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Don Giovanni (K. 527; complete title: Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni, literally The Rake Punished, or Don Giovanni) is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It was premiered in the Estates Theatre in Prague 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.[1] 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).

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.[2]

A screen adaptation of the opera was made under the title Don Giovanni in 1979, and was directed by Joseph Losey.

Contents

Composition and premieres

Original playbill for the Vienna premiere of Don Giovanni

Da Ponte's claim in his Memoirs that the libretto was finished in June 1787 is untrustworthy[citation needed]. 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."[3] Provincialnachrichten of Vienna reported, "Herr Mozart conducted in person and welcomed joyously and jubilantly by the numerous gathering."[4]

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)[5] 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 Viennese 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,[6] 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[7]
Don Ottavio tenor Antonio Baglioni Francesco Morella
Donna Elvira, a lady of Burgos abandoned by Don Giovanni soprano Katherina Micelli Caterina Cavalieri[8]
Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant bass Felice Ponziani Francesco Benucci[9]
Masetto, a peasant bass Giuseppe Lolli Francesco Busani
Zerlina, Masetto's fiancée soprano Caterina Bondini[10] Luisa Mombelli
Chorus: peasants, servants, young ladies, musicians

Synopsis

Luigi Bassi in the title role of Don Giovanni in 1787

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.

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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 is immediately 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 cunningly dispersing Masetto's friends (Giovanni aria: "Metà di voi qua vadano — Half of you go this way"), Giovanni "confiscates" all of the firearms and beats up the unarmed and alone Masetto, supposedly breaking his ribs, then flees laughing. Zerlina arrives and consoles the wounded 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 begs for their forgiveness and tries to prove his innocence, and escapes with his health (Leporello aria: "Ah pietà signori miei — Ah, have mercy, my lords"). Most of the crew are doubtful of Leoporello's story, but Ottavio is sympathetic. Given the circumstances, Ottavio is convinced that Giovanni was the murderer of Donna Anna's father (The deceased Commendatore) and swears vengeance (Ottavio aria: "Il mio tesoro — My treasure").[11] Elvira is still furious at Giovanni for betraying her, but she also feels sorry for him. (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. Much to his surprise, 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 your dinner"). 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 (a better one, hopefully) 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 include the finale in its entirety.

Recordings

Don Giovanni and other composers

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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,[12] and said that when looking at the manuscript, he was "in the presence of divinity".[13] 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 Prague that year was Mariano Padilla y Ramos, the man Désirée Artôt married instead of Tchaikovsky.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Naugle, David, PhD. ""Søren Kierkegaard's Interpretation of Mozart's Opera Don Giovanni: An Appraisal and Theological Response"" (PDF (160KB)). pp. 2. http://www.dbu.edu/naugle/pdf/kierkegaard_dongiovanni.pdf. Retrieved 30 October 2007. 
  2. ^ OPERA America's "The Top 20" list of most-performed operas
  3. ^ Deutsch 1965, 303
  4. ^ Deutsch 1965, 304
  5. ^ OperaGlass at Opera.Stanford.Edu
  6. ^ Deutsch 1965, 313
  7. ^ Weber, Mozart's sister-in-law, frequently sang in his works.
  8. ^ Cavalieri was the first Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
  9. ^ Benucci was the first Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro'.
  10. ^ Abert, Spencer, Eisen: W. A. Mozart
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man, p. 460
  13. ^ Abstract: 19th Century Music, Mark Everist

References

  • Allanbrook, W.J (1983). Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro & Don Giovanni Chicago. (reviewed in Platoff, John. “Untitled.” The Journal of Musicology, Vol . 4, No. 4 (1986). pp. 535-538).
  • Deutsch, Otto Erich (1965), Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Goehr, Lydia (2006); Herwitz, Daniel A. The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera. Columbia Press University, New York.
  • Kaminsky, Peter 1996). How to Do things with Words and Music: Towards an Analysis of Selected ensembles in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Theory and Practice
  • Melitz, Leo (1921): The Opera Goer's Complete Guide
  • Noske, F.R. 'Don Giovanni’: Musical Affinities and Dramatic Structure.' SMH, xii (1970), 167–203; repr. in Theatre Research viii (1973), 60–74 and in Noske, 1977, 39–75
  • Ponte, Lorenzo da. Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Dover Publications, New York, 1985. (reviewed in G.S. “Untitled.” Music and Letters VOl 19. No.2 (Apr. 1938). pp. 216-218)
  • Rushton, J (1981). W.A. Mozart: Don Giovanni Cambridge. (reviewed in Sternfeld, F.W. “Untitled.” Music and Letters, Vol. 65, No. 4 (Oct. 1984) pp. 377-378)
  • Schünemann, Georg and Soldan, Kurt (translated by Stanley Appelbaum) Don Giovanni: Complete orchestral and vocal score Dover 1974
  • Tyson, A. 'Some Features of the Autograph Score of Don Giovanni', Israel Studies in Musicology (1990), 7–26

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Don Giovanni is a two-act opera composed in 1787 by Mozart to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte.


English quotations here are cited from Robert Pack and Marjorie Lelash (trans.) Three Mozart Libretti (New York: Dover, 1993).

  • Notte e giorno faticar,
    Per chi nulla sa gradir,
    Piova e vento sopportar,
    Mangiar male e mal dormir.
    Voglio far il gentiluomo
    E non voglio più servir.
    • I must work night and day for someone who doesn’t appreciate me; I must bear the wind and rain, scarcely eating or sleeping! I, too, would like to be a gentleman, and no longer a servant.
    • Leporello, Act I, sc. i; translation p. 135.
  • Madamina, il catalogo è questo
    Delle belle che amò il padron mio;
    un catalogo egli è che ho fatt'io;
    Osservate, leggete con me.
    In Italia seicento e quaranta;
    In Almagna duecento e trentuna;
    Cento in Francia, in Turchia novantuna;
    Ma in Ispagna son già mille e tre.
    • My dear lady! This is the catalogue of the women my master has loved. It's a list that I've compiled – look at it; read it over with me! In Italy, six hundred and forty; in Germany, two hundred and thirty-one; a hundred in France; ninety-one in Turkey – but in Spain there are already a thousand and three.
    • Leporello, Act I, sc. v; translation p. 145.
  • Nella bionda egli ha l'usanza
    Di lodar la gentilezza,
    Nella bruna la costanza,
    Nella bianca la dolcezza.
    • With blondes, it's his habit to praise their sweetness; with brunettes, their constancy; with old women, their tenderness.
    • Leporello, Act I, sc. v; translation p. 147.
  • Delle vecchie fa conquista
    Pel piacer di porle in lista;
    Sua passion predominante
    È la giovin principiante.
    Non si picca – se sia ricca,
    Se sia brutta, se sia bella;
    Purché porti la gonnella,
    Voi sapete quel che fa.
    • He even seduces the old women, simply for the pleasure of adding them to his list. But his preference is really for the young beginners. He never thinks of whether she's rich, ugly or beautiful – as long as she wears a skirt, you know very well what he does!
    • Leporello, Act I, sc. v; translation p. 147.
  • Don Giovanni: Là ci darem la mano,
    Là mi dirai di sì.
    Vedi, non è lontano;
    Partiam, ben mio, da qui.

    Zerlina: Vorrei e non vorrei,
    Mi trema un poco il cor.
    Felice, è ver, sarei,
    Ma può burlarmi ancor.
    • Don Giovanni: There we'll take each other's hands, and then you’ll tell me "yes". See; it isn't far; let's go there together, my darling!
      Zerlina: I'd like to, and yet I'm afraid – something within me holds back. Perhaps I would be happy – but still he may be deceiving me!
    • Act I, sc. ix, translation p. 153.
  • Ah! la mia lista
    Doman mattina
    D'una decina
    Devi aumentar!
    • Ah, by tomorrow morning a dozen names must be added to my list!
    • Don Giovanni, Act I, sc. xv, translation pp. 163-5.
  • Di rider finirai pria dell'aurora!
    • By dawn your laughter will be ended.
    • La Statua, Act II, sc. xv, translation p. 203.
  • Vivan le femmine,
    Viva il buon vino!
    Sostegno e gloria
    d'umanità!
    • Long live the women! Long live good wine! Forever may they sustain and exalt humanity!
    • Don Giovanni, Act II, sc. xviii, translation p. 211.

External links

Wikipedia
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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also dongiovanni

Italian

Proper noun

Don Giovanni m.

  1. Don Juan

Simple English

Don Giovanni is an opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is one of the best-known of all operas, and is often performed in opera houses all over the world.

Don Giovanni can be described as a mixture between the traditions of opera seria (serious opera) and opera buffa (comic opera). Mozart was the first great composer to make his own living, and composing the way he wanted, instead of being employed either by a rich nobleman or by the church. In this opera, which is written in Italian (like all opera seria) he shows a nobleman (Don Giovanni) who lives a bad life and has to suffer for it in the end.

Contents

History

File:Max Slevogt Francisco d'Andrade as Don
Max Slevogt: The singer Francisco d'Andrade singing the part of Don Giovanni, 1912

Mozart lived in Vienna when he was grown up. Although he was a very great composer, people in Vienna did not always like his music. Sometimes this was because other composers were jealous and tried to make Mozart look bad. Audiences had their favourite composers and went to support them. Mozart had written an opera called Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) which was performed in Vienna in 1786. The performance was not very successful. In January 1787 he went to Prague for the first time and performed Le Nozze di Figaro there. The Prague audience were very enthusiastic. From then on Mozart was always very welcome in Prague. He visited Prague five times during the last five years of his life. He was asked to write another opera for Prague, so he wrote the opera Don Giovanni. It was given its first public performance in the Estates Theatre in Prague on 29 October 1787. The opera house was very full. There was not enough room for everybody who wanted to come. It was a great success. Everybody cheered and clapped. They realized how beautiful the music was. When he performed it later in Vienna it was not nearly so successful. It was many years before it became really popular in Vienna.

When Mozart and his wife arrived in Prague about a month before the performance, he had not yet finished writing the opera. He finished writing it in Prague, either in the inn where he was staying, or in Bertramka, the house of his friend Duschek, which was just outside the city. The night before the first performance he still had not written the overture. The performers were really worried that Mozart would not finish it in time for the performance. Mozart sat up all night composing the overture. The orchestral parts then had to be written out by copyists for the various instruments of the orchestra. The music was ready just before the opera was due to start. The music for the overture was handed out among the orchestra who had to sightread it.

Mozart knew the singers who sang the main parts, and he wrote the music very carefully so that it would suit their voices. He spent a lot of time rehearsing them and the orchestra during the weeks before the production, and he conducted the performance himself.

The libretto (the words) were written by Lorenzo da Ponte, based on a well-known story (often known by the Spanish title Don Juan, but also known as The Stone Guest). Other composers have written operas based on the same story.

The story of the opera

The story is to take place in a town in Spain. Don Giovanni is a nobleman who has had lots of lovers. He promises he will marry them and then he goes off and leaves them. He has a servant called Leporello.

Act I

Don Giovanni is in love with Donna Anna, whose father, the Commendatore, is an important gentleman. In the Commendatore's garden Leporello is standing guard while Don Giovanni is making love to Donna Anna. Leporello sings an aria in which he complains about his job. Suddenly Donna Anna appears, chasing Giovanni who is wearing a mask so that she does not know who she is. The Commendatore appears. He fights Giovanni with a sword and the Commendatore is killed. Donna Anna's fiancé, Don Ottavio promises Donna Anna that he will find the man who killed her father.

In a square outside the palace of Don Giovanni, another lady, Donna Elvira, is complaining about how her lover had promised her marriage and then left her. Giovanni and Leporello arrive and hear her. Giovanni realizes who she is and disappears, leaving Leporello to talk to the lady. In a very amusing aria, Leporello tells her all about the long list of lovers that Don Giovanni has had (in Spain alone he had 1003!).

When she has left, a wedding procession enters. Giovanni immediately likes the bride who is called Zerlina. He tries to get her future husband, Masetto, to go by saying that he will host a wedding celebration at his castle. Masetto is angry when he realizes that Giovanni wants to stay behind with Zerlina, but he finds it difficult to refuse because Don Giovanni is a nobleman and he is only a simple peasant, so he ought to obey him. Giovanni then flirts with Zerlina. Elvira arrives and warns Zerlina about how bad Giovanni is. Ottavio and Anna appear. They do not know that Giovanni is the man they are looking for who murdered the Commendatore. They ask him to help them look for the murderer. Elvira comes and accuses Giovanni of having left her. Giovanni explains to the others that she is mad. Anna suddenly realizes Giovanni was the man who tried to force her to love her. Ottavio is not quite sure.

Don Giovanni tells Leporello to organize a party quickly.

Zerlina tries to tell Masetto she is innocent. Masetto tries to see whether she means it. He watches what happens when Giovanni comes. There is a lot of confusion, and Giovanni gives Zerlina back to Masetto. Everyone goes to the wedding festivities. Elvira, Ottavio and Anna are masked so that people do not recognize them. They are trying to catch Giovanni and prove that he is bad. Giovanni tries to make love to Zerlina who shouts for help. When people rush to the scene he tries to say that Leporello did it, but they do not believe him. Giovanni escapes.

Act II

Leporello threatens to leave Giovanni, but Giovanni calmly offers to pay him more money. Giovanni wants to make love to Elvira's maid, and so he changes clothes with Leporello. Elvira comes onto her balcony. Leporello (pretending to be Giovanni) sings that he is sorry about what he has done and wants her to return to him. Elvira comes down to the street. They go off together while Giovanni sings a love song to the maid. He accompanies himself on the mandolin.

Masetto and his friends arrive, looking for Giovanni. Giovanni (dressed as Leporello) pretends that he, too, wants Giovanni dead and joins the hunt. After getting the crowd to separate Giovanni beats up Masetto and runs away laughing. Zerlina arrives and comforts Masetto.

In a dark courtyard, Leporello leaves Elvira. As he tries to escape, Anna and Ottavio arrive. Zerlina and Masetto open the door and catch Leporello. They all stand round him. Elvira, who thinks he is Giovanni, asks for him to be forgiven and says he is her husband. Leporello throws off Giovanni's cloak and hat so that everyone realizes who he is. He manages to escape.

In a graveyard there is now a statue of the Commendatore. Leporello tells Don Giovanni how he was nearly killed. Giovanni just teases him. Leporello is not amused, and Don Giovanni just laughs . Suddenly the statue speaks. The statue tells Giovanni that he will soon stop laughing. Leporello is terrified, but Giovanni just laughs and invites the statue to dinner.

In Donna Anna's room Ottavio asks Anna to marry him, but Anna wants to wait because it is so soon after her father's death. She says she loves Ottavio and that she will be faithful to him.

Don Giovanni is having supper in his room. Musicians are playing. Elvira appears once more trying to persuade him to change his ways, but Giovanni ignores her and sings about wine and women. Elvira goes. Suddenly the statue appears. The statue sings: "Don Giovanni! You invited me to dinner, and I have come." Giovanni refuses to be sorry for the way he has lived, so the statue drags Giovanni down to his death in hell.

In the final scene everyone is happy. Leporello comes out from under the table where he has been hiding in fear. Anna and Ottavio promise to marry after a year. 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. The last chorus tells the moral of the opera - "That is the way in which an evil person dies. The death of a sinner always reflects their life."


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