In the second half of the 16th century, a peace treaty between France and Spain is to be sealed by the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth of Valois, daughter of Henry II, and Don Carlos, son of Philipp II and heir of the Spanish throne. When Don Carlos (Rolando Villazón) and his future wife meet for the first time, they immediately fall in love, despite fears over being married to a stranger. Unfortunately, their happiness is short-lived—the treaty is renegotiated, and Henry II now intends to marry his daughter to King Philip II himself. To ensure peace between France and Spain, Elizabeth consents, leaving Carlos devastated.
As ever in Verdi's masterpieces, Don Carlo's story has its roots in the political and religious history of Europe. Like in a Racinian tragedy, the lovers' paths are determined by a political reality far more powerful than themselves.
© Picture: Catherine Ashmore
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