Opera in five acts

Composer Giuseppe Verdi · Text by Camille du Locle after the Italian five act version of 1886 and 1867
In Italian with German and English surtitles

Thursday, 19. January 2012
06:00 pm – 10:30 pm

Duration est. 4 hours 30 minutes · 1.-3. Akt (est. 06:00 pm - 08:10 pm ) · Interval (est. 08:10 pm - 08:55 pm ) · 4. + 5. Akt (est. 08:55 pm - 10:20 pm )

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Musikalische Leitung
Asher Fisch
Inszenierung, Bühne, Kostüme und Lichtkonzept
Jürgen Rose
Mitarbeit Inszenierung
Franziska Severin
Michael Bauer
Sören Eckhoff

Philipp II, König von Spanien
René Pape
Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien
Jonas Kaufmann
Rodrigo, Marquis de Posa
Boaz Daniel
Der Großinquistor
Eric Halfvarson
Ein Mönch
Steven Humes
Elisabeth von Valois
Anja Harteros
Die Prinzessin Eboli
Anna Smirnova
Tebaldo, Page Elisabeths
Laura Tatulescu
Die Gräfin von Aremberg
Lucy Deborah Craig
Der Graf von Lerma
Francesco Petrozzi
Ein königlicher Herold
Francesco Petrozzi
Stimme vom Himmel
Evgeniya Sotnikova
Deputierter 1
Tim Kuypers
Deputierter 2
Goran Jurić
Deputierter 3
Levente Molnár
Deputierter 4
Christian Rieger
Deputierter 5
Christoph Stephinger
Deputierter 6
Rüdiger Trebes
Extrachor der Bayerischen Staatsoper
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Spain in 1560: life on the brink of the abyss. A land ruled by church and state! Will the mighty – the grand inquisitor and the king – succeed in killing love? Will they manage to extinguish the blazing flame of liberty? Verdi's darkest opera causes us to tremble, but the composer’s musical genius does it in a fascinating and deeply moving way.


Act One

The Spanish Crown Prince, Don Carlos, has taken refuge in the monastery of San Juste in an effort to forget his misery at losing the woman he loves, Elisabeth of Valois, the daughter of Henry II of France. The two were betrothed and then fell in love with each other when they first met in Fontainebleau. But Don Carlos' father, King Philip II of Spain, decided to marry Elisabeth himself, for reasons of state. With this marriage, the war between France and Spain could be brought to an end, and Elisabeth acquiesced.

Act Two

Carlos awakes from his nightmare near the tomb of his grandfather, Emperor Charles V, in San Juste. He confides, in his despair, in his friend Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa. Rodrigo comforts him and begs him to devote himself to the cause of the oppressed people of Flanders, which is under Spanish rule. Philip and Elisabeth come to pay their respects at the emperor’s tomb and the sight of Elisabeth is too much for Carlos, he is quite overcome and agrees to Rodrigo's proposals. Both swear that they will fight together for the cause of liberty.

Outside the monastery, Princess Eboli and the Queen's entourage are whiling away the time; Eboli has started singing a frivolous song which is interrupted by the arrival of the Queen. Rodrigo slips the Queen a message from Carlos requesting a private audience, which she grants. Carlos begs her to use her influence in persuading the King to send him to Flanders. He quickly loses his self-control, however, and reproaches her bitterly for seemingly having forgotten their love for each other. The Queen forces herself to remain calm. Carlos rushes from her presence.

When Philip finds the Queen unattended, which is strictly against the court protocol, he bans the lady-in-waiting responsible, Countess Aremberg, from the court. The King dismisses the Queen and her entourage but bids Rodrigo remain behind as he wants to talk to him. Rodrigo avails himself of this unexpected opportunity to describe to the King the suffering of the people of Flanders and pleads with the monarch to give them their freedom. Philip is impressed by his openness and now confides in him that he suspects that Elisabeth and his son are having an affair. Posa is to observe them.

Act Three

At midnight Carlos sees the veiled figure of Eboli, who is in love with Carlos, in the Queen's garden. Believing the figure to be that of Elisabeth, Carlos pours out his love for her. Eboli, disappointed at his dismay on realizing his mistake, accuses him of loving the Queen and threatens to expose their secret. Posa appears on the scene and tries to threaten her into silence. Upon this Eboli reveals that Rodrigo is in the King's confidence and swears to be revenged on him for humiliating her. When they are alone, Posa succeeds in persuading Carlos to give him any incriminating papers he may have about the unrest in Flanders.

The people of Valladolid are waiting impatiently for the beginning of the auto-da-fé, which is to take place in the presence of the King and the clergy. As the sign is given for the heretics to be burned Carlos, attended by six deputies from Flanders, interrupts the proceedings and begs his father for help for his suffering Flemish subjects. When the King refuses his request, Carlos draws his sword. With great presence of mind, Posa takes the sword off him. The ceremony continues and the fires are lit.

Act Four

Philip, accutely miserable, admits to himself that he has not been able to win Elisabeth's love. In spite of his power he is growing increasingly suspicious of all around him. He tries to discuss Carlos' grievous offence with the Grand Inquisitor and hopes for some advice as to how to deal with his son, who has been taken prisoner and should perhaps now be sentenced to death. The Grand Inquisitor reminds him of his duty as a monarch by the grace of God: if God was not afraid to give His only son that the world might be saved, then a king might surely also do so. For his part, the Grand Inquisitor denounces Posa as a free-thinker and demands his life. Philips resigns himself to handing over his new confidant to the will of the Church.

Elisabeth comes in bewailing the theft of her jewel casket, which she finds in the King's room. Philip has discovered a portrait of Carlos in it and now accuses the Queen of adultery. The Queen faints and Rodrigo and Eboli rush to her aid. Eboli confesses to the Queen that it was she who stole the casket and that she has been the King's mistress. Elisabeth bans the princess from the court. Eboli pours forth her grief and misery at what she has done – all that remains for her before she leaves the court is to do everything in her power to save Carlos.

Rodrigo visits Carlos in prison. By taking the incriminating letters into his own possession he has drawn suspicion onto himself and is now awaiting the reaction of the Inquisition. He is shot in the back by henchmen of the Inquisition. Dying, he urges Carlos to continue to fight for the liberty of the Flemish. When Philip comes to fetch his son from prison, Carlos rejects him and accuses him of murder. In the face of Carlos overwhelming sorrow at the death of his friend, Philip also comes to realize that he has lost the only man he could trust. The mob, urged on by Eboli, gains entrance to the prison and tries to force the King to release Don Carlos. The Grand Inquisitor appears, brings the revolt to an end with the sheer force of his personality and rescues the King from the anger of the mob.

Act Five

Elisabeth is waiting at the tomb of Emperor Charles V to pass on to Carlos Posa's last request. Don Carlos decides to flee secretly to Flanders, where he hopes to realize Rodrigo’s vision of a life in liberty. Philip surprises the two of them as they are taking leave of each other and now hands his son over to the Inquisition. Before Carlos can be seized by the guards of the Grand Inquisitor, the Emperor himself appears as a vision and takes his grandson into the safety of the cloister.

Translation: Susan Bollinger

Festival premiere of Giuseppe Verdi's "Don Carlo" on July 1, 2000 in the Nationaltheater

Peter Heilker. Notes on Jürgen Rose's new Munich Production of Verdi's
Don Carlo

A young man is hunted, hounded - by his dreams, his wishes and his longings. The only way he can break free from the confines of a solidified world structure full of unrelenting severity, intolerant religiosity and omnipresent state and church control is by creating his own reality. Figments of madness become blurred with his present situation. Nightmares distort tender desires, affixed to a once promised and then denied experience of joy. This young man, Verdi's title character, Don Carlo, is a deeply insecure individual, whom the memory of his brief period with Elisabetta in the French town of Fontainebleau will not let go, and - if he is to survive - may not let go.

In the first act, a prologue to the actual drama in the five-act version, we witness in Jürgen Rose's production how much space this fateful encounter takes up in Carlo's world. An encounter between two people, who from the first moment commit themselves unconditionally to one another only to be abruptly torn apart. Throughout the entire play the images overlap, the fragments of memories form new images, as Don Carlo seeks to come to terms with this moment that has marked his life - and he is ultimately doomed to defeat, because he is surrounded by powerful and equally obsessed characters, whose political and personal intentions frustrate his urges.

Verdi and his librettists lead us into the dark world of a historicized, yet - as in the inspiring literature of Saint-Réal and Schiller - in no way precisely historical Spain. The art treasures found during the 19th century in secularized Spanish monasteries give evidence of the bigoted and bizarre side of strict ceremonial life on the Iberian peninsula. The enraptured poses of the monks on Zurbaran's paintings attest to the monstrous power of an unconditional faith driven to the point of fanaticism. Even the political power of the Spanish king, over whose world realm the sun never set, was darkened by the predominance of the church and its insistence on total subjugation.

In the constant confrontation between dominance and predominance the fundamental father-son conflict is carried out across three generations, personalized in the three operatic figures of the already mystically transfigured Emperor Carlo V, his son King Felipe II and the Infante, Don Carlo. This way totally different designs for life and society are formulated, designs which mutually exclude the others and thus are realized by none. Carlo V withdrew in resignation after his abdication and died in monastic seclusion. His spirit warns following generations of the vanity of all earthly striving. Felipe has devoted all his strength to the retention of both political and personal power without finding a satisfying solution, and Carlo, who can barely keep himself under control and is helplessly driven back and forth between the powers, is condemned to founder in his indecisiveness. Finally the totally patriarchal "mother" church, in the person of the Grand Inquisitor and his assassins control and determine everything.

The generation of the sons - both Felipe and Carlo - seeks to come to terms, each in his own way, with the deep-seated doubt in the existing order. While Felipe seizes more and more power, Carlos repeatedly (and vainly) seeks to force an outbreak in a direct confrontation with his father. Finally the essential similarity of father and son is revealed, albeit in their common fascination for Posa, whose captivating quality releases truly incredible intimacy even on the part of the king. A shattered Felipe and Carlo (here the Munich production refers back to a section from the original Paris version of 1867) must take their leave of him when he falls victim to the will of the Inquisition.

In his previous operatic adaptations of dramas by Friedrich Schiller, Giovanna d'Arco (Die Jungfrau von Orléans), I masnadieri (Die Räuber) and Luisa Miller (Kabale und Liebe), Verdi increasingly transferred the focus from the social tableau to the individual conflict. This way he forms the iridescent figure of Posa, in the truest sense of the word, with seductive cantilena into an egocentric hero, who propagates his grand ideas less for the realization of a vision than to impress the idolized Infante Carlo. In the course of this, the peculiar eroticism on which the friendship between these two men is based moves markedly into the foreground. The struggling-enlightening impetus of Posa yields over the course of the plot to an ambitious exploitation of tactics, which founders completely as do all his attempts at rebellion. Posa imposes a far to difficult office on the unstable Carlo, finally sacrificing himself in vain. Only he who submits can survive.

Elisabetta had already decided to take this route under the pressure of raison d'état as far back as Fontainebleau. Directly after her blissful experience with Carlo she agreed to marry Felipe. In no time, the curious and hopeful young woman is transformed to a deeply disturbed, submissive consort. She exerts her every effort to make the memory of happier times in her French homeland grow pale in favor of a paradisiacal vision of the beyond after exchanging her former life for the sepulchral darkness of the Spanish court. The aging Felipe senses the irreconcilable differences with his young wife. The sorrow over her relationship to Carlo takes all the sovereignty away from the statesman and leaves an indelible imprint on his ideas concerning the danger of the younger generation.

Color, lustre and the display of splendor on Spanish soil are to remain the sole property of ecclesiastical ritual. The monstrous spectacle of the central auto da fé, the stately "act of faith" before the countenance of church and state, satisfies the voyeuristic urges for sensationalism while concurrently revealing a gruesome fundamentalism contemptuous of humanity. What toying with forbidden fruit comes about when Princess Eboli, of all people, with her Moorish song of the veil, a melody loaded with eroticism, pays homage to an alien culture driven out of Spain by fire and the sword. Verdi does not have this character spin her schemes as a cunning intriguer, but rather shows us a woman who is just as addicted to love as she is passionate. A creature this sensuous can never succeed in this dark region, she will have to conclude her days in penitence.

But as firmly fused as church and state believe their structure to be, the bones of the victims provide no secure foundation. More and more the system collapses from within, becomes permeable for a diffuse mysticism, which manifests itself in the mystery-shrouded figure of Carlo V. Like a deus ex machina the monk, in whom at the end of the drama all the characters believe to have recognized the spirit of the emperor, rescues Carlo from the shackles of the Inquisition taking him to a sphere which, beyond reality, offers space for his dream worlds. What remains behind is a horrific, no less puzzling tableau: two old men and a lonely woman condemned to continue living the madness of reality.

English translation by Donald Arthur

© Bavarian State Opera

Don Carlo in München

ML = Musikalische Leitung; IN = Inszenierung; B = Bühnenbild; K = Kostüme

Ph = Philipp II.; C = Don Carlos; R = Rodrigo, Marquis von Posa; GI = Großinquisitor; E = Elisabeth; Eb = Prinzessin Eboli

4. Dezember 1937

Don Carlos (4 Akte)


Clemens Krauss (ML), Rudolf Hartmann (IN), Rochus Gliese (B/K); Hans Hermann Nissen (Ph), Torsten Ralf (C), Alexander Sved (R), Hans Hotter (GI), Viorica Ursuleac (E), Gertrud Rünger (Eb)

14. Oktober 1951

Don Carlos (4 Akte)


Georg Solti (ML), Heinz Arnold (IN), Helmut Jürgens (B), Rosemarie Jakameit (K); Hans Hotter (Ph), Hans Hopf (C), Karl Schmitt-Walter (R), Kurt Böhme (GI), Maud Cunitz (E), Elisabeth Höngen (Eb)

9./10. November 1961

Don Carlos (4 Akte)

(A- und B-Premiere) Prinzregententheater

Fritz Rieger (ML), Hans Hartleb (IN), Helmut Jürgens (B), Sophia Schröck (K); Gottlob Frick (9.11.)/Mino Yahia (10.11) (Ph), Jess Thomas (9.11.)/Georg
Paskuda (10.11) (C), Marcel Cordes (R), Leonardo Wolovsky (9.11.)/Kurt Böhme (10.11) (GI), Hildegard Hillebrecht (9.11.)/Claire Watson (10.11.) (E), Hertha Töpper (Eb)

6. Mai 1970

Gastspiel des Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

Don Carlos (5 Akte)


Edward Downes (ML), Luchino Visconti (IN/B/K), David Ward (Ph), Carlo Cossutta (C), Peter Glossop (R), Joseph Rouleau (GI), Gwyneth Jones (E), Josephine Veasey (Eb)

15. Juli 1975

Don Carlos (5 Akte)


Georges Prêtre (ML), Otto Schenk (IN), Rudolf Heinrich (B/K); Ruggero Raimondi (Ph), Carlo Cossutta (C), Eberhard Wächter (R), Luigi Roni (GI), Katia Ricciarelli (E), Brigitte Fassbaender (Eb)

7. Oktober 1976


Don Carlos (4 Akte)


Carlo Franci (ML), Otto Schenk (IN), Rudolf Heinrich (B/K); Ruggero Raimondi (Ph), Veriano Luchetti (C), Wolfgang Brendel (R), Kurt Böhme (GI), Julia Varady (E), Nadine Denize (Eb)


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Asher Fisch, geboren in Jerusalem, begann seine Karriere als Assistent von Daniel Barenboim. Anschließend wurde er musikalischer Leiter an der Wiener Volksoper und an der New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv. Von 2007 bis 2014 war er Principal Guest Conductor an der Seattle Opera, seit 2014 hat er die musikalische Leitung des West Australian Symphony Orchestra inne. Gastengagements führten ihn u. a. an die Opernhäuser von New York, London, Mailand, Neapel, Turin, Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Paris, Chicago und Los Angeles. Neben seinen Opernengagements trat er mit Orchestern wie dem Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, den Münchner Philharmonikern, dem Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, dem NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester Hamburg und dem Chicago Symphony Orchestra auf. (Stand: 2021)

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