currently as the resident lighting designer, where he has worked with the best lighting designers, stage directors and companies. He also works as a freelance with other theatres. His achievements include designing lighting for the “Centre de Perfeccionament Palau de les Arts”, such as Le nozze di Figaro, Dido and Aeneas, L’incoronazione di Dario, Juditha Triumphans, Silla, Cafe Kafka, Bastien und Bastienne and Il tutore burlato. He has also worked on productions in numerous theatres including La bohème, Otello, Norma, Idomeneo, Tamerlano, Un ballo in maschera, Attila, Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Die Zauberflöte, Luisa Fernanda, Rigoletto, Idalma, La traviata, Giovanna d’Arco, Macbeth, La Gioconda, Aida, Les Contes d’Hoffmann and La forza del destino that was honoured with a 2014 Campoamor Award in the category of Best Opera Production in Spain. For the Opéra de Monte-Carlo he was the lighting designer for The Telephone and Amelia al ballo in the 2013/14 season.
We are D-Wok, an entertainment design company that develops creativity, performance, innovative formats for shows and events, and video design systems. For ten years our creative director Paolo Gep Cucco has worked with Davide Livermore, contributing to profound changes in the aesthetics of opera, producing four world premières of La Scala (Milan), and dozens of productions in the world’s most important theatres, from the Bolshoi (Moscow) to the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Opera House Muscat. Our fields of activity range from big events to shows, opera, concerts, museum tour, tv, where performance, technology and surfaces used become sensitive storytelling elements. We are a content production agency that develops multi-experiential systems with an emotional approach, devising innovative tailor-made communication strategies. We love to innovate: we have developed video design systems for shows and events including the digital sets for the entire Arena di Verona 2021 season, and produced technologies for the entertainment. Our custom-made AR system built on the Unreal engine is today the only software with cinematic quality in Italy, so much so that it was used by RAI for the world premiere of La Scala’s A riveder le stelle.
Born in Livorno (ltaly) in 1960, Stefano Visconti studied the piano and then choral conducting with Fosco Corti and Roberto Gabbiano, as well as orchestra conducting with Piero Bellugi and Giancarlo Andretta. He was appointed Choirmaster at Opéra de Monte-Carlo in 2007. Before this he was Choirmaster at the Teatro Goldoni, Livorno (1991-2001), Choirmaster at the Opéra-Théâtre d'Avignon (2001-2007), as well as Choirmaster at the Festival Puccini, Torre del Lago (1999-2015). From 1984 to 2001 he conducted the Guido Monaco Polychronic Choir of Livorno which, under his direction, won several national awards (Vittorio Veneto, Arezzo and Florence competitions). In 2000 he founded the Chamber Choir of Tuscany, formed of professionals. He directed the reconstitution of the complete sacred works of Giuseppe Cambini for soloists, choir, and orchestra. Since 2008 he has conducted the chairs of the Sanxay Lyrical Evenings. He is the artistic and music director of the Monte-Carlo Chamber Choir. He has made several recordings with Foné, Agora and Kikko Classics, in particular several of Mascagni's operas (L'amico Fritz, I Rantzau, Lodoletta, Guglielmo Ratcliff, Silvano, Cavalleria rusticana, Iris and Sì). Since 2017 he has directed the coordination of the chairs for the Festival des Chorégies d'Orange.
Ildar Abdrazakov has firmly established himself as one of opera’s most sought-after basses and one of his generation’s most celebrated and recognized artists. Since making his debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 2001 at the age of 25, the Russian bass has become a mainstay at leading houses worldwide, including the New York Metropolitan Opera, the Opéra national de Paris, the Vienna Staatsoper and the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. His powerful yet refined voice, coupled with his compelling stage presence, have prompted critics to hail him as a “sensational bass … who has just about everything – imposing sound, beautiful legato, oodles of finesse” (The Independent). Being also an active concert artist, he has performed at London’s BBC Proms and at New York’s Carnegie Hall, as well as with leading international orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. In the 2022/23 season, Ildar Abdrazakov returns to the Bayerische Staatsoper as Filippo II (Don Carlo) and Boris Godunov, a signature role he also performs at the prestigious season opening at the Teatro alla Scala. He returns to Milan later in the season to perform the four villains in the production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann. He also appears as Méphistophélès (La Damnation de Faust) at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples and as Filippo II at the Bolchoi Theatre in Moscou and at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg. Amongst his future engagements: L’italiana in Algeri (Zurich Opernhaus), Verdi’s Requiem (Accademia nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome), Don Quichotte (Opéra national de Paris) and Nabucco (Vienna Staatsoper).
Born in Saint Petersburg, Sergey Skorokhodov completed his studies from the Glinka Choir School and the State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. He has made appearances at leading international opera houses such as the Bavarian State Opera (Munich), Opéra national de Paris, Metropolitan Opera (New York), Teatro alla Scala (Milan), Staatsoper Unter den Linden (Berlin), Royal Swedish Opera (Stockholm), the Washington Opera and the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Since 2007, Sergey has been a soloist at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, where he has performed roles such as Lenski (Eugene Onegin), Ivan (The Nose), Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore), Edgardo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Foresto (Attila), Macduff (Macbeth), Alfredo (La traviata), and Mario Cavaradossi (Tosca). Other roles include the title roles in Lohengrin, Tannhäuser and Les Contes d’Hoffmann. Highlights of past seasons include performances of Iolanta alongside Anna Netrebko in Baden-Baden and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, as well as Khovanshchina at the Teatro alla Scala, conducted by Valery Gergiev. At the Metropolitan Opera, Sergey performed in The Nose, and Der fliegende Höllander. After his 2008 debut at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre as Grigory in Boris Godunov, he performed the role at the Bavarian State Opera. Other highlights include Alfredo at Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Düsseldorf/Duisburg), Palau de la Musica (Valencia), Chicago Lyric Opera, and Glyndebourne Festival.
Born in Warsaw, Artur Ruciński studied at the Academy of Music and started building his repertoire in performances with the Warsaw Chamber Opera and at the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera in Warsaw, where he made his debut in 2002 singing the title role in Eugene Onegin. Soon followed invitations to sing with Valery Gergiev Prince Jelecky in The Queen of Spades, title role in Onegin and Valentin in a new Robert Wilson production of Faust. However, the turning point of his career came when Daniel Barenboim heard him and invited him on the spot to sing Eugene Onegin under his baton at the Staatoper Berlin in 2010. He made his debut at the Royal Opera House in London as Giorgio Germont (La traviata), at the Salzburg Festival as Conte di Luna in Il trovatore, at La Scala (Milan) with Simon Boccanegra (Paolo Albiani), at San Francisco Opera as Germont, at Teatro dell’Opera in Rome as Francesco in I masnadieri, at Lyric Opera of Chicago in Il trovatore and at Opéra de Monte-Carlo in a concert version of Luisa Miller. Most recently, he sang La bohème in Bilbao and at Opéra national de Paris, where he also debuted as Gianni Schicchi, I masnadieri at Palau de les Arts in Valencia, La traviata, Manon and La bohème at the Metropolitan Opera of New York, Lucia di Lammermoor, Il trovatore, La traviata and Un ballo in maschera at Teatro Real of Madrid, and he returned to Opéra de Monte-Carlo in Lucia di Lammermoor. Future plans include Lucia di Lammermoor in concert at the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, and the return to Opéra de Paris for Il trovatore.
Alexey Tikhomirov’s upcomming engagements brings him a return to Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as Pimen in Boris Godunov and Tsar Saltan in The Tale of Tsar Saltan, return appearances at the Grand Théâtre de Genève as Old Convict and the Priest in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Chub in Christmas Eve at Oper Frankfurt, Pimen at New National Theatre in Tokyo. Past seasons highlights include engagements at Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow as Pimen and Tsar Saltan, Prince Bolkonsky in War and Peace, Boris and Warlaam in Boris Godunov, Fasolt in Das Rheingold and Hunding in Die Walküre at Grand Théâtre de Genève, Pimen and Massimiliano in I masnadieri at Monte Carlo Opera, Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia and il Commendatore in Don Giovanni for Chorégies d’Orange, Gremin in Eugene Onegin at New National Theater Tokyo. Other past engagements include the title role in Boris Godunov with Opéra de Marseille, Polish National Opera in Warsaw, Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, Bolshoi Theatre, Teatro Municipal in Santiago de Chile, Dodon in The Golden Cockerel for Teatro Real Madrid and La Monnaie Brussels, Sparafucile and Boris Timofeevich in Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with Teatro Municipal de Santiago de Chile, Thoas in Iphigenie en Tauride at Hamburgische Staatsoper, Timur in Turandot at Theatro Municipal in São Paulo, Boris Godunov in a Christmas Concert with the Gewandhausorchester at the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig among others.
Born in Lebanon and raised in Canada, soprano Joyce El-Khoury has performed over 30 leading roles in major opera houses around the world. She has an acclaimed reputation for bringing rarely performed operatic works to life, most recently with Donizetti’s L’Ange de Nisida at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, recorded and released internationally. Joyce El-Khoury’s 2023/2024 season begins with the Hungarian premiere of Liszt’s Sardanapalo at LisztFest in Budapest. Joyce makes two exciting Veridian role debuts this season, including Elisabetta in Verdi’s Don Carlo in a new production at Opéra de Monte-Carlo followed by her role debut as Amelia in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at The Finnish National Opera & Ballet. Further on the opera stage this season, Joyce returns to Canada for performances of La Reine Garçon at Opéra de Montréal, as well as to Tokyo for performances of Tosca with The New National Theatre Tokyo. On the concert stage, she will join tenor Jonathan Tetelmann for an Italian Opera Gala with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester in Berlin and will reunite with Serouj Kradijian for a recital in Toronto, inspired by Joyce’s Lebanese heritage. Future seasons include international operatic & concert engagements in Genève, Dallas, Rouen, Paris and Montpellier, among others.
Born into a family of musicians, she completed her studies at the Conservatory of Yerevan. Highlights in recent seasons include house debuts at the Royal Opera House in London (Alcina), Metropolitan Opera (Rigoletto, Eugene Onegin), Gran Teatre del Liceu (L’italiana in Algeri, Norma), Teatro Regio di Torino and Bavarian State Opera (Carmen), Las Palmas and Marseille Operas (Eboli in Don Carlo), Donizetti Opera Festival (Lucrezia Borgia), Rossini Opera Festival (Semiramide, La donna del lago). In concert, she sang Verdi’s Requiem at Festival Verdi in Parma and with Orchestre de Paris and in tour with MusicAeterna Ensemble, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with Cecilia Bartoli, Rossini’s Stabat Mater with Accademia di Santa Cecilia (Rome) and Orchestre de Paris. She has appeared in Alcina at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (Paris) and at Opernhaus Zürich with Cecilia Bartoli, as Carmen in Paris, Palermo, Atlanta, Hong Kong, Zurich, Moscow, Hamburg. At Opéra de Paris she sang La forza del destino, Falstaff, Un ballo in maschera, Eugene Onegin, L’italiana in Algeri, L’incoronazione di Poppea, Giulio Cesare, Pique Dame and the première of Mantovani’s Akhmatova. Further highlights include Benvenuto Cellini at Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, Norma, Nabucco and Samson et Dalila at Palau de les Arts in Valencia, Ariodante and Eugene Onegin at Canadian Opera in Toronto.
Reinaldo Macias is one of the world’s leading character tenors, whose superb technique, profound musicality and dramatic commitment is seen in major houses throughout Europe. He grew up in the United States and won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. He graduated from the Conservatoire de Genève and studied in Italy with Arrigo Pola and Claude Thiolas. A company member of long standing in Zurich, he was also seen in leading roles at many of the world’s leading opera companies, including the Deutsche Oper and the Staatsoper Berlin, the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, the Opéra national de Paris, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden (London) and the Vienna State Opera. More recently, Reinaldo Macias has begun performing in the character repertoire with engagements, including: Dmitri (Boris Godunov), Loge (Das Rheingold) and Laka (From the House of the Dead) at the Opernhaus Zurich; Spalanzani (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Arminio (I masnadieri), and Schmidt (Werther) with Opéra de Monte-Carlo; Nereo and Wagner (Mefistofele) at the Chorégies d’Orange. He has appeared as Flavio (Norma) with Cecilia Bartoli at the Salzburger Festspiele, the Opernhaus Zurich, the Edinburgh Festival, the Théâtre de Champs-Élysées, and the Festspielhaus Baden Baden. Recent engagements include: Incredibile (Andrea Chénier) at Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Spoletta (Tosca), Monastatos (Die Zauberflöte), and Bardolfo (Falstaff) at Los Angeles Opera, and Mime in Das Rheingold and Siegfried with Houston Grand Opera. The current season sees him back in Chicago as Mime and Monastatos, Los Angeles as the First Jew in Salome and as Spalanzani.
New Zealand soprano Madison Nonoa holds a Masters in Music degree from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London) where she studied under the tutelage of Yvonne Kenny. Since graduating in 2019, Madison has made her debut at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera as First Siren (Rinaldo) and was selected as a 2020/21 Jerwood Young Artist for the Festival. Madison is a current Britten-Pears Young Artist, as well as a former Dame Malvina Major Emerging Young Artist with New Zealand Opera, where she made her debut as Papagena (Die Zauberflöte). Madison has performed nationally and internationally with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra as a concert soloist resulting in a CD recording Noel! Noel! and with the London Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall. Recent and future operatic engagements include her festival debuts in the Salzburg and Whitsun Festivals as Amore (Orfeo ed Euridice), as well as her festival debut in the title role in Acis and Galatea for the London Handel Festival, her house debut in the role of Maria (West Side Story) for Opéra du Rhin, Papagena at Glyndebourne and the title role in Dido and Aeneas for the Ustinov Studio at the Theatre Royal Bath. On the concert platform, recent and upcoming performances include Madison’s Edinburgh International Festival debut and performances of Couperin’s Trois Leçons de Ténèbres with the King’s Consort. She acknowledges the ongoing support of the Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Dame Malvina Major Foundations.
Graduated from the Vano Sarajishvili State Conservatory in Tbilisi (Georgia) and specialised in Traditional and Ecclesiastical Music, bass Giorgi Manoshvili began his artistic career performing in many concerts and recitals at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris (France), Taichun National Theatre, Taichung (Taiwan), Berliner Philharmonie, Berlin (Germany), National Center for the Performing Arts, Beijing (China), Barbican Centre, London (England), Port River Festival, Dublin, Ireland, P. I Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow (Russia). In Italy, he made his debut at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro in the role of Lord Sidney (Journey to Reims) in August 2021, being reconfirmed for the 2022 Season for the Performance/Tribute to Pier Luigi Pizzi "Tra Rondo e Tournedos" and for "Rossinimania" and subsequently for Rossini's Petit Messe Solennelle conducted by Michele Mariotti. He is in the Teatro delle Muse production of Donizetti's 'Fat Thursday' in Ancona. 2022 saw him perform as Colline (La bohème, Teatro dell'Opera di Roma - Television production, directed by M. Martone), at Pesaro ROF, at Wexford Opera as Caliban in Halevy's The Tempest. He closed 2022 by making his debut at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples in 'Don Carlo'. In January 2023 he was in the cast of Aida at the Teatro dell'Opera in Rome (Mariotti-Livermore) and also in Rome he performed Verdi's 'Messa di Requiem' under the baton of Michele Mariotti. In April 2023 Giorgi Manoshvili made his debut for the Fondazione Arena di Verona in Rossini's 'Messa di Gloria' at the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona. In May he is at the Teatro Massimo di Palermo in the role of Gremin in 'Evgeni Onegin'. In Summer 2023 Giorgi will return to the ROF in Pesaro with "Petite Messe" and will appear in four productions at the Arena di Verona: Tosca, La traviata, Carmen and Rigoletto. He will be in Germany in Koln for Verdi's Requiem conducted by Maestro Mariotti. He will return to Wexford as Mustafà in L'italiana in Algeri and for Camille Erlanger's L'aube rouge. He will later star in a Concert with the Orchestra Toscanini of Parma. Future engagements include: Orbazzano in Rossini's 'Tancredi' at the Opera de Rouen Haute-Normandie and Timur in “Turandot” at Teatro Massimo in Palermo.
Estonian soprano Mirjam Mesak is a current member of the Bayerische Staatsoper ensemble (Munich)56, where she has left an indelible impression in roles from Iolanta to Musetta (La Bohème). In September 2022, she portrayed the leading role in Axel Ranisch’s film Orphea in Love which premiered at the Bavarian State Opera – proving that the soprano possesses not only an “outstanding voice” (Crescendo) but is also a skilled actress. The film was subsequently released in cinemas throughout Germany. The 2023/24 season marks several exciting debuts for Mirjam Mesak. She debuts the role of Xenia (Boris Godunov) with the Bayerische Staatsoper and sees her first performances with the Royal Danish Opera as Michal in Barrie Kosky’s production of Handel’s Saul. Additionally in Munich, she reprises the roles of Musetta and Dama di Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. She will also be seen in The Nose staged by Kirill Serebrennikov and led by Vladimir Jurowski, Il trovatore under Antonino Fogliani, and Parsifal conducted by Ádám Fischer. In Estonia, Mirjam is a frequent guest of the Estonian National Opera, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, and Vanemuine Symphony Orchestra. Last season in Munich, she made her debut as Oscar in Un ballo in maschera. Additionally, Mirjam was heard as Ännchen (Der Freischütz), Tebaldo (Don Carlo), Anna (Nabucco), First Sprite (Rusalka), Musetta and in The Cunning Little Vixen. She is a graduate of Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London).
Andrea DEL BIANCO
Philip II, King of Spain
Don Carlo, infante of Spain
Rodrigo, marquis of Posa
The Grand Inquisitor
Elisabeth of Valois
Comte of Lerma
A voice from heaven
Tebaldo, page to Elisabeth
Countess of Aremberg
Vincenzo di Nocera
Guillaume GALLO MANRIQUE
Benjamin LE DUFF
Paul NGO SI XUYEN
Vincent VAN HEGHE
Paul Vincent SISOWATH
CHŒUR of the OPÉRA DE MONTE-CARLO
Pianist assistant to the choirmaster & consultant for the musical organisation
Chorus manager & librarian
Laura Maria ROMO CONTRERAS
Maria-Elisabetta DE GIORGI
CHIARA LA PORTA*
Vincenzo DI NOCERA
Nicolo LA FARCIOLA
JAIME ANDRES CANTO NAVARRO*
HALIL UFUK ASLAN*
ARTURO ALBERTO CAPRARO*
EDER SANDOVAL GUEVARA*
Adolfo SCOTTO DI LUZIO
Jorge Abarza Sutter*
Daniele di Nunzio*
Daniele DEL BUE
KYLE PATRICK SULLIVAN*
Piersilvio DE SANTIS*
LUCIO DI GIOVANNI*
*additional chorus members for performances of Don Carlo
ORCHESTRE PHILHARMONIQUE DE MONTE-CARLO
Artistic and musical director
Gian Battista Ermacora
Federico Andres Hood
RAPHAËLLE TRUCHOT BARRAYA
Timpani & Percussions
Main stage manager
Assistant lighting manager
Deputy head machinists
Deputy chief electrician
GAEL LE MAUX
Head of audio/video
Head prop maker
Head of costumes
Deputy head of costume
Assistant wardrobe manager
Chief wig and make-up
Deputy Chief wig and make-up
Box office Manager
Deputy Box office Manager
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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).
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”).
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).
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
Davide Livermore ©Eugenio Pini
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
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
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
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