Don Carlos- Verdi

A selection of musical extracts with analysis

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Act 2 Part 2 (No.10)- Song of the Veil

A major.

To pass the time, Eboli sings a moorish song (a folk song in 6/8 time influenecd by Spanish rhythms and modal scales with a flattened 7th G natural). This song gives Verdi an excuse for a "show" song. It does not have anything to do with furthering the plot, but instead functions as an isolated story within the plot. 

The vocal line is extremely virtuosic, featuring Princess Eboli and Elizabeth's page in a light hearted duet. Throughout this extended song, the orchestra is subservient to the voices and serves merely to support the harmony and vocal line. In keeping with the folk style of the Moorish song, Verdi includes a mandolin accompaniment, which appears to be played by the Page. This reinforces the style of a wandering minstrel folk song. The vocal line features a lot of melisma, which in itself is a virtuosic vocal technique far removed from the alliterative Nordic verse rhyme (stabreim) used by Wagner.

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Act 3 Part 2 (No 24)- Grand Finale

E major.

This song starts with a majestic fanfare on brass with a powerful Spanish rhythm in sextuplets. When the chorus (representing the crowd) enter, they sing in a powerful homophonic texture "The great day has dawned to honour the greatest of kings (i.e. God).

The mood changes when the heretics are brought in. The tonality changes to E minor and the texture is more sparse and in a low register. The chorus of friars then sing menacingly "A day of terror, a day of death, this is the punishment of a stern God". There is another change in mood with a gentle d major melody on cello- here the friars are singing about forgiveness for those who repent their sins. The change of music reflects this more optimistic attitude.

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