The Count of Lerma : Andris Kipļuks
A Voice from Heaven: Inga Šļubovska-Kancēviča
Jester: Fabián Augusto Gómez Bohórquez
The events of Giuseppe Verdi's emotionally charged opera Don Carlo are set in the 16th century France and Spain. The plot revolves around negotiations for a peace treaty between the two countries, involving the marriage of the Spanish prince Carlo to the French princess Élisabeth. When political considerations lead to Carlo's beloved Élisabeth becoming the wife of own father, Philippe II, the protagonist finds himself at a crossroads of politics, love, and religion that could shape the future of entire Europe.
The visually impressive staging of Don Carlo, created by the German director Claus Guth, with set design by Etienne Pluss and costume design by Petra Reinhardt, premiered at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples in the latter part of 2022. Don Carlo is one of Verdi's most ambitious operas. As such, it went through several revisions in both French and Italian during the composer's own lifetime. Verdi’s masterpiece will be performed in Italian at the Latvian National Opera.
Coproduction of the Latvian National Opera and Ballet and Fondazione Teatro di San Carlo.
The Forest of Fontainebleau
Don Carlo, the Infante of Spain, is engaged to Elizabeth. He has come to France in secret to meet his bride. Elizabeth de Valois, the daughter of the King of France, appears with Tebaldo, her page. Having taken part in the royal hunt, she has got lost on her way back to the castle. Don Carlo pretends to be a member of the Spanish ambassador’s entourage. As soon as Tebaldo leaves them, Don Carlo promises to show Elizabeth the portrait of the Infante of Spain. Elizabeth realises that she’s met her fiancé, and Don Carlo confesses his love for her. She too harbours warm feelings towards him.
A cannon shot announces that a peace settlement between France and Spain has been signed. Tebaldo returns with a message that the King of France has promised his daughter’s hand to the King of Spain – and not his son, the Infante of Spain. However, the Count of Lerma and his delegation want to hear Elizabeth give her consent herself. Even though the Princess has fallen in love with Don Carlo, she agrees to marry Philip II, in order to seal the peace between the two nations. She leaves Don Carlo alone and in despair.
Part I – The Monastery of St. Yuste
The monks are saying a prayer for Charles V, Philip II’s father. Don Carlo reminisces about his first meeting with his beloved Elizabeth, who has since become his father’s wife and the Queen of Spain. Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, returns from Flanders, and shares the news of an uprising in the occupied territory of the King of Spain. Don Carlo reveals a secret to his friend – that he’s in love with Elizabeth. Rodrigo urges the prince to stop dreaming about the impossible and go to Flanders to help stop the religious persecution there. After a conversation, Don Carlo and Rodrigo swear they will live and die together as one. The arrival of the King and Queen of Spain make Don Carlo’s heart bleed anew.
Part II – A spot outside the monastery of St. Yuste
The Queen’s ladies-in-waiting are expecting the arrival of their mistress. Meanwhile, Princess Eboli, accompanied by the page Tebaldo, entertains the ladies with a song about a veil. Elizabeth arrives and receives a letter from her mother, delivered by the Marquis of Posa. He has attached a secret note from Don Carlo to the letter. The note urges the Queen to put her trust in the Marquis. The Queen agrees to meet with Philip II’s son, so that she can help him plead his cause with the King.
Unbeknown to them, Eboli is in love with Don Carlo. She mistakenly believes that the Infante has feelings towards her, too.
Don Carlo arrives and his dialogue with the Queen soon turns into passionate proclamations of love. Elizabeth interrupts him, reminding him that their love is no longer possible. Desperate, he leaves.
Philip II enters and notices that his wife, ignoring all customs of court etiquette, has been left on her own. For this misbehaviour, he sends the Countess of Aremberg into exile. Torn by sorrow, Elizabeth says her farewells to her.
The Marquis of Posa remains with Philip, who is forced to listen to the many crimes that his reign has committed in Flanders. The King rejects Posa’s suggestion to give the land independence. Philip II is more concerned about the possibility of Elizabeth and Don Carlo being in love. The King pleads with Rodrigo to uncover the truth for him and warns the Marquis against the danger of the Grand Inquisitor.
Part I – The Queen’s gardens
Exhausted, Elizabeth asks Princess Eboli to take her place at an upcoming ball, and they exchange outfits. Having disguised herself as Queen, Eboli gives a note to her page, instructing him to deliver it to Don Carlo.
The Infante, misled by the note and the situation, arrives at the Queen’s gardens, convinced that he will be meeting with Elizabeth. Disguised by a veil, Princess Eboli appears in Elizabeth’s place. She listens excitedly to Don Carlo’s confessions of love, without realising that they are intended for the Queen. Don Carlo fails to hide his astonishment when Eboli reveals her face, and the Princess quickly realises the true state of affairs. Overcome by a jealous rage, she’s ready to take her revenge, unfazed by the threats which the Marquis openly expresses to her. Despite Eboli’s warnings that this man is not to be trusted, Don Carlo hands some secret papers over to the Marquis.
Part II – By the cathedral of Valladolid
People have gathered to watch the burning of the heretics, condemned by the inquisitorial court. Representatives from Flanders, ravaged by the Spanish atrocities, plead their case to the King, brought to him by Don Carlo. However, Philip has no intention of listening to them.
Having failed to receive permission from his father to go to Flanders, Don Carlo draws his weapon and threatens him. The King orders his guards to disarm his rebellious son, but no one dares come close to him. Only Rodrigo’s intervention prevents a bloodshed. Having taken Don Carlo’s weapon away from him, Rodrigo hands it over to the King, who promotes the helpful Marquis, declaring him a Duke. Don Carlo is arrested and taken away, while Philip invites the exultant people to enjoy the celebrations. A voice from Heaven promises eternal peace to the souls of those who have suffered torture.
Part I – The King’s private rooms
Philip is deeply aggrieved by the fact that Elizabeth doesn’t love him. The Grand Inquisitor arrives, and the monarch expresses his worry over his son’s rebellious actions. The Grand Inquisitor supports a punishment for Don Carlo, advocating that Rodrigo should also be punished. He believes the newly proclaimed Duke to be much more dangerous to the interests of the church and the government. The King is astonished, though he’s eventually forced to come to terms with it.
Elizabeth commiserates over her stolen chest to her spouse. It contained everything that was dear to her. Unbeknown to her, Princess Eboli has secretly delivered the chest (which contains Don Carlo’s portrait) to the King. Having opened the chest and seen Don Carlo’s portrait inside, Philip accuses Elizabeth of adultery.
Princess Eboli arrives with Rodrigo. She confesses to the Queen that she is to blame for everything – not only has she stolen the chest from Elizabeth, but seduced Philip II as well. Elizabeth orders the Princess to go into exile or join a monastery. Eboli curses her beauty which has only brought more suffering. Before taking up the veil, she commits to saving Don Carlo from the impeding danger.
Part II – Don Carlo’s prison
Rodrigo arrives with the news that Don Carlo will soon be set free. The Marquis has let the compromising papers remain in his house, which Don Carlo previously entrusted him with. The Marquis is certain that these papers will condemn him as a rebel or a traitor.
Indeed, the revenge of the reign is swift: Rodrigo is mortally wounded. As he dies, he reveals to Don Carlo that he has arranged for the Infante to meet Elizabeth at the monastery. However, he reminds him that his main duty is to save Flanders.
Philip arrives to set his son free, but Don Carlo refuses to accept mercy from a man whose hands are stained with blood. The Infante doesn’t hide the fact that Rodrigo has sacrificed his own life, taking all blame upon himself.
A mob, orchestrated by Eboli, breaks into the prison to set the Infante free. Only the sudden appearance of the Grand Inquisitor settles the crowd: they are ready to re-commit themselves to the authority of their sovereign, who’s supported by the Church.
The monastery of St. Yuste
Elizabeth prays to the heavenly forces to help her beloved Don Carlo, though she herself is ready to give into the arms of death. Don Carlo arrives to renew his promise of love to Elizabeth. The Infante is getting ready to leave for Flanders, to fight for its independence. The farewell of the two lovers is interrupted by the arrival of Philip, the Grand Inquisitor, and the guards. They’re ready to seize Don Carlo.
Suddenly, the voice of Charles V resounds, reminding everyone that suffering is temporal, so long as we put our hope for peace in the merciful hands of God.