Don Carlos: Wikis


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This article refers to the opera Don Carlos (Don Carlo when performed in Italian translation) by Giuseppe Verdi.
For other uses, see Don Carlos (disambiguation)

Don Carlos is a five-act Grand Opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi to a French language libretto by Camille du Locle and Joseph Méry, based on the dramatic play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien ("Don Carlos, Infante of Spain") by Friedrich Schiller. The story is based on conflicts in the life of Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568) after his betrothed Elisabeth of Valois was married instead to his father Philip II of Spain as part of the peace treaty ending the Italian War of 1551-1559 between the Houses of Habsburg and Valois. It received its first performance at the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra on 11 March 1867.

Over the following twenty years, cuts and additions were made to the opera, resulting in a number of versions being available to directors and conductors. No other Verdi opera exists in so many versions. At its full-length (including the ballet and the cuts made before the first performance), it contains about four hours of music, and is Verdi's longest opera.[1]


Revisions and translation

Pre-première cuts and first published edition

Verdi made a number of cuts in 1866, after finishing the opera but before composing the ballet, simply because the work was becoming too long[1]. These comprised:

  • a duet for Elisabeth and Eboli in Act 4, Scene 1
  • a duet for Carlos and the King after the death of Posa in Act 4, Scene 2
  • an exchange between Elisabeth and Eboli during the insurrection in the same scene

After the ballet had been composed, it emerged during the 1867 rehearsal period that, without further cuts, the opera would not finish before midnight (the time by which patrons would need to leave in order to catch the last trains to the Paris suburbs). Verdi then authorised some further cuts, as follows:[2]

  • The introduction to Act 1, with a chorus of woodcutters and their wives, and including the first appearance of Elisabeth
  • A short entry solo for Posa ("J'étais en Flandres") in Act 2, Scene 1
  • Part of the dialogue between the King and Posa at the end of Act 2, Scene 2

The opera, as first published at the time of the première, consisted of Verdi's original conception, minus all of the above cuts but including the ballet.

Further authorised and unauthorised Paris cuts

After the première and before leaving Paris, Verdi authorised the Opéra authorities to end Act 4, Scene 2 with the death of Posa (thus omitting the insurrection scene) if they thought fit. After his departure, further (unauthorised) cuts were apparently made during the remaining performances.[3]

First translation into Italian

A translation of Don Carlos into Italian was in preparation by Achille de Lauzières as early as the autumn of 1866, and Verdi insisted that the opera, still referred to as Don Carlos, be given in the same five act version plus ballet as at the Paris Opera.[4] This Italian translation - with some cuts and alterations - was presented first at the Royal Italian Opera House, Covent Garden in London (now the Royal Opera House) on 4 June 1867 (conductor: Michael Costa), and received its Italian premiere - uncut - at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna on 27 October of that year, conducted by Angelo Mariani.

Further revisions to the music and the text

Following an unsuccessful performance in Naples in 1871, Verdi was persuaded to visit the city for further performances in 1872-3, and he made two more modifications to the score:[5]

  • additions to the scene for Posa and the King in Act 2, scene 2 (Italian verses by Antonio Ghislanzoni) to replace some of the previously cut material. This is the only portion of the entire opera that was ever composed by Verdi to an Italian rather than a French text.
  • cuts to the duet between Carlos and Elisabeth in Act 5.

The idea of reducing the scope and scale of Don Carlos had originally come to Verdi in 1875, partly as a result of his having heard reports of productions, such as Costa's, which had removed Act 1 and the ballet and introduced cuts to other parts of the opera. By April 1882, he was in Paris where he was ready to make changes. He was already familiar with the work of Charles-Louis-Etienne Nuitter, who had worked on French translations of Macbeth, La forza del destino, and Aida with du Locle, and the three proceeded to spend nine months on major revisions of the French text and the music to create a 4-act version. This omitted Act 1 and the ballet, and was completed by March 1883.[6]

Revised Italian translation

Don Carlo

An Italian translation of this revised French text, re-using much of the original 1866 translation by de Lauzières, was made by Angelo Zanardini. The La Scala, Milan, première of the revision, now re-titled Don Carlo, took place on 10 January 1884.

Although Verdi had accepted the need to remove the first act, it seems that he changed his mind and allowed a performance on 29 December 1886 in Modena which presented the “Fontainebleau’’ first act along with the revised 4-act version. This version was published by Ricordi as “a new edition in five acts without ballet”.[7]

Subsequent performance history

Performances of Don Carlos/Don Carlo in the first half of the twentieth century were rare, but in the post Second World War period it has been regularly performed, particularly in the four-act 1883 'Milanese' version. Following the notable 1958 staging of the 1886 five-act Italian version at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (director Luchino Visconti), this version has increasingly been performed elsewhere and has been recorded by, among others, Georg Solti and Carlo Maria Giulini.

Finally, stagings and recordings of the original five-act French version of the opera have become more frequent, performances having been given at the Teatro alla Scala in 1970 featuring Plácido Domingo with Katia Ricciarelli, at the Théâtre du Châtelet in 1996, with Roberto Alagna as Don Carlos (which has been released on CD and DVD), and at the San Francisco Opera in 2003. A five-act version with the parts not performed in the first Paris première (all the pre-première cuts) was staged at Staatsoper, Vienna (2006) and at Liceu, Barcelona; its conductor was Bertrand de Billy.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast
11 March 1867[8]
François-Georges Hainl)
Revised version
Première Cast
10 January 1884[8]
(Conductor: - )
Philip II, (Filippo) King of Spain bass Louis-Henri Obin Alessandro Silvestri
Don Carlos (Don Carlo), Infante of Spain tenor Jean Morère Francesco Tamagno
Rodrigue (Rodrigo), Marquis of Posa baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure Paul Lhérie
The Grand Inquisitor bass Joseph David Francesco Navarini
Elisabeth of Valois soprano Marie-Constance Sass Abigaille Bruschi-Chiatti
Princess Eboli mezzo-soprano Pauline Guéymard-Lauters Giuseppina Pasqua
A monk bass Armand Castelmary Leopoldo Cromberg
Thibault (Tebaldo), page to Elisabeth soprano Leonia Leveilly Amelia Garten
A Voice from Heaven soprano
The Count of Lerma tenor Gaspard Angelo Fiorentini
Royal Herald tenor Mermant Angelo Fiorentini
Countess of Aremberg silent Dominique
Flemish deputies, Inquisitors, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Spanish Court, the people, Pages, Guards, Monks, Soldiers - chorus


[This synopsis is based on the original five-act version composed for Paris and completed in 1866. Important changes for subsequent versions are noted in indented brackets. First lines of arias, etc., are given in French and Italian].

Act 1

[This Act was omitted in the 1883 revision]

The Forest of Fontainebleau, France in winter

A prelude and chorus of woodcutters and their wives is heard. They complain of their hard life, made worse by war with Spain. Elisabeth, daughter of the King of France, arrives with her attendants. She reassures the people that her impending marriage to Don Carlos, son of the King of Spain, will bring the war to an end, and departs

[This was cut before the Paris première and replaced by a short scene in which Elisabeth crosses the stage and hands out money to the woodcutters]

Carlos, coming out from hiding, has seen Elisabeth and fallen in love with her (Aria: "Je l'ai vue" / "Io la vidi"). When she reappears, he initially pretends to be a member of the Count of Lerma's delegation, but then reveals his identity and his feelings, which she reciprocates (Duet: "De quels transports poignants et doux" / "Di quale amor, di quanto ardor"). A cannon-shot signifies that peace has been declared between Spain and France, and Thibault informs Elisabeth that her hand is to be claimed not by Carlos but by his father, Philip II. Lerma and his followers confirm this, and Elisabeth feels bound to accept, in order to consolidate the peace. She departs for Spain, leaving Carlos devastated.

Act 2

[This Act is Act 1 in the 1883 revision]

Scene 1: The monastery of Saint-Just (San Jerónimo de Yuste) in Spain

Monks pray for the soul of the Emperor Charles V ("Carlo Quinto"). His grandson Don Carlos enters, anguished that the woman he loves is now married to his father.

[In the 1883 revision, he sings the aria "Je l'ai vue" / "Io la vidi", salvaged from the omitted first Act]

A monk resembling the former emperor offers him eventual consolation of peace through God. Carlos's friend Rodrigue, Marquis of Posa, has just come from the oppressed land of Flanders (Aria: "J'étais en Flandres")

[This was cut during the pre-première rehearsals]

He asks for the Infante's aid on behalf of the suffering people there. Carlos reveals that he loves his stepmother. Posa encourages him to leave Spain and go to Flanders. The two men swear eternal friendship (Duet: "Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes" / "Dio, che nell'alma infondere"). King Philip and his new wife, with their attendants, enter to do homage at Charles V's tomb, while Don Carlos laments his lost love.

Scene 2: A garden near Saint-Just

Princess Eboli sings the Veil Song ("Au palais des fées" / "Nel giardin del bello") about a Moorish King and an alluring veiled beauty that turned out to be his neglected wife. Elisabeth enters. Posa delivers a letter from France (and secretly a note from Don Carlos). At his urging (Aria: "L'Infant Carlos, notre espérance" / "Carlo ch'è sol il nostro amore"), Elisabeth agrees to see the Infante alone. Meanwhile, Eboli is hopeful that it is her that Carlos loves.

When they are alone, Don Carlos tells Elisabeth that he is miserable, and asks her to request Philip to send him to Flanders. She promptly agrees, provoking Carlos to renew his declarations of love, which she piously rejects. Don Carlos exits in a frenzy, shouting that he must be under a curse. The King enters and becomes angry because the Queen is alone and unattended. He orders her lady-in-waiting, the Countess of Aremberg, to return to France, prompting Elizabeth to sing a sorrowful goodbye-aria. (Aria: "Oh ma chère compagne" / "Non pianger, mia compagna"). The King approaches Posa, whose character and activism have impressed him favorably. Posa begs the King to stop oppressing the people of Flanders. The King calls Posa's idealistic request unrealistic, and warns him that the ultra-right-wing Grand Inquisitor is watching him.

[This duologue was revised three times by Verdi]

Act 3

[This Act is Act 2 in the 1883 revision]

Scene 1: Evening in the Queen's garden in Madrid

Elisabeth is tired, and wishes to concentrate on the following days's coronation of the King. To avoid the divertissement planned for the evening, she exchanges masks with Eboli, assuming that thereby her absence will not be noticed, and leaves

[This scene was omitted from the 1883 revision]
[The ballet, (choreographed by Lucien Petipa and entitled "La Peregrina") took place at this point in the première]

Don Carlos enters. He has received a note suggesting a tryst in the gardens, which he thinks is from Elisabeth, but which is really from Eboli, to whom he mistakenly declares his love. The disguised Eboli realizes that he thinks that she is the Queen, and Carlos is horrified that she now knows his secret. When Posa enters, she threatens to tell the King that Elisabeth and Carlos are lovers. Carlos prevents Posa from stabbing her, and she exits in a vengeful rage. Posa asks Carlos to entrust to him any sensitive political documents that he may have, and, when Carlos agrees, they reaffirm their friendship.

Scene 2: In front of the Cathedral of Valladolid

Preparations are being made an "Auto-da-fé", the public parade and burning of condemned heretics. While the people celebrate, monks drag the condemned to the woodpile. The royal procession follows, and the King addresses the populace, but Don Carlos brings forward six Flemish deputies, who plead with the King for their country's freedom. The people and the court are sympathetic, but the King, supported by the monks, orders the deputies' arrest. Carlos draws his sword against the King. The King calls for help but the guards will not attack Don Carlos. Posa steps in, and persuades Carlos to surrender his sword. The King then promotes Posa to Duke, the woodpile is fired, and, as the flames start to rise, a heavenly voice can be heard promising peace to the condemned souls.

Act 4

[This Act is Act 3 in the 1883 revision]

Scene 1: Dawn in King Philip's study in Madrid

Alone, the King, in a reverie, laments that Elisabeth has never loved him, that his position means that he has to be eternally vigilant, and that he will only sleep properly when he is in his tomb in the Escorial (Aria: "Elle ne m'aime pas" / "Ella giammai m'amò"). The blind, ninety-year-old Grand Inquisitor is announced. The King asks if the Church will object to his putting his own son to death, and the Inquisitor replies that the King will be in good company: God sacrificed His own son. In return, the Inquisitor demands that the King have Posa killed. The King refuses to kill his friend, whom he admires and likes, but the Inquisitor reminds the King that the Inquisition can take down any king; he has destroyed other kings before. The King admits that he is powerless to save his friend and begs the Grand Inquisitor to forget about the whole discussion. The Grand Inqusitor replies "We'll see," and leaves. Elisabeth enters, alarmed at the apparent theft of her jewel casket, but the King produces it and points to the portrait of Don Carlos which it contains, and accuses her of adultery. She protests her innocence, and, when the King threatens her, she faints. He calls for help. Eboli and Posa appear, and a quartet ("Maudit soit le soupçon infâme" / "Ah, sii maledetto, sospetto fatale") develops. The King realises that he has wronged his wife; Posa resolves to act, though it may mean his death; Eboli feels remorse for betraying Elisabeth; the latter, recovering, expresses her despair.

[This quartet was revised by Verdi in 1883]

The two women are left together. A duet, "J'ai tout compris", was cut before the première. Eboli confesses not only that she stole the casket because she loved Carlos and he rejected her, but, worse, she has also been the mistress of the King. Elisabeth tells her that she must go into exile or enter a convent, and exits. Eboli, alone, curses the fatal pride that her beauty has bestowed on her, chooses the convent over exile, and resolves to try to save Carlos from the Inquisition (Aria: "O don fatal" / "O don fatale").

Scene 2: A prison

Don Carlos has been imprisoned. Posa arrives to tell him that he will be saved but that he himself will have to die, incriminated by the politically sensitive documents which Carlos had entrusted to him (Aria, part 1: "C'est mon jour suprème" / "Per me giunto è il di supreme"). A shadowy figure shoots Posa in the chest. As he dies, Posa tells Carlos that Elisabeth will meet him at Saint-Just on the following day, and says that he is content to die if his friend can save Flanders and rule over a happier Spain (Aria, part 2: "Ah, je meurs, l'âme joyeuse" / "Io morrò, ma lieto in core"). After his death, Philip enters, offering his son freedom. Carlos repulses him for having murdered Posa. The King sees that Posa has been killed, and cries out in his sorrow.

[A duet included at this point for Carlos and the King, cut before the première, was later re-used by Verdi for the Lacrimosa in his Requiem]

Bells ring, and Elisabeth, Eboli and the Grand Inquisitor arrive, while a crowd demands the release of Carlos and threatens the King. In the confusion, Eboli escapes with Carlos. The people are brave enough to threaten the King, but they are terrified by the Grand Inquisitor, and they instantly obey his angry command to quiet down and bow to the King.

[After the première, some productions ended this Act with the death of Posa; however, in 1883 Verdi provided a much shortened version of the insurrection, as he felt that otherwise it would not be clear how Eboli had fulfilled her promise to rescue Carlos]

Act 5

[This Act is Act 4 in the 1883 revision]

The moonlit monastery of Saint-Just

Elisabeth kneels before the tomb of Charles V. She is committed to help Don Carlos on his way to fulfil his destiny in Flanders, but she herself longs only for death (Aria: "Toi qui sus le néant" / "Tu che le vanità"). Carlos appears and they say a final farewell (Duet: "Au revoir dans un monde où la vie est meilleure" / "Ma lassù ci vedremo in un mondo migliore").

[This duet was twice revised by Verdi]

Philip and the Grand Inquisitor enter: the King declares that there will be a double sacrifice, and the Inquisitor confirms that the Inquisition will do its duty. A short summary trial follows.

[This was omitted in 1883]

Carlos, calling on God, draws his sword to defend himself against the Inquisitor's guards, when suddenly, the Monk emerges from the tomb of Charles V. He grabs Carlos by the shoulder, and loudly proclaims that the turbulence of the world persists even in the Church; we cannot rest except in Heaven. Philip and the Inquisitor recognize the Monk's voice as that of the King's father, former-Emperor Carlo V ("Carlo Quinto") himself. Everyone screams in shock and terror, and the Monk/former-Emperor drags Carlos forcefully into the tomb and closes the outlet. The curtain falls.



See Don Carlos discography.

See also


  1. ^ a b Budden (see below), pp. 23-25
  2. ^ Budden, p. 25
  3. ^ Budden, p. 25-26
  4. ^ Budden, p. 27
  5. ^ Budden, pp. 28-9
  6. ^ Budden, pp. 31-8
  7. ^ quoted in Budden, p.39
  8. ^ a b Première singers in Budden, p. 4


  • Budden, Julian, The Operas of Verdi, Volume III, London: Cassell, Ltd, 1984 ISBN 0-304-31060-3
  • Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane, Verdi: A Biography, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1994 ISBN 0-19-313204-4

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

There is more than one meaning of Don Carlos discussed in the 1911 Encyclopedia. We are planning to let all links go to the correct meaning directly, but for now you will have to search it out from the list below by yourself. If you want to change the link that led you here yourself, it would be appreciated.

Simple English

This article is about the opera Don Carlos (or Don Carlo) by Giuseppe Verdi. For other uses, see Don Carlos (disambiguation).

Don Carlos is an opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi. It was composed to a libretto in the French language by Camille du Locle and Joseph Méry. It was based on a famous German play called Don Carlos, Infante of Spain by Friedrich Schiller. Schiller’s story is based on the true story of the life of Carlos, Prince of Asturias (1545-1568) who was promised that he could marry Elisabeth of Valois, but then his father,Philip II of Spain, changed his mind and married her himself. It was part of the peace treaty ending the Italian War of 1551-1559 between the Houses of Habsburg and Valois.

The opera was first performed at the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra in Paris on 11 March 1867. It has five acts.

Don Carlos was written for performance in Paris. This has made a problem for the reputation of the opera, because it was tradition in France to write very long operas. They always included a lot of ballet music as well as the singing. Verdi’s opera was in five acts, and when it was performed in other countries it was too long for people’s tastes, so many cuts were made, including, at first, the whole of Act I. This is a great pity, because a lot of the music in Act One is very important, with tunes which also come later in the opera. Since the beginning of the 20th century most of the music of Act I is usually performed. There have been many different versions performed, with different parts of the opera cut. When the opera is sung in Italian it is called Don Carlo.



Role Voice type Premiere Cast
11 March 1867
(Conductor: Hainl)
Revised version
Première Cast
10 January 1884
(Conductor: - )
Philip II, (Filippo) King of Spain bass Louis-Henri Obin Alessandro Silvestri
Don Carlos (Don Carlo), Infante of Spain tenor A. Morère Francesco Tamagno
Rodrigue (Rodrigo), Marquis of Posa baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure Paolo Lhérie
The Grand Inquisitor bass David Francesco Navarini
Elisabeth of Valois soprano Marie-Constance Sass Abigaille Bruschi-Chiatti
Princess Eboli mezzo-soprano Pauline Gueymard-Lauters Giuseppina Pasqua
A monk bass Armand Castelmary Leopoldo Cromberg
Thibault (Tebaldo), page to Elisabeth soprano Leonia Leveilly Amelia Garten
A Voice from Heaven soprano
The Count of Lerma tenor Gaspard Angelo Fiorentini
Royal Herald tenor Mermant Angelo Fiorentini
Countess of Aremberg silent Dominique
Flemish deputies, Inquisitors, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Spanish Court, the people, Pages, Guards, Monks, Soldiers - chorus

The story of the opera

The story takes place at a time when Spain is just coming to the end of a war with France. It has been agreed between the two countries that Don Carlos, heir to the Spanish throne, will marry Elisabeth, the daughter of the King of France.

Act I

Don Carlos wants to see the girl he is to marry. He goes to France and, secretly, joins a royal hunt in which Elisabeth is taking part. Elisabeth and her page are separated from the others. Carlos speaks to her and offers to take her home. The princess asks him about the prince she is to marry. Carlos says that she need not worry because the prince is kind and in love with her. He then shows Elisabeth a photo of the prince, and then Elisabeth of course realizes that it is the prince she is talking to. They sing a love duet.

Some Spanish officials then come and tell Elisabeth that it has been decided that she is not to marry the prince: she is to marry his father, the king of Spain. The two lovers are dismayed at this news. The crowd of people beg Elisabeth to agree to marrying the King of Spain, so that the war will stop. In the end she agrees.

Act II

Don Carlos has gone to a monastery so that he can be quiet in his misery. His grandfather, Charles V, had spent his last days in this monastery. A monk talks to him. Carlos thinks the monk looks like his grandfather.

Carlos is filled with joy when his friend Rodrigue comes. He has just come back from Flanders, where there is still a lot of fighting. Carlos tells him a secret: that he is in love with Elisabeth who has now married his father and is therefore Queen of Spain. Rodrigue tells him he should spend his time helping the poor people of Flanders. The King and Queen process past the tomb.

When the Queen leaves the church she goes to the garden where her ladies are waiting for her. A messenger gives her a letter from her mother in Paris, but at the same time he secretly gives her a letter from Carlos. Rodrigue quietly talks to Eboli, the queen’s lady-in-waiting, while the queen reads the letters. Rodrigue asks the Queen to try to persuade the king to let Carlos talk to him. Eboli is in love with Carlos. She has noticed how Carlos has been agitated when he has been in the presence of the Queen, and thinks it is because Carlos loves her (Eboli).

Carlos is given a chance to meet Elisabeth privately. He calmly asks her whether she could persuade the King to send him to Flanders. However, he is not really calm, and soon he starts to be angry with her for not showing any love feelings towards him. She tells him that it is her duty now that she is Queen. Carlos understands, but is still in love with her. He falls at her feet. He grabs her and declares his love for her, but the Queen tears herself from him and he rushes off in despair.

The Kings comes out of church. He is very cross that his wife has been left on her own. He tells the lady-in-waiting to go away. The Queen comforts her. Then she and her ladies go.

Rodrigue asks the King to stop fighting the people of Flanders who are still dying and starving from hunger. The King says they were not faithful and deserve to be punished. He tells Rodrigue that he is afraid of what is going on between Elisabeth and Carlos. He tells him to be aware of the Inquisition.


A masked ball is taking place at the palace in Madrid. Carlos is waiting in the Queen’s garden. A lady comes to the garden, wearing a mask, like everyone else. He thinks it is the Queen and tells her how he loves her. When the lady takes her mask off he realizes it is Eboni. She accuses him of loving the Queen. At that moment Rodrigue comes. He says to Eboni that Carlos is not well and does not understand what he is talking about. But Eboni is not deceived and plans to ruin their love affair.

The second scene of the act takes place in a square in Madrid. An auto-da-fé is being prepared. During the time of the Spanish Inquisition this was a ceremony in which anyone who did not agree with the Roman Catholic church was burnt to death. Monks enter, followed by the unfortunate people who are going to be burnt. The people sing about the glories of Spain. King Philippe appears and repeats how he will fight against anyone who is an enemy of the Roman Catholic church. Six people, including Carlos, appear and fling themselves at his feet, begging him to stop his troops from killing the Flemish people. The King will not hear of it. Some of the crowd support the king, but others are begging him to have mercy. Carlos then asks his father to allow him to rule Flanders for him. The King does not allow this, because he realizes that this could be an opportunity for Carlos and the Flemish people to rise against him. Carlos is desperate. He draws his sword and says that he will save Flanders. The crowd are terrified to see him behave like this in front of the King. The King commands his soldiers to take the sword away from Carlos, but no one obeys him. In the end, Rodrigue (who realizes that this is going to be bad for him) saves the situation by calmly asking Carlos for the sword. He hands it over and Rodrigue gives it to the King. The monks process farther, and a voice from heaven promises peace in the world to come.


The King is alone in church. In a wonderful aria he sings of his sadness that his wife does not seem to love him. The Grand Inquisitor comes in. He is very old, and blind. The King tells him about his son, and asks the Inquisitor whether Carlos should be forgiven or sentenced to death. The Inquisitor answers that it is Rodrigue who should be killed. The king dares to disagree. The Inquisitor tells the King that he is not giving his heart to God. The Inquisitor goes.

The Queen rushes in and asks the King to help her look for a casket of jewels which have disappeared from her room. The King shows her that it is on the table. He tells her she must open it. She does so. At the top is a portrait of Carlos. The King is very angry and accuses her of adultery. She faints. The King calles Eboli and Rodrigue for help. The King feels sorry for his suspicion, but Eboli feels even more sorry because it was she who had taken the casket because she was jealous of Carlos and Elisabeth. It was she who had suggested the King should look in the jewel case. Rodrigue feels he can only save his friend by offering himself to be killed instead of Carlos. The King and Rodrigue leave. Eboni throws herself at the feet of the Queen, who has now revived, and confesses that she herself is guilty of adultery because she had slept with the king. Elisabeth remains calm, but tells Eboni to go away from her for ever and to live in a nunnery. When Eboni is left alone she expresses her feelings of terribly misery. Before she goes to the nunnery she has one more thing to do: to try to save Carlos from being put to death.

The second scene of the act shows Carlos in prison. Rodrigue comes to him. He knows that Flemish letters addressed to Carlos have been found in his possession. Someone comes in and kills Rodrigue. As he dies, he tells Carlos that the Queen will wait for him the next day outside the nunnery and will see him for the last time. He dies.

Sometimes Act IV ends here, but some performances continue to show a scene in which the King tries to give the sword back to his son, but Carlos accuses him of having murdered his friend. A group of people, including Eboli, enter the prison and cry to the King to set Carlos free. The Inquisitor appears. He tells the crowd angrily that they are wicked to go against God’s will. He tells them all to go down on their knees and repent.

Act V

Elisabeth kneels before the tomb of Charles V. She sings of her lost youth in France (some of the music from Act I comes back here). She prays for peace. Elisabeth and Carlos then meet for the last time (their third duet in the opera) and wish for happier times. The King and the Inquisitor have been hiding. They now appear and grab Carlos. The guards are told to grab him, but Carlos defends himself. Suddenly the voice of Charles V (or a monk in disguise) is heard. He takes his grandson into the safety of the cloister.


Don Carlos is a great opera. It has some of Verdi’s greatest music, especially the music of Act IV scene i, in which the events of the previous acts are all brought together. There are some wonderful duets (three duets for Carlos and Elisabeth) and some great bass arias. However, the opera is very long, but it is difficult to cut any of the singing without spoiling the drama.

Some people feel that the end of the opera is weak. In Schiller’s play there is a different ending. Carlos is handed over to the Inquisition and put to death.


  • The New Kobbe’s Opera Book, ed. The Earl of Harewood and Antony Peattie. London: Ebury Press, ISBN –0 1814103

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