The Don Carlos Enigma: Variations of Historical Fictions (Paperback)

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Item: 9781680538557


The Don Carlos Enigma: Variations of Historical Fictions (Paperback)
by Maria-Cristina Necula

The death of Spain’s Don Carlos, Prince of Asturias, on July 24, 1568, remains an enigma. Several accounts insinuated that the Spanish crown prince was murdered while incarcerated by order of his father, King Philip II. The mystery of Don Carlos’s death, supported by ambassadorial accounts that implied foul play, became a fertile subject for defamation campaigns against Philip, fostering an extraordinary fluidity between history and fiction. 

This book investigates three treatments of the Don Carlos legend, on which this fluidity had a potent, transformational impact: César Vichard de Saint-Réal’s novel, Dom Carlos, nouvelle historique (1672), Friedrich Schiller’s play, Don Karlos, Infant von Spanien (1787), and Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Don Carlos (1867). Through these cultural variations on a historical theme, the authors and composer contributed innovative elements to their genres. 

In The Don Carlos Enigma, the exciting young scholar Maria-Cristina Necula explores how the particular blend of history and fiction around the personage of Don Carlos inspired such artistic liberties with evolutionary outcomes. Saint-Réal advanced the nouvelle historique genre by developing the element of conspiracy. Schiller’s play began the transition from the Sturm und Drang literary movement towards Weimar Classicism. Verdi introduced new dramatic and musical elements to bring opera closer to the realism of dramatic theatre. 

Within each of these treatments, pivotal points of narrative, semantic, dramatic, and musical transformation shaped not only the story of Don Carlos, but the expressive forms themselves. In support of the investigation, selected scenes from the three works are explored and framed by an engagement with studies in the fields of French literature, German theatre, French and Italian opera, and Spanish history. The enigma of the Spanish prince may never be solved, but Saint-Réal, Schiller, and Verdi have offered alternatives that, in a sense, unburden history of truth that it could never bear alone. In the case of Don Carlos, history is in itself an encyclopedia of variations.

  • Paperback: 162 pages
  • Publisher: Academica Press (January 10, 2022)
  • Dimensions: 6” W x 9” H

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Giuseppe Verdi’s Don Carlo

Verdi’s longest and most ambitious opera is a powerful epic of love and politics set in France and Spain at the height of the Inquisition. The score combines intimate solos and ensembles with grand choral scenes, most notably the monumental auto-da-fé that ends Act III. Following its 1867 premiere in Paris (sung in French as Don Carlos), the composer revised the opera several times over a period of almost 20 years. Nicholas Hytner’s Met production, first seen in 2010, presents Don Carlo in its original five acts, sung in Italian.

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