Opera in four acts
Music Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto Joseph Mery and Camille du Locle based on the dramatic poem by
Conductor Gianandrea Noseda
Stage director Yury Alexandrov
Set designer Teimuraz Murvanidze
Costume designer Tatyana Noginova
Premiere 3 April 1999
Like the works that it preceded – Aida and the Shakespearean masterpieces Otello
and Falstaff – Don Carlos ranks among Verdi’s greatest creations. In
1865, the management of the Paris Opera approached Verdi with the offer to write a new
opera. The composer’s choice eventually fell on Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien a
poem written by Joseph M[e]ry and Camille du Locle following the traditional canons of
French grand opera, i.e. a five-act structure, mass crowd scenes and obligatory ballet.
The “living, mighty work created by the composer from gold, dirt, bile and blood”
(Georges Bizet’s reaction to the premiere) broke, however, with tradition, offending
thetastes of the Parisian public.
Don Carlos was premiered at the Paris Opera on 11 March 1867. The premiere was held
in the presence of the composer and was timed to coincide with the opening of the
WorldExhibition. Three months later, Don Carlos was successfully staged at Covent Garden
and then in Bologna (in Italian). A year later it was performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in
St. Petersburg by an Italian opera company.
Verdi was, however, unsatisfied with his creation. No longer feeling himself bound by
thecanons of the Parisian stage, he reduced the unweildy five-art opera to four, making
anumber of other changes and additions at the same time. The Italian text was rewritten
byAntonio Ghislanzoni, who had been the librettist of Aida. The premiere of the
newfour-act version of Don Carlos took place at La Scala in Milan on 10 January 1884.
Don Carlos was banned for several decades in Russia, on account of its
anti-despotic and anti-clerical themes. The first performance of the opera in Moscow on
10February 1917 was largely the service of Feodor Chaliapin, one of the greatest
everperformers of the part of King Philip II. Don Carlos was first staged at
theMariinsky Theatre in 1976, in one of its ‘mixed” versions. Desiring authenticity,
theMariinsky in 1992 turned to the Milan version, which it performed in Italian
(conductorValery Gergiev, stage director Temur Chkheidze, set designer Teimuraz Murvanidze).
The current version was premiered on 3 April 1999 (conductor Gianandrea Noseda,
stagedirector Yury Alexandrov, set designer Teimuraz Murvanidze, chorus director
ValeryBorisov). The new production follows the 1992 edition in its search for an
expressivestage version of Verdi’s original masterpiece.