October 06, 2022

Get to know: Verdi's Don Carlos

Certain great operas become familiar in versions that are quite different from the way they were conceived by the composer. Think of Verdi's Don Carlos, which Lyric and most other companies internationally have produced in the four-act Italian version (Don Carlo). But this opera was originally written and premiered in French, and in five acts. Verdi made multiple revisions of the work throughout his lifetime, both in Italian and French. His 1886 "Modena version" includes the original first act but eliminates the ballet. This version's arrival at Lyric this season will be a company premiere that Verdi fans throughout the Midwest have been eagerly awaiting for decades.

In the five-act version, the first scene — cut in the four-act Don Carlo — presents the tenderly romantic first meeting between Carlos, Spain’s crown prince, and his fiancée, French princess Elisabeth de Valois. Minutes later, she learns that she’s to be married to Carlos’s father, King Philippe II, for political reasons. The rest of the opera (based on the masterful German playwright Friedrich Schiller’s famous historical tragedy) brings us other riveting characters: Princess Eboli, whose violent jealousy leads her to betray both Carlos and Elisabeth; Carlos’s cherished friend, Rodrigue, the Marquis of Posa, whose idealism and passionate commitment to free the persecuted people of Flanders leads to disaster for him; the formidable Grand Inquisitor, wielding the Church’s power over even the King; and Philippe himself, whose regality and majesty hide his devastation that his youthful wife Elisabeth doesn’t love him.

The ensemble of Oper Frankfurt's production of Don Carlos

Verdi’s incomparable score never fails to leave audiences awestruck. The principals’ arias are all stunning in their musical imagination and sheer individuality (you won’t forget Eboli’s glittering Veil Song, Rodrigue’s moving farewell to Carlos, or the heartfelt monologues of Philippe and Elisabeth). Just as memorable are the five theatrically and musically riveting duets, where the innermost feelings of these characters are revealed by Verdi with astounding insight. This opera is shattering in its intimacy, but Verdi also contrasts that with the grandeur in the auto-da-fé scene, where we experience the full impact of the massive chorus and orchestra.

Lyric’s outstanding cast features artists as celebrated for their theatricality as for their glorious voices: Joshua Guerrero (title role), with his golden-toned, stupendously ringing tenor, previously hailed in Lyric’s Macbeth; the radiant soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen (Elisabeth), sensational in the company’s Don Giovanni; the bewitching Cleméntine Margaine (Eboli), whose luscious mezzo and electrifying presence thrilled audiences in Lyric’s Don Quichotte; the debuting Igor Golovatenko (Rodrigue), rapidly becoming one of today’s foremost Verdi baritones; and two mighty basses — Dmitry Belosselsky (Philippe, returning after glorious performances in Nabucco and Eugene Onegin) and as the Grand Inquisitor, Soloman Howard (eletrifying as the villain in Luisa Miller).


For the first time at Lyric, experience the majesty of Verdi's Don Carlos in the 1886 French, five-act version — a true bucket list opportunity for any opera lover — for five performances only, November 9–25, 2022.

November 09 - 25, 2022

Don Carlos

Don Carlos

Acknowledged by audiences and critics alike as one of the most magnificent achievements in the history of opera, Don Carlos masterfully reveals the private turmoil of very public personalities. In 16th-century Spain, King Philip II is torn apart by his own jealous suspicions that his son, crown prince Carlos, and Queen Elisabeth — Philip's young wife and Carlos's stepmother — are in love. The drama unfolds and washes over you with unforgettable intensity and thrilling musical splendor.

Photos: Monika Ritterhaus/Oper Frankfurt