Don Carlo (it.), Opera by G. Verdi
Sixteenth-century imperial Spain. A marriage treaty to bring peace to two nations places a father and son at war with one another. Heretics are burned at the stake and entire peoples are threatened with subjugation. Even the life of a royal prince is deemed forfeit for the good of church and state. The libretto for Don Carlo was just the sort of scenario Giuseppe Verdi loved to get his teeth into: a story of high political drama that allowed him to explore the hostility of a world hell-bent on destroying the happiness of the individuals who live in it.
After years struggling with the demands of the censors in his native Italy, France, and Paris in particular, offered Verdi an environment in which he could work without constraints. Don Carlo, a direct commission from the Théâtre Impérial de l'Opéra, was premiered in French, under its original title of Don Carlos, at the Salle le Peletier on 11 March 1867; the version presented by the Wiener Staatsoper is the four-act Don Carlo in Italian first performed on 10 January 1884 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
Don Carlo’s marriage to Elizabetta is thwarted when his father, Filippo II, takes her for his wife instead. To assuage his despair, Don Carlo determines to get as far away from Elizabetta as possible, but the King refuses his son the governorship of Flanders and throws him into jail instead. To make matters worse, Filippo’s only counsel is the Grand Inquisitor, who demands the Infante’s death as the price necessary to quell the insurrection he believes Don Carlo’s influence will foment.
With music of great pathos, from the haunting tune of an unseen soprano promising redemption for Filippo’s victims to the King’s own lament for a marriage without affection, this is a historical epic that never forgets what drives our actions: love.