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Don Giovanni (K. 527; complete title: , literally "The Rake Punish'd, or Don Giovanni") is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It was premiered in the Estates Theatremarker in Praguemarker on October 29, 1787. Da Ponte's libretto was billed like many of its time as dramma giocoso, a term that denotes a mixing of serious and comic action. Mozart entered the work into his catalogue as an "opera buffa". Although sometimes classified as comic, it blends comedy, melodrama and supernatural elements.

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote a long essay in his book Enten – Eller (Either/Or) in which he argues, quoting Charles Gounod, that Mozart's Don Giovanni is “a work without blemish, of uninterrupted perfection.” The finale, in which Don Giovanni refuses to repent, has been a captivating philosophical and artistic topic for many writers including George Bernard Shaw, who in Man and Superman parodied the opera (with explicit mention of the Mozart score for the finale scene between the Commendatore and Don Giovanni).

A screen adaptation of the opera was made under the title Don Giovanni in 1979, and was directed by Joseph Losey. Some of the great Don Giovannis on the opera stage have been the basses Ezio Pinza, Cesare Siepi and Norman Treigle, and the baritones John Brownlee, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Tito Gobbi,George London, Thomas Hampson, Thomas Allen, and Bryn Terfel.

As a staple of the standard operatic repertoire, it appears as number seven on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.

Composition and premieres

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Da Ponte's claim in his Memoirs that the libretto was finished in June 1787 is untrustworthy . The score was completed on October 28 of the same year after Da Ponte was recalled to Vienna to work on another opera. Reports about the last-minute completion of the overture conflict; some say it was completed the day before the premiere, some on the very day. More likely it was completed the day before, in light of the fact that Mozart recorded the completion of the opera on 28 October. The score calls for double woodwinds, horns and trumpets, timpani, basso continuo for the recitatives, and the usual strings. The composer also specified occasional special musical effects. For the ballroom scene at the end of the first act, Mozart calls for no fewer than three onstage ensembles to play separate dance music in synchronization, each in their respective meter, accompanying the dancing of the principal characters. In Act II, Giovanni is seen to play the mandolin, accompanied by pizzicato strings. When the statue of the Commendatore speaks for the first time later in the act, Mozart adds three trombones to the accompaniment.

The opera was first performed on October 29 in Prague under its full title of Il Dissoluto Punito ossia il Don Giovanni Dramma giocoso in due atti. The work was rapturously received, as was often true of Mozart's work in Prague; see Mozart and Prague. The Prager Oberamtszeitung reported, "Connoisseurs and musicians say that Prague has never heard the like," and "the opera ... is extremely difficult to perform." Provincialnachrichten of Vienna reported, "Herr Mozart conducted in person and welcomed joyously and jubilantly by the numerous gathering."

Mozart also supervised the Vienna premiere of the work, which took place on May 7, 1788. For this production, he wrote two new arias with corresponding recitatives: Don Ottavio's aria Dalla sua pace (K.540a, composed on April 24 for the tenor Francesco Morella), Elvira's aria In quali eccessi ... Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata (K.540c, composed on April 30 for the soprano Caterina Cavalieri) and the duet between Leporello and Zerlina Per queste tue manine (K.540b, composed on April 28).

Performance practices

The opera's final ensemble was generally omitted until the mid-20th century, and does not appear in the Viennese libretto of 1788. Mozart also made a shortened version of the operatic score. Nonetheless, the final ensemble is almost invariably performed in full today.

Another modern approach occasionally encountered is to cut Don Ottavio's most celebrated aria, Il mio tesoro, in favour of the less demanding Dalla sua pace, which replaced it in the Viennesemarker premiere in order to suit the tenor Francesco Morella. Most modern productions find a place for both tenor arias, however. In addition, the duet, Per queste tue manine, composed specifically for the Viennese premiere, is cut frequently from 21st century productions of the opera.

Roles

Role Voice type World premiere cast, October 29, 1787,

(the composer conducting)
Vienna premiere cast, May 7, 1788,

(the composer conducting)
Don Giovanni, a young, extremely licentious nobleman baritone Luigi Bassi Francesco Albertarelli
Il Commendatore (Don Pedro) bass Giuseppe Lolli Francesco Busani
Donna Anna, his daughter, betrothed to Don Ottavio soprano Teresa Saporiti Aloysia Weber
Don Ottavio tenor Antonio Baglioni Francesco Morella
|-
Donna Elvira, a lady of Burgos abandoned by Don Giovanni soprano Katherina Micelli Caterina Cavalieri
Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant bass Felice Ponziani Francesco Benucci
Masetto, a peasant bass Giuseppe Lolli Francesco Busani
Zerlina, Masetto's fiancée soprano Caterina Bondini Luisa Mombelli
Chorus: peasants, servants, young ladies, musicians


Synopsis



Don Giovanni, a young nobleman, after a life of amorous conquests, meets defeat in three encounters. The first is with Donna Elvira, whom he has deserted but who still follows him. The second is with Donna Anna, who must postpone her marriage to Don Ottavio after Don Giovanni tries to rape her and kills her father, the Commendatore, escaping afterwards. The third is with Zerlina, whom he vainly tries to lure from her fiancé, the peasant Masetto. All vow vengeance on Don Giovanni and his terribly harassed servant Leporello. Elvira alone weakens in her resolution and attempts reconciliation in the hope that Giovanni will reform. Don Giovanni's destruction and deliverance to hell are effected by the cemetery statue of the Commendatore, who had accepted the libertine's invitation to supper.

Act 1

The garden of the Commendatore

Leporello is keeping watch outside Donna Anna's house. Don Giovanni, Leporello's master, has crept into the house in order to seduce Donna Anna. (Leporello aria: "Notte e giorno faticar — I work night and day"). Donna Anna appears, chasing a masked Giovanni. She wishes to know who he is and she cries for help. (Trio: "Non sperar, se non m'uccidi — I won't let you go, unless you kill me"). The Commendatore, Anna's father, appears and challenges Giovanni to a duel while Donna Anna flees for help. Giovanni stabs the Commendatore, kills him, and escapes unrecognized. Anna, upon returning with her fiancé, Don Ottavio, is horrified, and Don Ottavio swears to avenge his betrothed's father. (Duet: "Fuggi, crudele fuggi — Go away, cruel one").

A public square outside Don Giovanni's palace

Giovanni and Leporello arrive and hear a woman (Donna Elvira) speaking of having been recently spurned and calling for revenge (Elvira aria: "Ah, chi mi dice mai — Ah, who could tell me"). Giovanni starts to flirt with her, but as she turns to look at him, recognizes her as a recent conquest. At this, he shoves Leporello forward, ordering him to tell Elvira the truth, and then hurries away.

Leporello endeavours to console Elvira and unrolls a list of Don Giovanni's lovers. Comically, he rattles off their number and their country of origin: 640 in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey, and 1,003 in Spain. (Leporello aria: "Madamina, il catalogo è questo — My little lady, this is the catalogue"). In a frequently cut recitative, Elvira vows vengeance.

When she leaves, a marriage procession with Masetto and Zerlina enters. Don Giovanni and Leporello arrive soon after. Giovanni immediately is attracted to Zerlina, and he attempts to remove the jealous Masetto by offering to host a wedding celebration at his castle. On realizing that Giovanni means to remain behind with Zerlina, Masetto becomes angry (Masetto aria: "Ho capito! Signor, sì — I understand! Yes, my lord!"). Don Giovanni and Zerlina are soon alone and he immediately begins his seductive arts. (Duet: "Là ci darem la mano — There we will entwine our hands").

Elvira arrives and thwarts the seduction (Elvira aria: "Ah, fuggi il traditor — Flee from the traitor!"), followed shortly by Ottavio and Anna who are plotting vengeance on the still unknown murderer of Anna's father, when they run into Giovanni. Anna, unaware that she is speaking to her attacker, pleads for his help. Giovanni readily promises it, and asks —with great concern— what cruel man would dare to disturb her peace; obviously, he still sees a chance with Anna. But Don Giovanni is out of luck again: Elvira returns and announces Giovanni's recent betrayal of her. Giovanni answers her reproaches by declaring to Ottavio and Anna that Elvira is insane. (Quartet: "Non ti fidar, o misera — Don't trust him, oh sad one"). With Giovanni's departing oath to help find the Commendatore's murderer, Anna suddenly recognizes Giovanni as her seducer and also his murderer. (Anna aria: "Or sai chi l'onore — He is the one who tried to rob me of my honour"). Ottavio, not convinced, determines to keep an eye on his friend. (Ottavio aria: "Dalla sua pace — On her peace.")

Leporello, still half-determined to leave Don Giovanni, informs him that all the guests of the peasant wedding are in Giovanni's house, that he distracted Masetto from his jealousy, but that Zerlina's post-seduction return had spoiled everything. However, Don Giovanni remains cheerful and tells Leporello to organize a party. (Giovanni's champagne aria: "Fin ch'han dal vino — Finally, with the wine."). He hurries off to his palace.

Zerlina follows the jealous Masetto and tries to pacify him. (Zerlina's aria: "Batti, batti o bel Masetto — Beat me, oh lovely Masetto"), but just as she manages to persuade him of her innocence, Don Giovanni's voice startles her, making her want to flee. Masetto's trust evaporating in an instant, the jealous groom hides and wants to see for himself what Zerlina will do when Giovanni arrives. In vain, Zerlina hides from Don Giovanni, but he continues the seduction before stumbling upon Masetto. Confused but quickly recovering, Giovanni claims Zerlina was very sad that Masetto was away from her, and he returns her temporarily. He then leads both to the bridal chamber, which has been lavishly decorated. Leporello invites three masked guests to the party (the disguised Elvira, Ottavio, and Anna) who plan to catch Giovanni red-handed, if possible.

Ballroom

As the merriment, featuring three separate chamber orchestras, proceeds, Don Giovanni leads Zerlina away, while Leporello distracts Masetto by dancing with him. When Zerlina screams for help, Don Giovanni tries to fool the onlookers by dragging his servant into the room with drawn sword and accusing him of seducing Zerlina. Elvira, Ottavio and Anna unmask, claiming that they know all. The guests side with them and attack Don Giovanni, but he fights his way through the crowd and escapes...

Act 2

Outside Elvira's house

Leporello threatens to leave Giovanni, but his master calms him with a peace offering of money. (Duet: "Eh via buffone — Come on, buffoon"). Wanting to seduce Elvira's maid, Giovanni persuades Leporello to exchange cloak and hat with him. Elvira comes to her window. (Trio: "Ah taci, ingiusto core — Ah, be quiet unjust heart"). Seeing an opportunity for a game, Giovanni hides, sending Leporello out in the open dressed as Giovanni and, from his hiding place sings a promise of repentance, expressing a desire to return to her. Elvira is convinced and descends to the street. She thinks that Leporello (who is wearing his master's clothes) is actually Giovanni. Leporello leads her away to keep her occupied while Giovanni attempts to seduce her maid while accompanying himself on the mandolin. (Giovanni aria: "Deh vieni alla finestra — Come to the window").

Before Giovanni can complete his seduction of the maid, Masetto and his friends arrive, searching for Giovanni. Giovanni (dressed as Leporello) convinces the posse that he also wants Giovanni dead, and joins the hunt. After separating the group (Giovanni aria: "Metà di voi qua vadano — Half of you go this way"), Giovanni "confiscates" all the firearms and beats up the unarmed Masetto, then flees laughing. Zerlina arrives and consoles Masetto. (Zerlina aria: "Vedrai carino — Come dear one").

A dark courtyard

Leporello abandons Elvira. (Sextet: "Sola, sola in buio loco — Alone in this dark place"). As he tries to escape, Ottavio arrives with Anna, consoling her in her grief. Just as Leporello is about to slip through the door, which he has difficulty finding, Zerlina and Masetto open it and, seeing him in his Giovanni regalia, catch him before he can escape. When Anna and Ottavio notice what is going on all move to surround Leporello, threatening him with death. Elvira tries to protect the man whom she thinks is Giovanni, claiming that he is her husband and begging for pity. The other four ignore her, and Leporello removes his cloak to reveal his true identity. While everyone is so taken aback in the confusion, Leporello is able to escape (Leporello aria: "Ah pietà signori miei — Ah, pity me, my lords"). Given the circumstances, Ottavio is convinced of Giovanni's guilt and swears vengeance (Ottavio aria: "Il mio tesoro — My treasure") while Elvira is furious at Giovanni for betraying her. (Elvira aria: "Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata — That ungrateful wretch betrayed me").

A graveyard with the statue of the Commendatore.

Leporello tells Don Giovanni of his brush with danger, and Giovanni taunts him, saying that he took advantage of his disguise as Leporello, by trying to seduce one of Leporello's girlfriends. But the servant is not amused, suggesting it could have been his wife, and Don Giovanni laughs aloud at his servant's protests. The voice of the statue warns Giovanni that his laughter will not last beyond sunrise. At the command of his master, Leporello reads the inscription upon the statue's base: "I'm waiting for revenge against my murderer." The servant trembles, but the unabashed Giovanni orders him to invite the statue to dinner, threatening to kill him if he does not. (Duet: "Oh, statua gentilissima — Oh most noble statue"). Leporello makes several attempts to invite the statue to dinner but for fear cannot complete the task. It falls upon Don Giovanni himself to complete the invitation thereby sealing his own doom. The statue nods its head and responds affirmatively.

Donna Anna's room.

Ottavio pressures Anna to marry him, but she thinks it inappropriate so soon after her father's death. He accuses her of being cruel, and she assures him that she loves him, and is faithful. (Anna aria: "Non mi dir — Tell me not").

Don Giovanni's chambers

Giovanni revels in the luxury of a great meal and musical entertainment (during which the orchestra plays then-contemporary late 18th century music — including a reference to the aria "Non più andrai" from Mozart's own Le nozze di Figaro), while Leporello serves. (Finale "Già la mensa preparata — Already the meal is prepared"). Elvira appears, saying that she no longer feels resentment for Giovanni, only pity. ("L'ultima prova dell'amor mio — The final proof of my love"). Surprised by her lack of hatred, Giovanni asks what it is that she wants, and there follows her desperate plea that he change his life. This is met only with one reply: "Brava!", as Giovanni taunts her and then ignores her, praising wine and women as the "essence and glory of humankind". Hurt and angered, Elvira gives up and leaves. A moment later, her scream is heard from outside the walls of the palace, and she returns only to flee through another door. Giovanni orders Leporello to see what has upset her; upon peering outside, the servant also cries out, and runs back into the room with the news that the statue has appeared as promised. An ominous knocking sounds at the door. Leporello, paralyzed by fear, cannot answer it, so Giovanni opens it himself, revealing the statue of the Commendatore. ("Don Giovanni! a cenar teco m'invitasti — Don Giovanni! You invited me to dine with you"). It exhorts the careless villain to repent of his wicked lifestyle, but Giovanni adamantly refuses. The statue sinks into the earth and drags Giovanni down with him. Hellfire surrounds Don Giovanni as he is carried below.

Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Donna Elvira, Zerlina, and Masetto arrive, searching for the villain. They find instead Leporello under the table, shaken by the horrors he has witnessed and which he describes to the others. Since the conflict is over, Anna and Ottavio choose to wait until Anna's year of grieving is over before marrying; Elvira will spend the rest of her life in a convent; Zerlina and Masetto will finally go home for dinner; and Leporello will find a new master at a tavern.

The concluding chorus delivers the moral of the opera — "Such is the end of the evildoer: the death of a sinner always reflects his life" (Questo è il fin). In the past, this ensemble was sometimes omitted by conductors who claimed that this concluding chorus was never really considered to be a part of the opera. However, this approach has not survived, and today's conductors almost always perform the complete opera as composed by Mozart.

Noted arias and ensembles

  • "Notte e giorno faticar" ("Working night and day") — Leporello in Act I, Scene I
  • "Ah! chi mi dice mai" ("Ah! who would tell me")— Donna Elvira in Act I, Scene V
  • "Madamina, il catalogo è questo" ("My little lady, here is the catalogue") — Leporello in Act I, Scene V
  • "Là ci darem la mano" ("There we will entwine our hands") — duet of Don Giovanni & Zerlina in Act I, Scene IX
  • "Don Ottavio, son morta... Or sai chi l'onore" ("Don Ottavio, I'm dead... Now you know who my honour wanted to take") — Donna Anna in Act I, Scene XIII
  • "Dalla sua pace" ("On her peace") — Don Ottavio in Act I, Scene XIV
  • "Fin ch'han dal vino" ("Finally, with the wine", often called the "Champagne aria") — Don Giovanni in Act I, Scene XV
  • "Batti, batti, o bel Masetto" ("Beat me, beat me, o dear Masetto") — Zerlina in Act I, Scene XVI
  • "Deh, vieni alla finestra" ("Oh, come to the window") — Don Giovanni in Act II, Scene III
  • "Vedrai, carino" ("Come, dearest") — Zerlina in Act II, Scene VI
  • "Il mio tesoro" ("My treasure") — Don Ottavio in Act II, Scene X
  • "In quali eccessi... Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata" ("In what excesses... The ungrateful soul betrayed me") — Donna Elvira in Act II, Scene X
  • "Don Giovanni, a cenar teco m'invitasti" ("Don Giovanni, you invited me to dine with you") — finale: Don Giovanni, Leporello & Commendatore in Act II, scene XV


Don Giovanni and other composers

The sustained popularity of Don Giovanni has resulted in extensive borrowings and arrangements of the original. The most famous and probably the most musically substantial is the operatic fantasy, Réminiscences de Don Juan by Franz Liszt. The minuet from the Finale of Act I makes an incongruous appearance in the manuscript of Liszt's Fantasy on Themes from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, and Sigismond Thalberg uses the same minuet, along with Deh, vieni alla finestra, in his Grand Fantaisie sur la serenade et le Minuet de Don Juan, Op. 42. Deh, vieni alla finestra also makes an appearance in the Klavierübung of Ferruccio Busoni, under the title "Variations-Studie nach Mozart" (Variation-study after Mozart). Beethoven, Danzi and Chopin each wrote a series of variations on the duet between Don Giovanni and Zerlina, Là ci darem la mano. And Beethoven, in his Diabelli Variations, alludes to Leporello's aria "Notte e giorno faticar" in Variation 22.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky always held Don Giovanni in the greatest awe, and regarded Mozart as his musical God. In 1855, Mozart's original manuscript had been purchased in London by the mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, who was the teacher of Tchaikovsky's one-time unofficial fiancée Désirée Artôt (and whom Viardot may have persuaded not to go through with her plan to marry the composer). Viardot kept the manuscript in a shrine in her Paris home, where it was visited by many people. Tchaikovsky visited her when he was in Paris in June 1886, and said that when looking at the manuscript, he was "in the presence of divinity". So it is not surprising that the centenary of the opera in 1887 would inspire him to write something honouring Mozart. Instead of taking any themes from Don Giovanni, however, he took four lesser known works by Mozart and arranged them into his fourth orchestral suite, which he called Mozartiana. Curiously, the baritone who sang the title role in the centenary performance of Don Giovanni in Praguemarker that year was Mariano Padilla y Ramos, the man Désirée Artôt married instead of Tchaikovsky.

Recordings

Don Giovanni in popular culture

The music from Don Giovanni has also featured in a number of movie soundtracks, including Amadeus, It Happened in Brooklyn, Parting Glances, Some Girls, Madagascar Skin, and The Bonfire of the Vanities. The aria Il mio tesoro is used as the main theme to the classic Ealing comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets. In addition, Là ci darem la mano is performed in Babette's Feast between one virginal female lead, Philippa, and her suitor, the opera singer Achille Papin, at a moment of romantic indecision that mirrors the circumstances of the opera. In the 2006 film Employee of the Month one of the male employees is seen singing Là ci darem la mano (Zerlina's and Don Giovanni's parts).

See also



Notes

  1. OPERA America's "The Top 20" list of most-performed operas
  2. Deutsch 1965, 303
  3. Deutsch 1965, 304
  4. OperaGlass at Opera.Stanford.Edu
  5. Deutsch 1965, 313
  6. Weber, Mozart's sister-in-law, frequently sang in his works.
  7. Cavalieri was the first Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
  8. Benucci was the first Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro'.
  9. Abert, Spencer, Eisen: W. A. Mozart
  10. It is at this point in the Vienna production of the opera that Zerlina manages to recapture a protesting Leporello, dragging him by the hair, calling for Masetto. Threatening him with a razor, she ties him to a stool as he attempts to sweet-talk her out of hurting him. (Duet: "Per queste tue manine — For these hands of yours"). Zerlina runs to find Masetto and the others, and, once more, Leporello manages to escape just before she returns. This scene, marked by low comedy, is almost never performed.
  11. Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man, p. 460
  12. Abstract: 19th Century Music, Mark Everist


References



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