VERDI: Don Carlo — Rome 1954

Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901). Libretto by Joseph MÈry and Camille Du Locle after Friedrich von Schiller’s dramatic poem Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien. French text revised by Du Locle, Italian translation by Achille de LauziËres and Angelo Zanardini.

First Performance: 11 March 1867 at the OpÈra, Paris.
Revised version 10 January 1884 at Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters:
Philip II, King of Spain Bass
Rodrigue/Rodrigo, Marquis of Pisa Baritone
Don Carlos/Don Carlo, Infante of Spain Tenor
The Grand Inquisitor Bass
Elisabeth de Valois, Philip’s queen Soprano
Princess Eboli, Elisabeth’s lady-in-waiting Mezzo-Soprano
Thibault, Eisabeth’s page Soprano
The Countess of Aremberg Silent role
The Count of Lerma Tenor
An Old Monk Bass
A Voice from Heaven Soprano
A Royal Herald Tenor
Flemish Deputies Basses
Inquisitors Basses

Setting: France and Spain, about 1560


Act I

Scene 1. The tomb of the Emperor Charles V at the monastery of San Yuste

Don Carlo, son of King Filippo of Spain and heir to the throne, laments the
loss of Elisabetta, daughter of the King of France, to whom he had been
betrothed when a politcal decision was made that she should marry Filippo. As
monks chant the obsequies of the emperor, Carlo V, his grandfather, he is
struck by the resemblance of one of them to the dead emperor.

Carlo is joined by his friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, who exhorts him to
help the Flemish people who are suffering under the Spanish yoke. Carlo
confides that he loves his stepmother, and the two swear eternal friendship and
dedication to the cause of liberty, while Filippo and Elisabetta kneel at the

Scene 2. A garden at the gate of the monastery

The queen’s ladies are gathered. The Princess of Eboli, accompanied by
the page Tebaldo, sings a song. When the queen appears Rodrigo is announced.
Along with letters from France he secretly gives her a letter from Carlo. He
begs her to intercede with the king for Carlo, who is suffering from his

Carlo appears and all withdraw to allow him to be alone with the queen. He
begins quietly, asking for her help with the king, but becomes more emotional,
lamenting his lost love and collapses at her feet. She is distressed, but when
he wildly declares that he loves her, she answers indignantly, as becomes the
wife of his father, and he rushes from her presence in self-loathing and

The king arrives and, angry at finding the queen alone, dismisses the lady
who should have been with her and orders her to return to France. Elisabetta
takes an affectionate farewell of her and leaves.

The king detains Rodrigo and asks why he has never sought favor from him,
though he has deserved it. Posa answers that he wants nothing for himself, but
begs for peace for the people of Flanders. The king offers peace brought about
by the sword, pointing to Spain as an example, but Rodrigo cries out that this
is the peace of the grave. Filippo pardons his freedom of speech but warns him
against the Grand Inquisitor.

He confides his fears that his wife and son are betraying him and authorises
Rodrigo to visit the queen at any time to investigate.

Act II

Scene 1. The queen’s garden

Carlo has received a letter giving him an assignation, which he thinks is
from the queen; it is really from Eboli, who is in love with him. Mistaking her
at first for the queen, he greets her ecstatically, only to draw back in horror
when he realises his mistake. She realises that it is the queen he loves and
threatens exposure.

Rodrigo appears and, after trying unsuccessfully to convince her that Carlo
is raving, tries to kill her to stop her from speaking. But he is prevented by
Carlo, and she leaves, still threatening vengeance. Rodrigo asks the prince to
give him any secret documents he has.

Scene 2. A square in Madrid

An auto-da-fÈ is in progress and the crowd acclaims the glory of the king,
who emerges from church and repeats his vow to have the wicked put to death by
fire and the sword. Carlo leads in a group of Flemish deputies who beg for
mercy for their country, but the king angrily rejects them as traitors. Carlo
then asks the king to allow him to go to Flanders as his deputy, but the king
refuses, pointing out that he would then be able to seize the throne.

Carlo draws his sword to swear faith with the Flemish people and Filippo
orders him to be disarmed. Only Rodrigo obeys and demands the sword, which is
yielded by the stunned prince.

The auto-da-fÈ continues, but a voice from heaven promises peace to the


Scene 1. The king’s study

The king broods that his wife has never loved him. In answer to his summons
the Grand Inquisitor appears and Filippo confides his suspicion that the prince
is planning rebellion. They agree that he should be handed over to the
inquisition, but then the Inquisitor demands that Rodrigo be handed over as a
far greater heretic.

The king refuses, is denounced by the Inquisitor and then tries to make his
peace with him, though resentful that the throne has always to give way to the
church. The queen rushes in demanding justice, as her jewel casket has been
stolen, not knowing that it had been taken on Filippo’s orders. He orders
her to open it.

The portrait of Don Carlo is revealed and she defends this on the grounds
that he had once been her promised husband. When the king accuses her of
adultery, she faints and he calls for help. Eboli and Rodrigo appear, the
latter reproaching the king for his lack of self-control.

When the two women are left alone, Eboli confesses that it was she who
betrayed the queen, jealous because she too loved Carlo, but in vain. The queen
pardons her, but when Eboli confesses that she has been the king’s
mistress, Elisabetta orders her either to a convent or to exile, leaving Eboli
to curse the fatal gift of beauty which led to her downfall.

Scene 2. An underground prison

Rodrigo visits Carlo in prison and tells him that the papers he took from
Carlo have been found in his possession and have proved him to be the leader of
the rebellion. Rodrigo is shot by an officer of the inquisition and dies happy
that he has been able to preserve Carlo to save Flanders. He tells him that
Elisabetta will explain everything to him the next day at the emperor’s

Filippo, accompanied by grandees, appears and offers Carlo back his sword,
but he accuses his father of the murder of Rodrigo, whose death the king also
mourns. The people are threatening revolt unless the prince is set free. The
king orders the gates to be opened and they surge in, but are subdued when the
grand inquisitor orders them to kneel before the king.

Act IV

The tomb of Charles V at San Yuste

Elisabetta kneels in prayer at the tomb. She remembers happier days in
France, and prepares to see Carlo for the last time. He tells her that honor
has vanquished love and that he is ready to go to Flanders.

They promise to meet in a better world, but their farewell is interrupted by
the king, with the Grand Inquisitor and officers of the inquisition. Carlo
draws his sword to defend himself but is suddenly rescued, drawn into the
monastery, apparently by Carlo V himself.

[Synopsis Source: Opera~Opera]

Click here for the complete libretto.

Click here for the text of Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien.

Click here for the text of Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (English translation).

image_description=Don Carlos
first_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo
product_by=Don Carlo: Mario Filippeschi; Eboli: Elena Nicolai; Elizabetta di Valois: Antonietta Stella; Filippo II.: Boris Christoff; Fratre: Plinio Clabassi; Inquisitore: Giulio Neri; Lerma: Paolo Caroli; Posa: Tito Gobbi; Tebaldo: Loretta di Lelio; Voce dal cielo: Orietta Moscucci. Coro e Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. Gabriele Santini, conducting. Recorded 1954.