Don Carlos at Gothenburg Opera – synopsis

Don Carlos at Gothenburg Opera - synopsis

Don Carlos at Gothenburg Opera – synopsis

Composer and librettist

Music: Giuseppe Verdi |Lyrics:Joseph Méry och Camille di Locle after Friedrich von Schillers play (1787) and Eugene Cormons play Philippe II, roi d´Espagne (1846)


Libretto In French


Première at Grand Opéra in Paris den 11 mars 1867 or 10 januari 1884 på Teatro alla Scala i Milano.

The events take place in Spain around the year 1560


Scene 1 In the monastery of San Justo.

The choir sings by the recently deceased Charles V, Philip II´s father: “Father have pity on a man who lived in a sinful time!” Don Carlos runs into the monastery and hears a ghostly voice, similar to that of his grandfather. The Prince has come to be alone with his despair. He was once betrothed to Elizabeth of Valois, a French princess, and they were in love. For the sake of the peace, she was insread married to Don Carlos´father. he thereby became booth the Queen of Spain and Don Carlos´stepmother. Rodrigo, Don Carlos ´childhood friend arrives. The two have not seen each other for a long time and Carlos confides in his friend that he is still in love with Elisabeth. Rodrigo encourages Carlos to ask to go to Flanders in order to fight for their freedom from the Spanish. They swear eternal friendship.

Scene 2, In the convent garden

The ladies of the court are enjoying themselves with Eboli who sings “The song of the veil” for them together with the page Tebaldo. The Queen arrives,saddened as usual, and Eboli wants to find out why.Eboli is herself in love with Don Carlos and hopes that her feelings are reciprocated. Rodrigo arrives with a letter for Elisabeth from her mother in France. Inside the letter is a message from Don Carlos requesting a meeting. Rodrigo pleads for his friend and everyone leaves Elisabeth alone. The prince arrives, and they have a difficult meeting, both trying to hold back their true feelings. Elisabeth, however, stands by her role as queen and Carlos leaves in despair. The King arrives with his entire court and sees his wife unattended. Philip immediately sends the countess of Aremberg, lady in waiting to Elisabeth, back to France.

The upset queen bids a tender farewell to her friend. When everyone has left, the King asks Rodrigo to remain. He has long been curious about this fortright man, the only one who ha not flattered him but instead dares to speak his mind. Rodrigo pleads for Flanders´fredoom and accuses Philip of conducting a reign of terror. Philip defends himself by stating that violence must be used initially to ensure a safe state. He then opens up to Rodrigo and tells him of his worries: he suspects that the queen does not love him and is secretely meeting Don Carlos. He asks Rodrigo to keep an eye on them and chooses him as his confidant, something that pleases Rodrigo enormously. Rodrigo believes that he has thus gained control over the situation.

ACT 11

Scene 1. The Queen´s garden.

Don Carlos has received an anomymous note from a lady requesting a meeting. Convinced that it is Elisabeth, Carlos passionately rushes towards a veiled lady. The woman turns out to be Eboli. She believes she has now revealed the queen´s secret and, filled with jealousy, warns Carlos of her power. Rodrigo rushes in and tries to kill Eboli, but is stopped bu Carlos. When the two friends are alone, Carlos has doubts about his friend and his close friendship with the King – can he trust him? Rodrigo convinces him that their friendship is the greatest and Rodrigo takes care of some secret documents in the prince´s possession.

Scene 2 The great square in front of the cathedral.

Preparations for an autodafé are underway, where a number of heretics are to be burned att the stake, and everyone salutes the King. Don Carlos rushes in together with envoys from Flanders who are pleading for their country´s freedom. Philip is very upset when his son tells him of his unhappiness at court and asks to be made governor of Flanders. When Philip refuses his request, Carlos raises his sword against him. No one dares to disarm the furious Carlos, until Rodrigo steps in. Carlos feels betrayed by his friend and is imprisoned whilst Rodrigo is promoted to a duke. The celebration can begin and the fire is lit.


Scene 1. The Kings room at the palace.

Philip has spent all night deep in thought. He realises that he is indescribably lonely and wishes that that he could look into people´s souls. The suspicion that his own son is having an affair with his wife is tormenting him. The Grand Inquisitor, a blind 90-year old and the church´s ultimate representative, enters. Philip asks for absolution for sacrifing his own son. The Grand Inquisitor gives this willingly, but also requires that he must execute Rodrigo, a dangerous rebel. Philip refuses to sacrifice his only confidant and a power struggle ensues that the King ultimately loses. When the Grand Inquisitor has left the Queen arrives. She is upset to find her stolen jewellery box standing on her husband´s desk.When she refuses to open it he break the lock and finds a portrait of Don Carlos. When he takes this as proof of her infidelity she points out that the two of then were once betrothed.

The King responds by calling her a whore and she collapses.Philip calls for help; Rodrigo and Eboli arrives. Rodrigo accuses the King of not being able to control his emotions, and the King is filled with regret. When the two men leave Eboli admits to her queen that it was she who took the jewelly box- out of jealousy as she too is in love with Carlos. Elisabeth wishes to forgive her, but Eboli has more to confess; sha has also been the King´s mistress. Elisabeth gives her the choice between a convent or exile, upon which she leaves the room. Eboli breaks down from remorse and despair, but relises that she has only a day to rescue Don Carlos from prison.

Scene 2.

In prison Carlos receives a vist from his friend Rodrigo. Time is short and Rodrigo has come to bid farewell. He has turned all rebel evidence against himself in order for Carlos to survive. A shot goes off and Rodrigo is hit. He encourages his friend to fight on for Flanders and to meet Elisabeth in the monastery the following day for a farewell. Rosrigo dies in his friend´s arms, and whwn Philip arrives the Prince accuses his father of murder. A rebellious crowd is heard outside while a broken Philip swlumps by Rodrigo´s body. Eboli hurries in and rescue Carlos from prison. The Grand Inquisitor arrives and all bow before him. The rebellion is quashed.


In the monastery San Justo.

Elisabeth has gone to Charles V´s tomb and expresses her despair. She longs back to her happy time in France with Carlos, and realises that only death can release her. Carlo arrives. He is travelling to Flanders and they bid each other farewell. They console each other with the idea of meeting each other in heaven, in a better world. Philip and the Grand Inquisitor arrive to take Carlos to his execution, but are prevented by the ghostly monk seen at the opening of the opera: “you who are suffering, the monastery can not still your heart´s heavy fighting. Peace is found only with God!” Terrified they believe they recgnize the monk to be Charles V. Don Carlos is led away to prison.

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