Metropolitan Opera presents original French version of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’

Matthew Polenzani in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ © Zenith Richards / Met Opera

For the first time ever, the Metropolitan Opera presents the original French-language version of Guiseppe Verdi’s Don Carlos. Set in the time of the Spanish Inquisition, this story of passion and betrayal, of conflict between father and son, of political intrigue, heartbreak and devotion, stars tenor Matthew Polenzani in the title role and soprano Sonya Yoncheva as Élisabeth de Valois.

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is Eboli, bass-baritone Eric Owens takes the role of Philippe II, bass-baritone John Relyea is the Grand Inquisitor and baritone Etienne Dupuis is Rodrigue. Staging is by Sir David McVicar, and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Verdi started writing his five-act opera in 1867, with a French-language libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle, based on Friedrich Schiller’s 1787 play Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien. The opera was commissioned and produced by the Théâtre Impérial de l’Opéra in Paris, and premiered at Salle Le Peletier on March 11th, 1867. Don Carlos – as it is known in the French version – was then translated into Italian as Don Carlo, in the first of a number of revisions set to both French and Italian librettos.

Sonya Yoncheva as Élisabeth de Valois in the Met Opera production of ‘Don Carlos’
© Ken Howard/Met Opera

Although the work – set in France and Spain between 1567 to 1568 – features actual historical figures, the plot is largely fictional. Don Carlos is the son of King Philip II of Spain, and is therefore heir to the Spanish throne. Carlos is in love with Élisabeth de Valois , but his hopes of marrying her are thwarted by his father, who – as part of a peace treaty signed with France – takes Élisabeth as his own wife. Undaunted, Carlos comes up against the conspiracies and intrigues of the royal court, and even falls foul of the Spanish Inquisition, but ultimately he has to make a choice between loyalty and love.

Sonya Yoncheva & Matthew Polenzani in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ © Ken Howard / Met Opera

Making his Met role debut in this production of Don Carlos is American tenor Matthew Polenzani, of whom Opera News writes: “Few singers today command the sheer beauty of timbre and dynamic control of Matthew Polenzani …. ”. This season Mr Polenzani appeared at the Met in the September 11 Memorial concert of the Verdi Requiem, returning to Opera National de Paris as Nemorino in L’Elisir d’amore, and back to the Met to reprise the role of Tamino in The Magic Flute. Following this appearance as Don Carlos, Mr Polenzani makes his Canadian Opera Company debut as Alfredo in La Traviata, before heading to Budapest for Don Carlo, and finishing the season with a role debut as Cavaradossi in Tosca, at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland.

Sonya Yoncheva as Élisabeth & Matthew Polenzani in the title role of ‘Don Carlos’
© Ken Howard/Met Opera

Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva – whom the New York Times describes as “a dream of a diva” – makes her Met role debut as Élisabeth de Valois. She has devoted many of her performances this season to a series of concerts and recitals, including appearances at the Met, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, Teatro alla Scala in Milan and Palau de la Música in Barcelona. She has also appeared as Mimì in La bohème at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin and in the title role of Tosca at Opernhaus Zürich. Forthcoming appearances include her debut in the title role of Anna Bolena at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and the title role in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta at the Easter Festival in Baden-Baden.

Jamie Barton & Etienne Dupuis in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ © Ken Howard/Met Opera

Jamie Barton – a 2022 GRAMMY® nominee for her album Unexpected Shadows – is described by Opera Magazine as having “A once-in-a-generation voice …”. Already this season she has appeared with the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera, in the title role in Carmen for Chicago Opera Theatre and a series of recitals with pianist Jake Heggie. Following her appearance in Don Carlos, Ms Barton undertakes a further series of recitals with Mr Heggie, before her portrayal of Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde for Santa Fe Opera.

Highlights of Eric Owens’ career at the Met include the roles of Alberich in the Ring cycle, Orest in Elektra, Vodnik in Rusalka and the Voice of Neptune in Idomeneo. Following a performance as Stephen Kumalo in Weill’s Lost in the Stars, the New York Times wrote that “The towering bass-baritone Eric Owens … was magnificent in Lost in the Stars”, and that he “… triumphed in the lead role of Stephen Kumalo”.

Eric Owens & Etienne Dupuis in the Met Opera production of ‘Don Carlos’
© Ken Howard/Met Opera

This new staging of Don Carlos marks the 11th Met production by David McVicar, one of the most prolific and popular directors in recent Met history. Apart from his successes at the Met, he has also staged performances for opera companies such as La Scala Milan, Teatro Real Madrid, Opera Australia, Aix-en-Provence Festival, Vienna State Opera, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Mariinsky Theatre, Liceu in Barcelona, La Monnaie in Brussels, Oper Frankfurt, Grand Théâtre de Genève and the Salzburg Festival.

Set design is by Charles Edwards, costume design by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, lighting by Adam Silverman, and Leah Hausman is the movement director.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin – said by the Montreal Gazette to have “The world at his fingertips” – is now into his third season as Music Director of the Met, where he he has led more than 100 performances of 13 operas. Forthcoming engagements in the current season include appearances with the Met in performances of Tosca, with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, a tour with the Rotterdam Philharmonic (of which he is honorary conductor) leading performances of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, a tour with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and also with Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain (of which he is principal conductor).

Sonya Yoncheva & Etienne Dupuis in Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ © Ken Howard/Met Opera

The March 18th performance will be led by Swedish conductor Patrick Furrer on a return to the Met following his conducting debut with The Magic Flute in December 2021.

The Metropolitan Opera presents the original five-act French version of Verdi’s Don Carlos for eight performances between February 28th and March 26th.

The February 28th and March 18th performances will be broadcast live on Met Opera Radio on Sirius XM Channel 355 and streamed live on the Met’s website.

On Saturday, March 26th, live transmissions of Don Carlos will be presented in cinemas as part of The Met: Live in HD series, and over the Toll Brothers–Metropolitan Opera International Radio Network. To find your local cinema, visit this link.

For further information, and to reserve seats, visit the Metropolitan Opera website.

 Information sourced from:

Metropolitan Opera program notes
San Francisco Opera program notes

ArtsPreview home page

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