Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Don Carlo. It was last on stage 12–29 May 2017 as part of the Spring 2016/17 season.
Elizabeth of Valois is promised in marriage to Don Carlos of Spain, as part of a peace treaty between the two kingdoms. They meet and fall in love – but no sooner have they declared their love than news comes that the terms of the treaty have changed: Elizabeth is to marry Carlos’s father Philip instead.
Elizabeth, now Carlos’s step-mother, loves him still, but is horrified by his declarations of love. The Grand Inquisitor urges King Philip to have Carlos executed for the sake of the faith and the stability of the kingdom. Carlos decides to flee. He meets Elizabeth one last time to bid farewell – but the Inquisitor’s forces descend upon them.
Politics and religion are dangerously entwined in Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo. It is based on the 1787 dramatic poem by Friedrich Schiller and was first performed at the Paris Opéra in 1867. Verdi made extensive revisions to the opera over the following 20 years. This production by Nicholas Hytner follows the five-act 1886 version – Verdi’s final revision of the work.
Don Carlo contains a host of vividly drawn characters, depicted through some of Verdi’s most complex music. The chilling Grand Inquisitor imposes his will in thunderous, dark-toned music, while the revolutionary Marquis of Posa sings a stirring duet with Don Carlos in praise of friendship and freedom. And in Eboli and Elizabeth, Verdi created two of his most sympathetic heroines. The Royal Opera’s staging provides a powerful backdrop, and conjures up the Renaissance grandeur of 16th-century France and Spain.
News and features
16 May 2017
This riveting and sonorous duet for two basses sees two great forces face-off for who shall have ultimate power.
15 May 2017
Audience and press reviews of The Royal Opera's staging of Verdi’s opera on love, ambition and intrigue in 16th-century Spain.
3 May 2017
High dramatic tension, low historical accuracy: Verdi’s magnificent opera tells a story too good not to set to music.
28 April 2017
From dastardly demons to boozy brothel owners – we give the low-down on opera’s best bass roles.
19 December 2016
Carmen isn’t the only sensual starring mezzo role – we round up some of our favourites, from Donizetti to Birtwistle.
13 June 2016
With distinctive warm tones and a wide vocal range, Verdi realized the mezzo's potential - with exciting consequences.
Don Carlos is a five-act grand opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi to a French-language libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on the dramatic play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (Don Carlos, Infante of Spain) by Friedrich Schiller. The opera is usually performed in Italian. In addition, it has been noted by David Kimball that the Fontainebleau scene and auto da fé "were the most substantial of several incidents borrowed from a contemporary play on Philip II by Eugène Cormon". The opera's story is based on conflicts in the life of Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545–1568). Though he was betrothed to Elisabeth of Valois, part of the peace treaty ending the Italian War of 1551–1559 between the Houses of Habsburg and Valois demanded that she be married instead to his father Philip II of Spain. It was commissioned and produced by the Théâtre Impérial de l'Opéra (Paris Opera) and given its premiere at the Salle Le Peletier on 11 March 1867. When performed in one of its several Italian versions, the opera is generally called Don Carlo. The first Italian version given in Italy was in Bologna in March 1867. Revised again by Verdi, it was given in Naples in November/December 1872. Finally, two other versions were prepared: the first was seen in Milan in January 1884 (in which the four acts were based on some original French text which was then translated). That is now known as the "Milan version", while the second—also sanctioned by the composer—became the "Modena version" and was presented in that city in December 1886. It restored the "Fontainebleau" first act to the Milan four-act version. Over the following twenty years, cuts and additions were made to the opera, resulting in a number of versions being available to directors and conductors. No other Verdi opera exists in so many versions. At its full length (including the ballet and the cuts made before the first performance), it contains close to four hours of music and is Verdi's longest opera.