Don Carlo at the San Francisco Opera



Don Carlo

At the time of Spain’s brutal Inquisition, the king of Spain marries the woman his son loves and sets into motion a tension-filled chain of events. Don’t miss this magnificent tale of romantic triangles, political idealism and life-and-death devotion.

Music by Giuseppe Verdi | Libretto by Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle

Sung in Italian with English supertitles

Running Time

4 hours, 27 minutes including two intermissions

Pre-Opera Talks

Pre-Opera Talks are free to ticketholders and take place in the Orchestra section, 55 minutes prior to curtain.

See the performance, invite a Friend…

Friday 06/24/16 7:00PM *
Wednesday 06/29/16 7:00PM
*OperaVision, HD video projection screens featured in the Balcony level for this performance, is made possible by the Koret/Taube Media Suite.

Cast & Creative

Don Carlo Michael Fabiano
Elisabetta Ana María Martínez
Princess Eboli Nadia Krasteva *
Rodrigo Mariusz Kwiecien
Philip II René Pape
Philip II Ferruccio Furlanetto 1
The Grand Inquisitor Andrea Silvestrelli
A Monk Matthew Stump
Tebaldo Nian Wang
A Heavenly Voice Toni Marie Palmertree*
Count Lerma Pene Pati*

Conductor Nicola Luisotti

Director Emilio Sagi

Designer Zack Brown

Lighting Designer Gary Marder

Chorus Director Ian Robertson

Fight Director Dave Maier


ACT I 1559-1568; France and Spain.

Against the wishes of the Spanish King Philip II, his son and heir, Don Carlo, has traveled incognito to Fontainebleau, where negotiations are under way for a peace treaty between Spain and France. He has seen his intended bride Elisabetta, daughter of the French king, and fallen in love with her on sight. When he meets Elisabetta and her page, who have been hunting and become lost in the forest, Carlo offers his protection without revealing his identity. Elisabetta questions him about her future husband, apprehensive over her marriage to a stranger. Carlo gives her a miniature portrait of himself, and she realizes that he is the prince. It is clear to them both that their feelings of love are mutual. Their happiness ends with news that the treaty arrangements have been altered and Elisabetta is to marry King Philip, Carlo’s father. Elisabetta reluctantly accepts. While all around them celebrate the end of the war, Elisabetta and Carlo are devastated.


Carlo seeks peace at the monastery of St.-Just in Spain, where he prays at the tomb of his grandfather, Emperor Charles V. He is confronted by a monk who seems to be the emperor’s ghost. His friend Rodrigo, the Marquis of Posa, arrives to remind Carlo of his commitment to the cause of the Flemish people who are oppressed by Spanish rule. Both pledge themselves to the cause of liberty and swear eternal friendship. In a garden outside the monastery, Princess Eboli entertains the other ladies of the court with a song. Elisabetta—now queen—enters, followed by Posa, who hands her a secret letter from Carlo asking for a meeting. When he is admitted, Carlo asks the queen to obtain Philip’s permission for him to go to Flanders, then suddenly declares his continuing love. Elisabetta rejects him and Carlo rushes off. The king enters and, finding the queen unattended, banishes the Countess of Aremberg, who should have been present. Left alone with the king, Posa challenges Philip to end his oppression of the Flemish people. Philip refuses but is impressed by Posa’s courage. He warns him to beware of the Inquisition and tells Posa about his suspicions of his wife and Carlo, asking Posa to watch them. Posa accepts the assignment, knowing that being in the king’s confidence will help him in the future. 1


Carlo has received a letter asking him to a secret meeting at midnight in the queen’s gardens in Madrid. He thinks the meeting is with Elisabetta, but it is Princess Eboli who appears. She is in love with him. When Carlo discovers her identity and rejects her advances, Eboli realizes where the prince’s true feelings lie and swears to expose him. Posa arrives in time to overhear Eboli and threatens to kill her but is stopped by Carlo. Eboli leaves. Posa persuades Carlo he is now in danger and Carlo hands over some secret papers to him for safekeeping. At a public burning of heretics in front of Madrid’s Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha, Carlo leads a group of Flemish deputies to Philip. The king rejects their pleas for freedom. When he also dismisses Carlo’s own request to rule Flanders, the prince draws his sword on his father. He is disarmed by Posa and arrested. In thanks, Philip makes Posa a duke. As a group of heretics is led to the stake, a celestial voice welcomes their souls into heaven.


In his study at night, the king reflects on his life with a wife who doesn’t love him. He consults with the old and blind Grand Inquisitor, who consents to the death sentence for Carlo: as God sacrificed his son to save mankind so Philip must stifle his love for his son for the sake of the faith. The Inquisitor also demands that Posa be handed over to him. As he leaves, Philip wonders if the throne must always yield to the altar. Elisabetta enters, having discovered that her jewel case has been stolen. Eboli, who knows that Elisabetta keeps a portrait of Carlo in it, had taken the box and given it to the king. Philip now shows the box to Elisabetta, takes out the portrait, and accuses her of adultery. Elisabetta collapses and the king calls for help. Eboli and Posa rush in, he to express amazement that a king who rules half the world cannot govern his own emotions, she to feel remorse at what her jealousy has brought about. Alone with Elisabetta, Eboli confesses that she not only falsely accused her but that she has been the king’s mistress. Elisabetta orders her from the court. Eboli laments her fatal beauty and swears to spend her final day in Spain trying to save Carlo. Posa visits Carlo in prison to tell him that he has used the secret papers to take upon himself the blame for the Flemish rebellion. He is now a marked man, so Carlo must take up the cause of liberty for Flanders. Posa is shot by agents of the Inquisition. As he dies, he tells Carlo that Elisabetta will meet him at the monastery of St.-Just and declares he is happy to have sacrificed his life for a man who will become Spain’s savior.


Elisabetta has come to the monastery, wanting only her own death. When Carlo appears, she encourages him to continue Posa’s quest for freedom in Flanders and they hope for happiness in the next world. As they say goodbye, Philip and the Grand Inquisitor arrive. As the agents of the Inquisition move in on Carlo, the Emperor Charles V materializes out of the darkness to insist that suffering is unavoidable and ceases only in heaven.

Video of the Highlights




Of Michael Fabiano’s debut as Lensky in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at the Royal Opera, The Sunday Times in London wrote: “I can’t think of a Lensky at Covent Garden who has held the audience so spellbound in 40 years of Onegin-going… a glorious debut.” The recipient of the 2014 Beverly Sills Artist Award and the 2014 Richard Tucker Award, Mr. Fabiano is the first singer to win both awards in the same year, and is considered one of the greatest tenors in the world today.

In the 2016/17 season, Mr. Fabiano will make his debuts at the Proms Concerts and with the Royal Danish Opera in the Verdi Requiem, will return to the San Francisco Symphony for a program of Italian masterworks, and will debut at Houston Grand Opera in the title role of Gounod’s Faust. He sings Jean in Massenet’s rarely performed Hérodiade with Washington Concert Opera, and returns to the Metropolitan Opera for performances as Rodolfo in La Bohème and Alfredo in La Traviata.  Mr. Fabiano will be the guest soloist for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finals Concert, perform in the Met’s 50th Anniversary Gala at Lincoln Center, and sing his first Don José in Carmen at Festival Aix-en-Provence. Additional performances include a series of solo recitals within the United States.michaelfabiano5

This season, he adds four new roles to his repertoire: Rodolfo in Luisa Miller, which he performed to open the San Francisco Opera season, Lenski in Eugene Onegin, which marked Mr.Fabiano’s Royal Opera debut, the title role in Don Carlo, at San Francisco Opera, and Jacopo in I due Foscari, in concert performances at the Teatro Real. He starred as Rodolfo in a new production of La Bohème at the Opernhaus Zurich and performed the Duke in a new production of Rigoletto at the Opéra National de Paris – Opéra Bastille. Mr. Fabiano will also be a guest artist on the Opera Gala at the Festival Napa Valley.michaelfabiano1

During the 2014/15 season, Mr. Fabiano returned to the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera for performances as Rodolfo in La Bohème, and debuted at Opera Australia in the title role in a new production of Faust; a role he also sang to great acclaim at the Opéra National de Paris – Opéra Bastille, and the Dutch National Opera. He created a sensation at the Metropolitan Opera when he performed Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, replacing an ailing colleague on seven hours’ notice, and opened the Glyndebourne Festival starring in the title role of Donizetti’s rarely-performed Poliuto in the first professionally staged production in the history of the United Kingdom. Mr. Fabiano sang Rodolfo in a special concert performance of La Bohème from Maschpark, Hannover, which was televised live throughout Germany over, sang at the Richard Tucker Gala at Lincoln Center, and was featured in the Italian-Americans documentary, both of which aired on PBS. Additional performances include the Columbus Day Parade in New York City, and special Christmas Concerts with the Montreal Symphony under the direction of Kent Nagano.michaelfabiano4

Mr. Fabiano has performed at many of the world’s leading opera houses; a list that includes: the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Teatro Real, Opéra National de Paris, Dutch National Opera, La Scala, Asociacíon Bilbaina de Amigos de la Ópera, Dresden Semperoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, English National Opera, and the Teatro San Carlo. In addition, he has graced concert stages with some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras such as the Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, and the Vienna Symphony.

Mr. Fabiano can be heard on the “Prologue” to Shostakovich’s Orango, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen on Deutsche Grammophon; on two recently-released DVDs: Alfredo in La Traviata from the Glyndebourne Festival on Opus Arte, and Cassio in Otello from the Metropolitan Opera on Decca, and Gennaro in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia from the San Francisco Opera on EuroArts and Naxos of America.michaelfabiano6

Mr. Fabiano is the recipient of Australia’s prestigious Helpmann Award in the “Best Male Performance in an Opera” category, for his portrayal of the title role in Gounod’s Faust with Opera Australia. He is a member of the Metropolitan Opera Guild Artists’ Council. Mr. Fabiano is also a Brand Ambassador for Jeffrey Rudes, luxury Italian clothing.

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