Bavarian State Opera tickets 4 May 2025 - Don Carlo |

Don Carlo

Bavarian State Opera, National Theatre, Munich, Germany
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5 PM
US$ 138

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Important Info
Type: Opera
City: Munich, Germany
Starts at: 17:00
Acts: 5
Intervals: 1
Duration: 4h 30min
Sung in: Italian
Titles in: German,English

E-tickets: Print at home or at the box office of the event if so specified. You will find more information in your booking confirmation email.

You can only select the category, and not the exact seats.
If you order 2 or 3 tickets: your seats will be next to each other.
If you order 4 or more tickets: your seats will be next to each other, or, if this is not possible, we will provide a combination of groups of seats (at least in pairs, for example 2+2 or 2+3).

Mezzo-Soprano: Ekaterina Semenchuk (Princess Eboli)
Bass-Baritone: Erwin Schrott (Philippe II)
Conductor: Zubin Mehta
Orchestra: Bavarian State Orchestra
Baritone: George Petean (Rodrigo, Marchese di Posa)
Soprano: Rachel Willis-Sørensen (Elisabetta di Valois)
Tenor: Stephen Costello (Don Carlo)
Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Dramaturge: Friedrich Schiller
Librettist: Joseph Méry
Director: Jürgen Rose

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.

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

Premiere of this production: 11 March 1867, Opéra National de Paris

Don Carlos is a five-act grand opera Giuseppe Verdi to a French-language by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on the dramatic play Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (Don Carlos, Infante of Spain) by Friedrich Schiller. In addition, it has been noted by David Kimball that the Fontainebleau scene and auto da fé "were the most substantial of several incidents borrowed from a contemporary play on Philip II by Eugène Cormon". The opera is most often performed in Italian translation, usually under the title Don Carlo.


Act 1

This act was omitted in the 1883 revision
The Forest of Fontainebleau, France in winter

A prelude and chorus of woodcutters and their wives is heard. They complain of their hard life, made worse by war with Spain. Elisabeth, daughter of the King of France, arrives with her attendants. She reassures the people that her impending marriage to Don Carlos, Infante and son of Philip II, King of Spain, will bring the war to an end, and departs.

This was cut before the Paris première and replaced by a short scene in which Elisabeth crosses the stage and hands out money to the woodcutters; she exits without singing
Carlos, coming out from hiding, has seen Elisabeth and fallen in love with her (Aria: "Je l'ai vue" / "Io la vidi"). When she reappears, he initially pretends to be a member of the Count of Lerma's delegation. She asks him about Don Carlos, whom she has not yet met. Before long, Carlos reveals his true identity and his feelings, which she reciprocates (Duet: "De quels transports poignants et doux" / "Di quale amor, di quanto ardor"). A cannon-shot signifies that peace has been declared between Spain and France. Thibault appears and gives Elisabeth the surprising news that her hand is to be claimed not by Carlos but by his father, Philip. When Lerma and his followers confirm this, Elisabeth is devastated but feels bound to accept, in order to consolidate the peace. She departs for Spain, leaving Carlos equally devastated.

Act 2
This is Act 1 in the 1883 revision
Scene 1: The monastery of Saint-Just (San Jerónimo de Yuste) in Spain

The scene takes place soon after King Philip II and Elisabeth have married. Monks pray before the tomb of the former Emperor Charles V ("Carlo Quinto"). The monks' leader proclaims that the Emperor was proud but has been humbled though error.

Don Carlos enters, anguished that the woman he loves is now his stepmother.

[In the 1883 revision, he sings a revised version of the aria "Je l'ai vue" / "Io la vidi", which was salvaged from the omitted first act but with some different music and different text to reflect his current situation. In the four-act version he already knows that he cannot marry Elisabeth. In the original, when singing the aria, he was still expecting to marry her]
When Carlos pauses in his lament, the leader of the monks proclaims that the turbulence of the world persists even in sacred places; we cannot rest except in Heaven. The sound of his voice frightens Carlos, who thinks it sounds like that of the Emperor Charles V. Carlos further notices that the monk physically resembles the Emperor, and recalls hearing rumors that the Emperor's ghost haunts the monastery.

Carlos' dear friend Rodrigue, Marquis of Posa, who has just arrived from the oppressed land of Flanders, enters. The two greet each other joyfully (Aria: "J'étais en Flandres").

Posa asks for the Infante's aid on behalf of the suffering people there. Carlos reveals that he loves his stepmother. Posa is first shocked, but then sympathetic. He encourages Carlos to leave Spain and go to Flanders, and to forget his pain by focusing on political activity there. The two men swear eternal friendship (Duet: "Dieu, tu semas dans nos âmes" / "Dio, che nell'alma infondere").

King Philip and his new wife, with their attendants, enter also to do homage at Charles V's tomb, while Don Carlos laments his lost love.

Scene 2: A garden near Saint-Just

Princess Eboli sings the Veil Song ("Au palais des fées" / "Nel giardin del bello") about a Moorish King trying to seduce an alluring veiled beauty, who turns out to be his own neglected wife. Elisabeth enters. Posa gives her a letter from France, which covers a secret note from Don Carlos. At his urging (Aria: "L'Infant Carlos, notre espérance" / "Carlo ch'è sol il nostro amore"), Elisabeth agrees to see the Infante alone. Unaware of this relationship, Eboli infers that she, Eboli, is the one Don Carlos loves.

When they are alone, Don Carlos tells Elisabeth that he is miserable, and asks her to request the King to send him to Flanders. She promptly agrees, provoking Carlos to renew his declarations of love, which she piously rejects. Don Carlos exits in a frenzy, shouting that he must be under a curse. The King enters and becomes angry because the Queen is alone and unattended. His suspicions are insulting to her. He orders the lady-in-waiting who was meant to be attending her, the Countess of Aremberg, to return to France, prompting Elizabeth to sing a sorrowful farewell-aria. (Aria: "Oh ma chère compagne" / "Non pianger, mia compagna").

The King now approaches Posa, with whose character and activism he is impressed, and offers to reward him for his loyalty and service. Posa begs the King to stop oppressing the people of Flanders. The King calls Posa's idealism unrealistic and warns that the Grand Inquisitor is watching him. The King confides in Posa, telling him that he fears that Carlos is having an affair with Elisabeth. Posa replies that Carlos is innocent, and offers to watch Elisabeth and to be responsible for her good behavior. The King gratefully accepts this offer, and again warns Posa to beware of the Grand Inquisitor.

This dialogue was revised three times by Verdi.
Act 3
This is Act 2 in the 1883 revision
Scene 1: Evening in the Queen's garden in Madrid

Elisabeth is tired, and wishes to concentrate on the following day's coronation of the King. To avoid the divertissement planned for the evening, she exchanges masks with Eboli, assuming that thereby her absence will not be noticed, and leaves.

This scene was omitted from the 1883 revision

At midnight, Don Carlos enters, clutching a note suggesting a tryst in the gardens. Although he thinks this is from Elisabeth, it is really from Eboli. Eboli, who still thinks Don Carlos loves her, enters. Don Carlos mistakes her for Elisabeth in the dark, and passionately declares his love. When he sees Eboli's face, he realizes his error and recoils from her. Eboli guesses his secret - that he was expecting the Queen, whom he loves. She threatens to tell the King that Elisabeth and Carlos are lovers. Carlos, terrified, begs for mercy. Posa enters, and warns her not to cross him; he is the King's confidant. Eboli replies by hinting darkly that she is a formidable and dangerous foe, with power which Posa does not yet know about. (Her power is that she is having an affair with the King, but she does not reveal this yet.) Posa draws his dagger, intending to stab her to death, but reconsiders, spares her, and declares his trust in the Lord. Eboli exits in a vengeful rage. Posa advises Carlos to entrust to him any sensitive, potentially incriminating political documents that he may have and, when Carlos agrees, they reaffirm their friendship.

Scene 2: In front of the Cathedral of Valladolid

Preparations are being made for an "Auto-da-fé", the public parade and burning of condemned heretics. While the people celebrate, monks drag the condemned to the woodpile. A royal procession follows, and the King addresses the populace, promising to protect them with fire and sword. Don Carlos enters with six Flemish envoys, who plead with the King for their country's freedom. Although the people and the court are sympathetic, the King, supported by the monks, orders his guards to arrest the envoys. Carlos demands that the King grant him authority to govern Flanders; the King scornfully refuses. Enraged, Carlos draws his sword against the King. The King calls for help but the guards will not attack Don Carlos. Posa realizes that actually attacking the King would be disastrous for Carlos. He steps forward and defuses the situation by taking Carlos' sword from him. Carlos, astonished, yields to his friend without resisting. Relieved and grateful, the King raises Posa to the rank of Duke. The guards arrest Carlos, the monks fire the woodpile, and as the flames start to rise, a heavenly voice can be heard promising heavenly peace to the condemned souls.

Act 4
This is Act 3 in the 1883 revision
Scene 1: Dawn in King Philip's study in Madrid

Alone and suffering from insomnia, the King, in a reverie, laments that Elisabeth has never loved him, that his position means that he has to be eternally vigilant and that he will only sleep properly when he is in his tomb in the Escorial (Aria: "Elle ne m'aime pas" / "Ella giammai m'amò"). The blind, ninety-year-old Grand Inquisitor is announced and shuffles into the King's apartment. When the King asks if the Church will object to him putting his own son to death, the Inquisitor replies that the King will be in good company: God sacrificed His own son. In return for his support, the Inquisitor demands that the King have Posa killed. The King refuses at first to kill his friend, whom he admires and likes. However, the Grand Inquisitor reminds the King that the Inquisition can take down any king; he has created and destroyed other rulers before. Frightened and overwhelmed, the King begs the Grand Inquisitor to forget about the past discussion. The latter replies "Peut-être" / "Forse!" – perhaps! – and leaves. The King bitterly muses on his helplessness to oppose the Church.

Elisabeth enters, alarmed at the apparent theft of her jewel casket. However, the King produces it and points to the portrait of Don Carlos which it contains, accusing her of adultery. She protests her innocence but, when the King threatens her, she faints. In response to his calls for help, into the chamber come Eboli and Posa. Their laments of suspicion cause the King to realize that he has been wrong to suspect his wife ("Maudit soit le soupçon infâme" / "Ah, sii maledetto, sospetto fatale"). Aside, Posa resolves to save Carlos, though it may mean his own death. Eboli feels remorse for betraying Elisabeth; the latter, recovering, expresses her despair.

This quartet was revised by Verdi in 1883
Elisabeth and Eboli are left together.

Duet: "J'ai tout compris", was cut before the première
Eboli confesses that it was she who told the King that Elisabeth and Carlos were having an affair, for revenge against Carlos for having rejected her. She also confesses that she herself has had an affair with the King. Elisabeth orders her to go into exile, or enter a convent. After Elisabeth exits, Eboli, left alone, curses her own beauty and pride, and resolves to make amends by trying to save Carlos from the Inquisition (Aria: "O don fatal" / "O don fatale").

Scene 2: A prison

Baril Gédéon, "Il Maestro Verdi", cartoon by Le Hanneron, 14 March 1867. (Museum of the Paris Opera)
Don Carlos has been imprisoned. Posa arrives and tells Carlos that he (Posa) has saved Carlos from being executed, by allowing himself (Posa) to be incriminated by the politically sensitive documents which he had obtained from Carlos earlier (Aria, part 1: "C'est mon jour suprême" / "Per me giunto è il dì supremo"). A shadowy figure appears--one of the Grand Inquisitor's assassins--and shoots Posa in the chest. As he dies, Posa tells Carlos that Elisabeth will meet him at Saint-Just the following day. He adds that he is content to die if his friend can save Flanders and rule over a happier Spain (Aria, part 2: "Ah, je meurs, l'âme joyeuse" / "Io morrò, ma lieto in core"). At that moment, the King enters, offering his son freedom, as Posa had arranged. Carlos repulses him for having murdered Posa. The King sees that Posa is dead and cries out in sorrow.

Duet: Carlos and the King- "Qui me rendra ce mort ?" /"Chi rende a me quest'uom" It was cut before the première and, following it, Verdi authorized its optional removal. The music was later re-used by Verdi for the Lacrimosa of his Messa da Requiem of 1874
Bells ring as Elisabeth and Eboli enter. The crowd pushes its way into the prison and threatens the King, demanding the release of Carlos. In the confusion, Eboli escapes with Carlos. The people are brave enough at first in the presence of the King, but they are terrified by the arrival of the Grand Inquisitor, and instantly obey his angry command to quiet down and pay homage to the King.

After the première, some productions ended this act with the death of Posa. However, in 1883 Verdi provided a much shortened version of the insurrection, as he felt that otherwise it would not be clear how Eboli had fulfilled her promise to rescue Carlos

Act 5
This is Act 4 in the 1883 revision
The moonlit monastery of Yuste

Elisabeth kneels before the tomb of Charles V. She is committed to help Don Carlos on his way to fulfill his destiny in Flanders, but she herself longs only for death (Aria: "Toi qui sus le néant" / "Tu che le vanità"). Carlos appears and tells her that he has overcome his desire for her; he now loves her honorably, as a son loves his mother. They say a final farewell, promising to meet again in Heaven (Duet: "Au revoir dans un monde où la vie est meilleure" / "Ma lassù ci vedremo in un mondo migliore").

This duet was twice revised by Verdi
The King and the Grand Inquisitor enter, with several armed guards. The King infers that Carlos and Elisabeth have been lovers and demands that they both be immediately killed in a double sacrifice. The Inquisitor confirms that the Inquisition will do its duty. A short summary trial follows, confirming Carlos's putative culpability.

The trial was omitted in 1883 and does not occur on any recording
Carlos, calling on God for protection, draws his sword to defend himself against the guards. He is fighting well in spite of being outnumbered, when a mysterious figure (the leader of the monks from the earlier scene at the tomb, which is listed here as Act 2 Scene 1 but is usually the opening scene of the opera, since the first act is usually omitted--so the Monk appears only at the very beginning and the very end of most performances and recordings) suddenly emerges from the tomb of Charles V. He grabs Carlos by the shoulder, and loudly proclaims that the turbulence of the world persists even in the Church; we cannot rest except in Heaven. The King and the Inquisitor recognize the Monk's voice: he is the King's father, Charles V, who was believed dead. Everyone screams in shock and astonishment, while the Monk drags Carlos into the tomb and closes the entrance.

Venue Info

Bavarian State Opera - Munich
Location   Max-Joseph-Platz 2

The Bavarian State Opera or the National Theatre (Nationaltheater) on Max-Joseph-Platz in Munich, Germany, is a historic opera house and the main theatre of Munich, home of the Bavarian State Opera, Bavarian State Orchestra, and the Bavarian State Ballet.

During its early years, the National Theatre saw the premières of a significant number of operas, including many by German composers. These included Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1865), Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868), Das Rheingold (1869) and Die Walküre (1870), after which Wagner chose to build the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth and held further premières of his works there.

During the latter part of the 19th century, it was Richard Strauss who would make his mark on the theatre in the city in which he was born in 1864. After accepting the position of conductor for a short time, Strauss returned to the theatre to become principal conductor from 1894 to 1898. In the pre-War period, his Friedenstag (1938) and Capriccio were premièred in Munich. In the post-War period, the house has seen significant productions and many world premieres.

First theatre – 1818 to 1823
The first theatre was commissioned in 1810 by King Maximilian I of Bavaria because the nearby Cuvilliés Theatre had too little space. It was designed by Karl von Fischer, with the 1782 Odéon in Paris as architectural precedent. Construction began on 26 October 1811 but was interrupted in 1813 by financing problems. In 1817 a fire occurred in the unfinished building.

The new theatre finally opened on 12 October 1818 with a performance of Die Weihe by Ferdinand Fränzl, but was soon destroyed by another fire on 14 January 1823; the stage décor caught fire during a performance of Die beyden Füchse by Étienne Méhul and the fire could not be put out because the water supply was frozen. Coincidentally the Paris Odéon itself burnt down in 1818.

Second theatre – 1825 to 1943
Designed by Leo von Klenze, the second theatre incorporated Neo-Grec features in its portico and triangular pediment and an entrance supported by Corinthian columns. In 1925 it was modified to create an enlarged stage area with updated equipment. The building was gutted in an air raid on the night of 3 October 1943.

Third theatre – 1963 to present
The third and present theatre (1963) recreates Karl von Fischer's original neo-classical design, though on a slightly larger, 2,100-seat scale. The magnificent royal box is the center of the interior rondel, decorated with two large caryatids. The new stage covers 2,500 square meters (3,000 sq yd), and is thus the world's third largest, after the Opéra Bastille in Paris and the Grand Theatre, Warsaw.

Through the consistent use of wood as a building material, the auditorium has excellent acoustics. Architect Gerhard Moritz Graubner closely preserved the original look of the foyer and main staircase. It opened on 21 November 1963 with an invitation-only performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten under the baton of Joseph Keilberth. Two nights later came the first public performance, of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, again under Keilberth.

Important Info
Type: Opera
City: Munich, Germany
Starts at: 17:00
Acts: 5
Intervals: 1
Duration: 4h 30min
Sung in: Italian
Titles in: German,English
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