Don Carlos


Don Carlos

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Elijah Moshinsky returns to Australia with his lavish production of Don Carlos, a sumptuous affair, rich in detail like a Velázquez painting.

Light gleams off dark marble monuments and the terror of the Spanish inquisition is captured in a stage beset with shadows.

Verdi's music masterfully controls the twisting and turning story. Vivid orchestral colours and affecting melodies manipulate his audience to devastating effect: we love, we hate, we turn and sympathise as each note reveals a little more of these complex, charismatic characters.

The opera is testament to Verdi's ability to create light and dark in a single moment, and to sing it, you need a huge cast of extraordinary performers. Leading the cast of seventeen principal singers is Ferruccio Furlanetto, the most famous Philip II of our time, who recently sang the role in New York, London, and Vienna.

With nearly 200 performers, this will be our biggest production since The Ring Cycle.


While marriage brings peace between France and Spain, it sparks war between father and son. And as secrets are revealed, passion and politics run riot on a grand scale in the 16th-century royal court of Spain.


Conductor Andrea Licata
Director Elijah Moshinsky
Revival Director Roger Press
Set & Costume Designer Paul Brown
Lighting Designer Nigel Levings
Movement Johanna Puglisi
Elisabeth de Valois Latonia Moore
Princess Eboli Milijana Nikolic
Don Carlos Diego Torre
Rodrigo, Count of Posa José Carbó
Philip II Ferruccio Furlanetto
Grand Inquisitor Daniel Sumegi
Frate David Parkin
Tebaldo Anna Dowsley
Voice from Heaven Julie Lea Goodwin
Lerma John Longmuir
Herald Simon Kim
Deputy 1 Pelham Andrews
Deputy 2 Luke Gabbedy
Deputy 3 Richard Anderson
Deputy 4 Adrian Tamburini
Deputy 5 Andrew Moran
Deputy 6 Shane Lowrencev

Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra

Opera Australia Chorus

This production is the 1884 four-act version of Don Carlos.

Running time: approximately 3 hours & 40 minutes, with one 30 minute interval.

The StoryHide

In the Royal court of Spain, duty to King and country comes before personal happiness. Elisabetta is betrothed and in love with the prince Don Carlos, but when it is decided she should marry his father instead, she accepts her duty and marries the King. Devastated, Don Carlos throws himself into a cause at the behest of his friend Rodrigo — the liberty of the oppressed Flemish people.

The Spanish inquisition is raging, and suspicion is everywhere. The people suspect their neighbours of heresy. Princess Eboli suspects that Elisabetta loves Don Carlos. King Phillip suspects his wife does not love him at all. The Grand Inquisitor suspects Don Carlos and Rodrigo of heresy. No one suspects that Eboli loves Don Carlos too, a jealous love that will lead her to betrayal.

And when the inquisition comes for Don Carlos’ blood, no one suspects how it will end.

Not afraid of spoilers? Read the full synopsis.

Don Carlos, Crown Prince of Spain, has been betrothed to Elisabeth de Valois, daughter of Henry 11 of France, but learns that his own father, Philip II claims her for his bride.

The Tomb of Charles V

Carlos seeks consolation at the cloister of the Monastery of St Just, where the monks chant their prayers at the tomb Charles V, Carlos’ grandfather. His friend, Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa suggests that Carlos leave for the Netherlands, to cure Carlos of his infatuation for Elisabeth and to protect the Flemish against the tyranny of Spain. The two men pledge an oath to Liberty as Queen Elisabeth and King Philip approach the tomb and kneel briefly on their way to Mass.

The Garden of the Monastery

In the cloister garden the ladies of the court listen to the Princess Eboli sing a Moorish song accompanied by the page Tebaldo. As the Queen enters from the monastery, Rodrigo appears and hands her a secret letter from Carlos and pleads with her to give Carlos an audience. The ladies are dismissed and Carlos begs the Queen to obtain Philip’s leave to go to Flanders. He passionately expresses his overwhelming love to her and faints at her feet. The conflicted lovers are caught in an embrace and Carlos flees the scene.

Philip enters with his entourage of courtiers and finding his wife unattended banishes her closest friend, the Countess of Aremberg, who should have been at the Queen’s side. This is an insult to the Queen who defies the King in her consolation of the Countess. As the court departs the King stops Rodrigo and in an extended power game between the men, the King manipulates Rodrigo to be his informer to watch the lovers.

The Garden later that evening

At midnight, after a masked ball, Carlos awaits the Queen, following the instructions in a letter written, he believes by Elisabeth but in reality penned by Eboli who mistakenly thinks Carlos is in love with her. When the veiled Eboli enters, Carlos passionately declares his love. When she unveils they both realise their error. She suddenly understands that Carlos loves the Queen, and immediately desires vengeance. Eboli is also the mistress of the King and threatens to destroy Carlos by exposing his secret love. Rodrigo intrudes and tries to stop her but she escapes.

Outside the Cathedral of our Lady of Atocha, Madrid

An auto-da-fé is in progress to celebrate the Coronation of Philip as Emperor. The monarch emerges from the cathedral but his procession is interrupted by Carlos leading in a group of Flemish deputies who petition the King to be humane in his treatment of the Netherlands. Populace and court plead for the King’s mercy but the Friars of the Inquisition insist on punishment for the rebellious Protestants. In desperation, Carlos draws his sword on the King. The King orders him disarmed. No one dares except Rodrigo who disarms his friend. After his astonishing betrayal, the auto-da-fé proceeds.

A voice from heaven is heard blessing the condemned.


The King's apartments in the Escorial Palace

Philip laments his wife’s lack of love for him. He is in torment and seeks consolation from his confessor, the Grand Inquisitor. The Inquisitor urges the death of not only Carlos but the more politically dangerous Rodrigo.

The Queen bursts in crying that her jewel casket has been stolen. She suspects an intrigue against her. The King has the jewel box and opening it reveals her secret portrait of Carlos. He accuses her of adultery with such violence that she collapses. Eboli and Rodrigo rush in responding to the King’s cry for help.

As the men leave the scene, Eboli, overcome by guilt confesses that she stole the casket and gave it to Philip because of her jealousy over Carlos and then confesses to being the King’s mistress. The distraught queen dismisses Eboli from the court and dooms her to a life in a convent. Elisabeth leaves. Eboli curses the cruelty of her destiny but as a final act she swears to save Carlos’ life.

A Prison in the ruins of the Palace

Rodrigo comes to Carlos to explain that he has come to free him and that he has incriminated himself and will sacrifice his own life so that Carlos can carry the ideals of liberty to Flanders. A shot is fired. Rodrigo is fatally wounded.

The King bursts in to free Carlos just as a popular uprising reaches the Palace and a revolution seems inevitable. Carlos escapes with Eboli while peace is restored only by the authority of the Grand Inquisitor.

The Tomb of Charles V

Elisabeth waits for Carlos, and contemplating the tomb of the dead Emperor, she understands the tragedy of her life. Carlos bids farewell to his mother but the pair are interrupted by Philip who separates his wife and son as the Inquisitor orders the arrest of Carlos.

At this moment the ghostly Charles V emerges and allows Carlos to escape telling us that finally earthly suffering has no solution in this world.

© Elijah Moshinsky 2015


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