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Don Carlo

The Royal Opera

Nicholas Hytner directs the five-act version of Verdi’s brilliant opera – a tale of love, ambition and intrigue in 16th-century Spain.

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.

The Story

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.

Background

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.

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