Don Carlo, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi had a special reverence for literary giants and always chose his source texts with great care. With Don Carlo, the Maestro once more relied on a work by famed German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller. It was to be their final ‘collaboration’ and a formidable one at that! In true Verdi form, the plot is full of unexpected twists that keep audiences on the edge of their seats. The score not only keeps apace with the rapid on-stage action, it drives and develops it to new heights of intensity and emotion. Don Carlo debuted in its original French version at Salle le Peletier of the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra, the institution that had commissioned the piece, on 11 March 1867. The first Italian-language performance took place at London’s Covent Garden on 4 June 1867, and it soon became the most performed version of this Verdi masterpiece. This season, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence presents Don Carlo in its ultimate form.
While the brunt of Don Carlo’s libretto hails from Schiller’s play ‘Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien’ (German for ‘Don Carlos, Infante of Spain’), it also relies on several scenes by Eugène Cormon from his play ‘Philippe II, roi d’Espagne’ (French for ‘Philip II, King of Spain’). As the two source texts suggest, Don Carlo focuses on the rivalry between two generations of royals – and, of course, there is a woman involved. Élisabeth de Valois, a French princess set for a dynastic marriage to Don Carlo, ends up marrying his father Philip instead. A series of intrigues and games of cat and mouse ensue where politics, romance, and honour intertwine into an explosive mixture.
Giuseppe Verdi kept on amending Don Carlo through the years, yet the opera’s original intensity and bombast remained untouched. The remarkable vocal lines and the refined sense of dynamism and musical narration make this one of the Maestro’s most cherished works. Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino pulls a true classic out of the vaults this season.