• Don Carlo Classroom Activity

The activities in this guide address various aspects of Don Carlo:

  • the conflict between the personal and the political that runs through the opera 
  • the craftsmanship and psychological insight of Verdi’s music
  • the visual concept and design of this Live in HD production
  • the choices a director faces in considering the various versions of Don Carlo 
  • the production as a unified work of art, involving creative decisions by the artists of the Metropolitan Opera

The guide is intended to cultivate students’ interest in Don Carlo whether or not they have any prior acquaintance with opera. It includes activities for students with a wide range of musical backgrounds, seeking to encourage them to think about opera—and the performing arts in general—as a medium of entertainment and as creative expression.

Duty vs. Desire:
A Close Look at Character Motiviation in Don Carlo

Like Shakespeare’s history plays, Don Carlo burrows beneath the historical facts to present a living portrait of the political maneuvers in the corridors of power and the emotional motivations that lie behind them. The historical events underlying the action may have been better known to 19th-century audiences than they are today. But the conflicts and emotions here are enduring and universal.

In this Classroom Activity, students will grapple with a concern that bedevils Don Carlo’s characters, yet has resonance for most young people: the conflict between duty and personal desire. Don Carlo takes place in Madrid, Spain, one of the 16th century’s most powerful capitals. But the rewards of dominion cannot satisfy human need. The activity gives students the  opportunity to assess the motivations of characters as they make decisions small and large, then to determine from their own perspective which of the opera’s main figures is its true hero. They will: 

  • review the plot and historical setting of Don Carlo
  • listen critically to a set of scenes involving crucial decisions
  • assess whether characters have made their choice on the grounds of political duty or personal desire 
  • compile their findings to support an opinion as to which character is most admirable