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234th Season

Giuseppe Verdi "Don Carlos" (opera in 4 acts)

Angela Buscemi, Costume Designer
Cristian Taraborrelli, Costume Designer
Fabrice Kebour, Lighting Designer
Maestro Valery Gergiev, Musical Director
Alla Brosterman, Musical Preparation
Andrei Petrenko, Principal Chorus Master
Cristian Taraborrelli, Set Designer
Yuri Alexandrov, Set Designer
Performed in Italian (with synchronised Russian supertitles)
Premiere of this production: 29 Nov 2012

The performance has 2 intermissions
Running time: 4 hours 10 minutes

About the premiere of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Don Carlo at the Mariinsky Theatre.

On the eve of the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, the Mariinsky Theatre is staging a new production of the opera Don Carlo. The premiere performances will take place on 29 and 30 November and 4 and 30 December. This will be the fourth production of Don Carlo at the Kirov-Mariinsky Theatre (previous productions dating from 1976, 1992 and 1999) and the first production of the composer’s own final five-act version in Italian, the so-called “Modena version” of 1886. 

The premiere of the opera Don Carlo to a libretto by Franзois Joseph Mйry and Camille du Locle after the eponymous drama by Friedrich Schiller, one of Verdi’s favourite playwrights, took place on 11 March 1867 at the Grand Opйra in Paris. 

Don Carlo was first performed in Russia on 20 December 1868 when it was staged at St Petersburg’s Bolshoi Theatre by the Imperial Italian Opera Company. 

Almost twenty years later, in 1884 Verdi created a new version of his opera in four acts with a text revised by the Italian librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni. In Modena in 1886 came the first performance of yet another version of the opera – the most complete version in five acts once more and now in Italian. 

In Russia, following the first production of Don Carlo in Italian the opera was dropped for a lengthy period due to the censor. In 1917 Fyodor Chaliapin gained permission for a production of Don Carlo at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, where at the premiere on 10 February he himself performed the role of King Filippo which for many years to come defined the tradition of the musical and stage image of this character.

The opera Don Carlo for the Opera de Paris forced Verdi to work in the genre of “grand opera.” The complex historical background of the plot – tangled political lines and the pyres of the Inquisition – allowed Verdi to create a monumental canvas with vivid crowd scenes, while the passions and family peripeteia of the story gave the composer incredible opportunities to create psychologically intense musical images and characters.

At the Mariinsky Theatre, the opera Don Carlo is being produced by the Italian stage director Giorgio Barberio Corsetti. 

Corsetti about Don Carlo: “Verdi’s Don Carlo is a very dark opera, it’s a kind of nightmare. The blind Grand Inquisitor is himself the embodiment of darkness. The darkness moves with the characters. In many late 16th century portraits the background is almost entirely black. The artist placed his image in no specific time but rather in eternity with no temporal context whatsoever. I didn’t want to have any historical reconstructions, here the story is a kind of sign, a hint. Of course, it contains eternal problems: relationships with power, relationships with a father and relationships with history.”

Giorgio Barberio Corsetti has been a recipient of the Prix Europe Nouvelles Rйalitйs Thйвtrales and frequently works in opera; he is known primarily for using video graphics in his productions. His first opera production was Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan at the Teatro la Fenice (1999). This was followed by the diptych of Poulenc’s La Voix humaine and Schoenberg’s Erwartung in Palermo, Puccini’s La Bohиme in Messina, Tosca in Florence, Bacalov’s Stabat mater in Rome and Turandot at La Scala in 2011, the premiere of which was conducted by Valery Gergiev. At the Thйвtre du Chвtelet, Corsetti has staged Gualtiero Dazzi’s Le Luthier de Venise (2004), Rossini’s La pietra del paragone (2007) and Pop’pea, an interpretation of Monteverdi’s opera L’incoronazione di Poppea using video materials and elements of pop culture (2012). Don Carlo is the second opera the stage director has undertaken, preceded by Falstaff at the Opйra National du Rhin in Strasbourg; March 2013 will see a production of Macbeth at La Scala with maestro Gergiev conducting. In 1999 Corsetti became Artistic Director of the theatre division of Venice’s biennale. 2002 saw the emergence of a new project of Corsetti’s FattoreK company entitled Metamorfosi – festival di confine tra teatro e circo, a circus and theatre festival organised together with the City of Rome Government.

The production team also includes Giorgio Barberio Corsetti and Cristian Taraborelli as Set Designers, Cristian Taraborelli and Angela Buscemi as Costume Designers, Fabrice Kebour as Lighting Designer, Luca Attilii and Fabio Iaquone as Video Designers and Roberto Aldorasi as Choreographer.

The lead roles in the opera Don Carlo are being rehearsed by Yevgeny Nikitin, Mikhail Kit and Mikhail Petrenko (Filippo II, the King of Spain), Akhmed Agadi, Avgust Amonov and Viktor Lutsyuk (Don Carlo, the Infante of Spain), Alexander Gergalov, Vasily Gerello and Vladimir Moroz (Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa), Sergei Aleksashkin, Ilya Bannik and Mikhail Kolelishvili (the Grand Inquisitor), Irma Dzhigolaty, Anna Markarova, Yekaterina Shimanovich and Viktoria Yastrebova (Elisabeth de Valois) and Zlata Bulycheva, Olga Savova and Nadezhda Serdyuk (Princess Eboli). 

The Musical Director of the production is Valery Gergiev, the Stage Director Giorgio Barberio Corsetti.

Act I
The forest of Fontainebleau
While hunting in the forest of Fontainebleau, Don Carlo meets the French Princess Elisabeth de Valois. They are engaged though they have never seen each other before. Elisabeth has been promised to Don Carlo by her father who wishes to establish a long-awaited peace between Spain and France by the union.
Love becomes apparent when the two young people meet, but their joy is short-lived. Soon the Spanish Ambassador the Count of Lerma appears with some terrible and unexpected news: Philip II has annulled the engagement of Carlos and Elisabeth and will marry her himself. Realising that peace between the two countries depends upon her, Elisabeth gives her consent.

Act II
Scene 1
The cloisters at the monastery of Saint-Just
Monks meditate by the tomb of Emperor Charles V, Don Carlos’ grandfather. Carlo is startled by the resemblance of one of the monks to Charles V. He is joined by his dearest friend Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, who has just returned from Flanders; Posa paints a grim picture of the oppression it suffers, and when he hears of Carlo’s love for Elisabeth he urges Carlos to go to Flanders and ease the suffering of the people and cure himself of his criminal passion. They renew their vows of fellowship in the service of liberty.
Scene 2
The garden by the gates of Saint-Just
Tebaldo, Eboli and the ladies of the Court take shelter from the heat and pass the time singing. The Queen joins them, followed by di Posa who delivers two letters, one from her father and the other from Carlo. As Elisabeth reads, Rodrigo engages Eboli in gallantries. He asks the Queen for an audience with the Infante to whom the King has been rather cool. Eboli imagines Carlo may be in love with her. Carlo appears and, dismissing her attendants, Elisabeth struggles to remain calm; she agrees to help persuade the King to send his son to Flanders. Carlo, however, is unable to resist and declares his ardent love for her. After Don Carlo departs King Filippo enters. Finding the Queen unattended and alone, something inadmissible for Court etiquette, the furious Filippo orders the guilty lady-in-waiting, the Countess d’Aremberg, back to France; Elisabeth bids her farewell sadly. Di Posa is summoned by the King and seizes the opportunity to protest about the plight of Flanders; he urges him to give the people their freedom. Impressed by di Posa’s integrity and sincerity, Filippo warns him to be wary of the Grand Inquisitor and confides his worries about Carlo and Elisabeth, asking him to keep watch on them.

Scene 1

A sheltered grove in the Queen’s gardens
At midnight Don Carlo, who has received an anonymous message and believes it to be from the Queen, strolls in the garden. Someone dressed as the Queen appears. The young man ardently declares his passion, but falls silent when he realises it is Eboli in disguise. When Eboli realises that his declarations were not intended for her she wrathfully promises to have her revenge on both. She threatens to tell Filippo about the Infante’s criminal love for the Queen. Carlo is assisted by Rodrigo. He threatens to kill Eboli, but the Princess cannot be placated. Rodrigo asks Carlo for all the documents that compromise him.
Scene 2
The piazza in front of the cathedral in Valladolid
Flemish Protestants are being burnt on the square, heretics in the eyes of the Catholic church. A throng of people, gathered to view this cremation, sings the King’s praises. Carlo comes to Filippo with a deputation from Flanders and Brabant: the Flemish beg Filippo to show clemency, a prayer in which the Queen, di Posa and most of the crowd join; but Filippo’s persecuting obduracy is encouraged by the monks. Carlo now demands that his father entrust to him the regency of Flanders; when Filippo dismisses the request, the Infante draws his sword and vows to be the saviour of unhappy Flanders. All are scandalised. Di Posa disarms Carlo and is elevated to the rank of Duke by Filippo in thanks. The auto-da-fE continues; a heavenly voice is heard comforting the dying.

Act IV
Scene 1

The King’s chambers in Valladolid
Filippo muses wretchedly over his failure to win Elisabeth’s love. The Grand Inquisitor is led in; he assures the King that, if it is for the good of the faith, there can be no objection to having Carlo killed. But Rodrigo, he believes, represents a greater danger, and if Filippo persists in protecting a heretic he will have to answer for it to the Holy Church. Elisabeth runs in in confusion; her jewel box has been stolen. Suddenly she sees it on the King’s table. Elisabeth refuses to open it and then Filippo forces it himself to discover a portrait of Carlo among her treasures. He denounces the Queen as an adulteress and she faints. At the King’s summons Eboli and Rodrigo enter; he realises that immediate action must be taken. Left alone with the Queen, Eboli admits her love of Don Carlo and says it was she who stole the jewel casket. She begs forgiveness. The Queen banishes her from the Court: she must choose exile or the cloister. Eboli curses her own beauty; before taking leave of the world she resolves to save Carlo.
Scene 2
Carlo’s prison cell
The Marquis di Posa enters. He says he has accepted Carlo’s guilt as his own and declared the Infante’s secret papers, found on the former, to be his. The Marquis bids his friend farewell and encourages him again in his mission to free Flanders. Two men appear at the cell door and Rodrigo is shot. As he dies, he tells Carlo that Elisabeth will be at Saint-Just the next day. The King enters and states that Carlo has been declared innocent, but his son repels him. The clanging of the tocsin signals a popular uprising: for a moment Filippo seems to be in danger, but the appearance of the Grand Inquisitor reduces the mob to submission. Meanwhile Eboli enables Carlo to make good his escape.

Act V
The monastery of Saint-Just
Elisabeth recognises that her earthly mission will soon be over. Carlo comes to bid farewell to his beloved; Elisabeth blesses his Flanders mission, and they look forward to meeting again in a better world. The King appears, attended by the Grand Inquisitor and his officers; Carlo is anathematised. As he tries to evade the inquisition he retreats towards Charles V’s tomb, which suddenly opens up; a monk appears and is recognised as the late Emperor. He hurries Carlo away into the monastery.

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