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Saturday Opera Preview: Verdi’s Don Carlos

On November 24, the Houston Grand Opera brings WFIU listeners Verdi's much-revised tale of the Inquisition.

A crowd on stage appear to burn a heretic while a large red cross looms in the background

Photo: Houston Grand Opera

Act 3, scene 2 of Houston Grand Opera's production of Don Carlos

Event Information

Verdi's Don Carlos- Broadcast from Houston Grand Opera


Saturday, November 24, 1 pm

Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Don Carlos was based on the play of the same name by Friedrich von Schiller. The play, in turn, was inspired by the sixteenth century reign of King Philip II of Spain, which took place during the Inquisition. The opera is a dramatic tale of familial betrayal, international intrigue, and religious extremism. In 2012, the Houston Grand Opera staged the rarely performed original version, first seen at the Paris Opera in 1867.

Don Carlos is the young prince of Spain, betrothed to French princess Elisabeth de Valois. He steals away to meet her for the first time and they fall in love. When Carlos returns home, he discovers that his father is to marry Elisabeth, and this betrayal sets in motion a series of events that change history. Carlos turns on his father in support of the Flemish people living under Spanish rule, and Elisabeth turns on Carlos, denying their love. Further love interests and subplots are supplied by the Spanish lady-in-waiting, Eboli, and Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa and adviser to the King.

Don Carlos is an exceptionally long opera, clocking in at more than four hours when performed in full. Verdi himself suggested some cuts for various performing versions, and other cuts were made to both the original French version and the Italian translation first performed at La Scala in 1884.

Though the many revisions have led some critics to suggest that the opera lacks dramatic cohesiveness, there are many striking instances of music moving the drama forward. In Don Carlos, this often takes the form of duets that both forward the plot and give characters the opportunity to work through issues. Some of these take place between King Philip and Rodrigo, Elisabeth and Eboli, Carlos and Philip, and Philip and Elisabeth.

The Houston Grand Opera production of Don Carlos is an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with this complex work in the original French. If you like what you hear, stay tuned in March of 2013 when the Metropolitan Opera broadcast will bring the Italian translation, known as Don Carlo, to WFIU’s airwaves.

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