Don Carlo, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi had a knack for choosing timeless texts to adapt for the opera stage with his unique sense for musical drama. Among his compositions based on the beloved plays of William Shakespeare, Don Carlo, inspired by the equally important German poet Friedrich Schiller’s play, stands out with its emotional and performative charge. Once he got into composing the opera, the Maestro could not let it go and kept on introducing changes, additions and cuts. Perhaps it was the power and appeal of its dramatic storyline or Verdi’s own perfectionism, to which Don Carlo owes its numerous editions. The Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice proudly revives the five-act original in its full glory.
Verdi’s dramatic inspiration came from Schiller’s play Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien (or Don Carlos, Prince Royal of Spain) that described the love triangle between Don Carlos, his father King Philip II of Spain and Elisabeth of Valois. To expand the libretto’s reach and effectiveness, writers Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle also borrowed elements from the play Philippe II, Roi d'Espagne by Eugène Cormon. The original opera was commissioned by the Paris’s Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra and written in French. This first version had its premiere on 11 March 1867 at the famous Salle Le Peletier. Soon after the successful initial performances, the Opéra reached out to Verdi with a request to modify and shorten Don Carlos, which the composer authorised. Despite the changes, the work fell out of favour with Parisian audiences by 1869.
The opera found second life in its Italian translation as Don Carlo and achieved its greatest successes in this form. With Italian text by librettist Achille de Lauzières, it gathered ovations and compliments first on the stage of London’s Covent Garden on 4 June 1867 and later in Verdi’s native Italy at Teatro Comunale di Bologna on 27 October 1867. Throughout the years, directors, conductors and the Maestro himself would continue grappling with the roughly four hours of music and drama that made Don Carlo famous. La Fenice brings a true Italian classic home and lets it dazzle and charm audiences in its fullest form.