Brown Theater | Sung in French with projected English translation.The performance lasts approximately 4 hours, including two intermissions.
Performances beginning at 6:30 p.m. end at approximately 10:30 p.m.
Performances beginning at 2:00 p.m. end at approximately 6:00 p.m.
Intense passions and a majestic score: Don Carlos is the quintessential grand opera.
King Phillippe II of Spain dissolves the engagement of Don Carlos, his son, and Elisabeth de Valois by marrying the French princess himself. The ensuing drama pits father against son, crown against church and conscience against loyalty. Verdi's music heightens emotions in this sweeping drama set during the turbulence of sixteenth-century Europe.
"The evening's standout was Christine Goerke… " — Opera News
"Brandon Jovanovich's clear, ringing tenor made him...superb" — MusicalAmerica
Act 1: France around 1560.
Don Carlos, the Infante of Spain (heir to the throne), stands alone in the forest of Fontainebleau. He is betrothed to the French princess, Elisabeth de Valois, and has come to France incognito as Spain and France have been at war for many years. A group of French woodsmen and women, displaced from their village by the war, lament their hardship. Elisabeth, following a royal hunt, finds herself among the woodsmen. She gives alms to her people, watched from afar by Carlos, and assures them that her marriage will bring peace. Left alone, Carlos expresses his admiration and love for his bride-to-be. Elisabeth and her page Thibault, an androgynous youth, return having lost their way. Carlos presents himself to her as a Spanish diplomat, and agrees to protect her while Thibault goes for help. Carlos shows her a portrait of her betrothed: she recognizes him and they declare their love. Their idyll is brief: Thibault returns, greeting Elisabeth as Queen and announcing that Henry II has now promised his daughter to Carlos' father, King Philippe of Spain. Count Lerma, a Spanish envoy, confirms the offer of marriage, but insists it must be Elisabeth's choice. Elisabeth agrees to sacrifice herself for the good of her people. Carlos is left in despair.
Act 2: Spain around 1560.
In the monastery of Saint-Just, the tomb of the Emperor Charles V dominates the chapel. Monks chant in the adjacent cloister. A dark figure approaches the altar and laments the vanity of human pride and ambition. Carlos hears the voice and recognizes in it the spirit of his dead grandfather. His friend, Rodrigue, Marquis of Posa, has returned from Flanders with Deputies representing the Flemish people, and tells Carlos of their oppression under Spanish rule. Carlos confesses that he still loves Elisabeth, now his father's wife. They watch while Philippe and Elisabeth go into the monastery. Rodrigue inspires Carlos to dispel his sorrows by undertaking a noble enterprise — the liberation of the Flemish people. They swear a vow of friendship.
Outside the monastery, the ladies of the court wait for the Queen. One of them, Princess Eboli, entertains them with the Veil Song. It tells how a Moorish king grew bored with his queen and wooed a veiled lady in the palace gardens, only to discover when she lifted the veil that he was courting his own wife. Queen Elisabeth joins them, and then Rodrigue brings two letters for her: one from her mother in the French Court and a private note from Carlos, which tells her that she must trust the bearer. Rodrigue urges Elisabeth to grant Carlos an audience with her, while Eboli (in aside) reveals her love for Carlos and her belief that he loves her in return. Elisabeth consents to Rodrigue's request, and dismisses her ladies. Carlos asks Elisabeth to obtain the King's permission that he should leave for Flanders. She grants his wish and bids him farewell, promising that they will meet again in Paradise. He is overcome with emotion and declares his love for her. Confused and angry, she rejects him and he runs off in despair. King Philippe arrives and, finding the Queen unattended, humiliates her by ordering her lady-in-waiting, Countess Aremberg, back to France. Elisabeth responds by bidding the Countess a tearful farewell and shaming Philippe for distrusting her. The court leaves but Philippe bids Rodrigue to remain. Invited to speak freely, Rodrigue appeals to him on behalf of the Flemish people. Philippe insists that, like his own people, they must remain subjugated for their own spiritual good. Rodrigue warns him against turning Spain into an unbearable tyranny. Struck by Rodrigue's honesty, Philippe confides his suspicions about his wife and son. He appoints him his personal counsellor but warns him to beware of the Grand Inquisitor.
Act 3: Spain around 1560.
In the Queen's Gardens, a masked ball is under way, celebrating the eve of Philippe's coronation. Elisabeth leaves early and gives Eboli her mask so that she can return to the ball in her place. Eboli sees this as a chance to approach Carlos and writes him a note. Carlos mistakes Eboli for Elisabeth and declares his love. When she removes her mask, she is nonplussed by Carlos' bewilderment. She warns him that Rodrigue is spying on him for the King. Suddenly she realises her mistake but, just as Carlos is about to confess his love for Elisabeth, Rodrigue appears and threatens to silence her. She determines to take her revenge by exposing the Queen's affair with her stepson. Rodrigue asks Carlos to entrust to him any incriminating papers he may be carrying, and after a moment's hesitation — can he trust the King's new favorite? — Carlos does so.
In the piazza before the cathedral in Valladolid, the people gather to witness an auto da fé, (literally ‘act of faith'), a burning of heretics, held to celebrate the coronation and keep the populace in awe and fear. Philippe's coronation oath makes him swear to avenge God's faith with fire and sword. Carlos presents the Flemish Deputies who beg for mercy on behalf of their people. Philippe refuses and is supported by the clergy while the people urge him to show mercy. Carlos demands to be made regent of Flanders. When Philippe refuses, he draws his sword. Rodrigue disarms him, and Philippe grants him a dukedom in reward and bids the start of the festivity. As the heretics burn, the Flemish Deputies express their shock at the cruelty of the Spanish regime, while a heavenly voice promises the victims a life after death.
Act 4: Spain around 1560.
Philippe sits alone in the middle of the night in his study in the Escorial Palace. Eboli appears, bearing a casket belonging to Elisabeth which she leaves with Philippe. Alone once more he laments the hollowness of his power, and his unhappy marriage to a woman who does not love him. The Grand Inquisitor is announced. The King asks him whether he will be forgiven if he condemns his son to death: The Inquisitor replies that God did not hesitate to sacrifice His. He then demands that Rodrigue should be handed over to the Inquisition. Philippe refuses and the Inquisitor threatens that he too might face tribunal by the Holy Office. The King asks for peace between them and the Inquisitor replies ‘perhaps'. Elisabeth enters, distressed to find her jewel box stolen, and agitated to find that her husband has opened it. Philippe draws from it a portrait of Carlos. He accuses her of adultery and strikes her down. Fearing he has killed her, he calls for help. Eboli and Rodrigue answer his summons. Rodrigue realises that he must act to save Carlos. Eboli begs the Queen's forgiveness for stealing the jewel box and for loving Carlos then, overheard by Philippe, goes on to confess to Elisabeth that she is the King's mistress. Elisabeth leaves in silence and Philippe, through Lerma, gives Eboli the choice of exile or a convent. Eboli curses her beauty and vows to save Carlos.
Carlos is in prison where Rodrigue visits him to bid him farewell. He knows he will be killed because he deliberately incriminated himself in order to save Carlos's life. He entreats Carlos to continue their mission to save the Flemish people. Rodrigue is then assassinated by the Inquisition. As he dies, he tells Carlos that Elisabeth will meet him at the monastery of Saint-Just. The King comes to return Carlos' sword, seeking reconciliation with his son. Carlos bitterly rejects him and reveals that Rodrigue died to save him. Philippe is stricken with remorse. He has lost his closest ally in Rodrigue and also the love and respect of his wife and his son. He has nothing left. A bell signals an uprising. A crowd, roused by Eboli, storms the funeral of Rodrigue, demanding Carlos' freedom. Secretly Eboli leads Carlos away, as the Grand Inquisitor quells the mob, further consolidating his power over the king.
Act 5: Spain around 1560.
At the monastery of Saint-Just, Elisabeth prays at the tomb of Carlos's grandfather, the Emperor Charles V. She remembers her first meeting with Carlos at Fontainbleau and her subsequent tragic life in Spain, and vows to dedicate herself to God. Carlos, resolved to carry on Rodrigue's fight in Flanders, comes to say goodbye. She blesses his mission, and they agree to love each other forever as mother and son, promising to be reunited one day in Paradise. Philippe and the Grand Inquisitor arrive and confront Carlos and Elisabeth with accusations of heresy and adultery. A double sacrifice is required. The King hands his son and his wife over to the Inquisition for execution. As Carlos is killed, the spirit of Charles V awakes once more and receives his grandson into a better world.
Synopsis courtesy of Welsh National Opera