Wow! What a story, what music, what exquisite singers. A true story out of 16th century Spain, which ends badly for all concerned, with the exception of the Grand Inquisitor. Eight principle roles, any one of which would have been enough in most operas.
The opera was nearly 5 hours long when written, and has been reduced to just bit over three – so we don’t see Don Carlo, son of King Phillip II of Spain, actually fall in love with Elisabeth of France, his betrothed from childhood. We read it in the surcaps. Then the King blithely wants Elisabeth for himself – and she consents for the sake of peace between the two countries. Let that be a lesson to you – always do what you want to do. Trust your own heart, not the words of another. Even if that other is your father and the king of France.
Then comes craziness for Carlo, who tries to find an honorable way out, by asking his father to send him to Flanders to remedy the dire straits of that country – probably caused by his father. The father, resisting the pull of history and common sense, says no – thus keeping Carlo around, adding to his pain, finally resulting in several disasters.
The casting is wonderful, including three principal roles with African American singers. Queen Elisabeth, the Grand Inquisitor – and the ghost or monk who is the dead Emperor, Charles V, grandfather of Carlo.
Over the top, as all opera is. And that story line caused me to think most furiously, as Monsieur Poirot would say. About that thinking – more in the next blog.