Don Carlo, Opera by G. Verdi
Rarely has a grand opera been reworked as many times as Don Carlo by the great Giuseppe Verdi. Originally commissioned by the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra in Paris and premiered on 11 March 1867 at its famed Salle Le Peletier, the work went into almost immediate editing. The wish of both the Opéra and Verdi himself to abridge Don Carlo had nothing to do with its quality – the music was as inspired and gripping as ever. The opera’s length, however, presented a problem for contemporary audiences. After many cuts by the composer as well as by various directors and conductors, the consensus is that Verdi’s original composition, translated into Italian, is the ultimate incarnation of the grand opera in five acts. Thus Don Carlo appears on the stage of Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice in its uncut version, to the delight of all lovers of Italian opera.
Verdi chose the historical play Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien (or Don Carlos, Prince Royal of Spain) by the German poet Friedrich Schiller. The librettists who produced the original French text, Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, enhanced the storyline with borrowings from the play Philippe II, Roi d'Espagne by Eugène Cormon, dedicated to the father of Don Carlos. The plot centres on the father and son’s romance with the same woman, Elisabeth of Valois. The love triangle, intertwined with emotions, betrayals and international politics, has devastating effects on the life of young Don Carlos, which Verdi dramatized with his unique musical sensibility.
As audiences started turning away from the French original soon after its premiere, Verdi yearned to stage an Italian version of his masterwork. Under the pen of Achille de Lauzières, Don Carlo was born. It took the Covent Garden in London by storm on 4 June 1867 in an abridged form, courtesy of conductor Michael Costa. The Italian premiere of the complete Don Carlo took place on 27 October 1867 at Teatro Comunale di Bologna and was labelled a resounding success. After many further revisions, the worth of this full Italian version is universally recognised. La Fenice celebrates Verdi’s genius with a faithful revival.