Don Giovanni


Don Giovanni

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 by the Prague Italian opera at the Teatro di Praga (now called the Estates Theatre) on October 29, 1787.[1] 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.

As a staple of the standard operatic repertoire, it appears as number seven on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.[2] It has also proved a fruitful subject for writers and philosophers.

Contents

Composition and premieres

Original playbill for the Vienna premiere of Don Giovanni

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.

In modern-day productions, Masetto and the Commendatore are typically played by different singers, although the same singer played both roles in both the Prague and Vienna premieres, and the final scene's chorus of demons after the Commendatore's exit gives the singer time for a costume change before entering as Masetto for the sextet.[6]

Roles

Role Voice type World premiere cast, October 29, 1787[7]
Conductor: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Vienna premiere cast, May 7, 1788[8]
Conductor: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Don Giovanni, a young, extremely licentious nobleman baritone Luigi Bassi Francesco Albertarelli
Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant bass Felice Ponziani Francesco Benucci[9]
Il Commendatore (Don Pedro) bass Giuseppe Lolli Francesco Bussani
Donna Anna, his daughter, betrothed to Don Ottavio soprano Teresa Saporiti Aloysia Weber[10]
Don Ottavio tenor Antonio Baglioni Francesco Morella
Donna Elvira, a lady of Burgos abandoned by Don Giovanni soprano Katherina Micelli Caterina Cavalieri[11]
Masetto, a peasant bass[12] Giuseppe Lolli Francesco Bussani
Zerlina, Masetto's fiancée soprano Caterina Bondini[13] Luisa Mombelli
Chorus: peasants, servants, young ladies, musicians, demons

Synopsis

Luigi Bassi in the title role of Don Giovanni in 1787

Don Giovanni, a young, arrogant, sexually promiscuous nobleman, abuses and outrages everyone else in the cast, until he encounters something he cannot kill, beat up, dodge, or outwit.

Act 1

The overture begins in D Minor, before a light-hearted D major allegro.

Scene 1 - The garden of the Commendatore

Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant, complains of his lot ("Notte e giorno faticar – night and day I slave away"). He's keeping watch while Don Giovanni tries to seduce the Commendatore's daughter Donna Anna. Suddenly they both appear: Giovanni is masked but Donna Anna is holding his arm. She wishes to know who he is (Trio: "Non sperar, se non m'uccidi – do not hope, unless you kill me") and cries for help. The Commendatore appears and challenges Giovanni while Donna Anna flees for help. Giovanni kills the Commendatore and escapes with Leporello. Anna, returning with her fiancé, Don Ottavio, is horrified to see her father lying dead in a pool of his own blood. They swear vengeance against the unknown murderer. (Duet: "Ah, vendicar, se il puoi, giura quel sangue ognor! – Ah, swear to avenge this blood!").

Scene 2 - A public square outside Don Giovanni's palace

Giovanni and Leporello arrive and hear a woman (Donna Elvira) singing of having been abandoned by her lover on whom she is seeking to wreak her revenge ("Ah, chi mi dice mai – Ah, who could tell me"). Giovanni starts to flirt with her, but he is the wretch she is seeking. He shoves Leporello forward, ordering him to tell Elvira the truth, and then hurries away.

Leporello tells Elvira Don Giovanni is not worth it. His conquests include 640 in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey, but in Spain, 1,003. ("Madamina, il catalogo è questo – 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 ("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 ("Ah, fuggi il traditor – Flee from the traitor!"). She leaves with Zerlina. Ottavio and Anna enter, plotting vengeance on the still unknown murderer of Anna's father. Anna, unaware that she is speaking to her attacker, pleads for Giovanni's help. Giovanni, relieved that he is unrecognised, readily promises it, and asks who has disturbed her peace. Before she can answer, Elvira returns and tells Anna and Ottavio that Giovanni is a false-hearted seducer. Giovanni tries to convince Ottavio and Anna that Elvira is insane. (Quartet: "Non ti fidar, o misera – Don't trust him, oh sad one"). As Giovanni leaves, Anna suddenly recognizes him as her father's murderer. (Anna aria: "Or sai chi l'onore – He is the one who tried to rob me of my honour"). Ottavio, not convinced, resolves to keep an eye on his friend. ("Dalla sua pace – On her peace my peace depends")

Leporello informs Giovanni that all the guests of the peasant wedding are in Giovanni's house, that he distracted Masetto from his jealousy, but that Zerlina, returning with Elvira, made a scene and spoiled everything. However, Don Giovanni remains cheerful and tells Leporello to organize a party and invite every girl he can find. (Giovanni's "Champagne Aria": "Fin ch'han dal vino – Till they are tipsy"). They hasten to his palace.

Zerlina follows the jealous Masetto and tries to pacify him. ("Batti, batti o bel Masetto – Beat o beat me, sweet Masetto"), but just as she manages to persuade him of her innocence, Don Giovanni's voice from offstage startles and frightens her. Masetto hides, resolving to see for himself what Zerlina will do when Giovanni arrives. Zerlina tries to hide from Don Giovanni, but he finds her and attempts to continue the seduction, until he stumbles upon Masetto's hiding place. Confused but quickly recovering, Giovanni reproaches Masetto for leaving Zerlina alone, and returns her temporarily to him. Giovanni then leads both to his ballroom, which has been lavishly decorated. Leporello invites three masked guests to the party: the disguised Ottavio, Anna and Elivra). Ottavio and Anna pray for protection, Elvira for vengeance (Trio: "Proteggra il giusto cielo – May the just heavens protect us").

Scene 3 - Finale:Ballroom

As the merriment, featuring three separate chamber orchestras on stage, proceeds, Leporello distracts Masetto by dancing with him, while Don Giovanni leads Zerlina offstage to a private room. When Zerlina screams for help, Don Giovanni tries to fool the onlookers by dragging Leporello into the room and threatening to kill him for assaulting Zerlina. But Ottavio produces a pistol, the three guests unmask and declare that they know all. But despite being denounced on all sides, Don Giovanni escapes – for the moment.

Act 2

Scene 1 - 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, you rascal"). 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 and sends Leporello out in the open dressed as Giovanni. From his hiding place Giovanni sings a promise of repentance, expressing a desire to return to her, while Leporello poses as Giovanni and tries to keep from laughing. Elvira is convinced and descends to the street. Leporello, continuing to pose as Giovanni, leads her away to keep her occupied while Giovanni serenades her maid with his mandolin. ("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 and intending to kill him. Giovanni (dressed as Leporello) convinces the posse that he also hates Giovanni, and joins the hunt. After cunningly dispersing Masetto's friends (Giovanni aria: "Metà di voi qua vadano – Half of you go this way"), Giovanni takes Masetto's weapons away, beats him up, and runs off, laughing. Zerlina arrives and consoles the bruised and battered Masetto. ("Vedrai carino – You'll see, dear one").

Scene 2 - 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 dressed as Giovanni, 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 are resolved to punish the traitor, but Leporello removes his cloak to reveal his true identity. He begs everyone's forgiveness and, seeing an opportunity, runs off (Leporello aria: "Ah pietà signori miei – Ah, have mercy, my lords"). Given the circumstances, Ottavio is convinced that Giovanni was the murderer of Donna Anna's father (the deceased Commendatore) and swears vengeance ("Il mio tesoro – My treasure" - though in the Vienna version this was cut).[14] Elvira is still furious at Giovanni for betraying her, but she also feels sorry for him. ("Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata – That ungrateful wretch betrayed me").

Graveyard scene of Act 2 (Prague, probably 1790s), the earliest known set design for the opera

Scene 3 - 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. Leporello makes several attempts to invite the statue to dinner but for fear cannot complete the task (Duet: "Oh, statua gentilissima – Oh most noble statue"). 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.

Scene 4 - 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. ("Non mi dir – Tell me not").

Don Giovanni confronts the stone guest in a painting by Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard, ca 1830–35 (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg)

Scene 5 - 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 she begs him to change his life. Giovanni taunts her and then turns away, 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, stammering 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. With the supernatural D-minor music from the overture made even more spine-tingling by the bass voice ("Don Giovanni! a cenar teco m'invitasti – Don Giovanni! You invited me to dine with you"), the Commendatore offers a last chance to repent, but Giovanni adamantly refuses. The statue sinks into the earth and drags Giovanni down with him. Hellfire, and a chorus of demons, surround 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 hiding under the table, shaken by the supernatural horror he has witnessed. Giovanni is dead. Anna and Ottavio will marry when Anna's year of mourning is over; Elvira will spend the rest of her life in a convent; Zerlina and Masetto will finally go home for dinner; and Leporello will go to the tavern to find a better master.

The concluding ensemble 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, the final ensemble was sometimes omitted by conductors who claimed that the opera should end when the title character dies. However, this approach has not survived, and today's conductors almost always include the finale in its entirety. The return to D major and the innocent simplicity of the last few bars perfectly conclude this masterpiece.

Recordings

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

Cultural influence

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote a long essay in his book Enten – Eller in which he argues, quoting Charles Gounod, that Mozart's Don Giovanni is “a work without blemish, of uninterrupted perfection.[15] E.T.A. Hoffmann also wrote a short story derived from the opera, "Don Juan," in which the narrator meets Donna Anna and describes Don Juan as an aesthetic hero rebelling against God and society. 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). Gustave Flaubert called Don Giovanni, along with Hamlet and the sea, "the three finest things God ever made."[16]

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). Chopin wrote Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" (the duet between Don Giovanni and Zerlina) for piano and orchestra. Beethoven and Danzi also wrote variations on the same theme. And Beethoven, in his Diabelli Variations, cites 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 (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,[17] and said that when looking at the manuscript, he was "in the presence of divinity".[18] 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. 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.[19]

In addition to instrumental works, allusions to Don Giovanni also appear in a number of operas: Nicklausse of Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann sings a snatch of Leporello's "Notte e giorno," and Rossini alludes to the Commendatore's music for Selim's entrance in Il turco in Italia.

Jean Françaix's Mozart new-look, Petite fantaisie pour contrebasse et instruments à vent sur la Sérénade de "Don Giovanni" (Mozart New-Look: Little Fantasy for Double Bass and Wind Instruments on the Serenade from "Don Giovanni"), written in 1981, is based on the aria "Deh, vieni alla finestra".

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The theatre is referred to as the Teatro di Praga in the libretto for the 1787 premiere (Deutsch 1965, 302–303); for the current name of the theatre see "The Estates Theatre" at the Prague National Theatre website.
  2. ^ "Opera Statistics". Operabase. http://operabase.com/top.cgi?lang=en#opera. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Deutsch 1965, 303
  4. ^ Deutsch 1965, 304
  5. ^ OperaGlass at Opera.Stanford.Edu
  6. ^ Buch, David Joseph (2008). Magic flutes & enchanted forests: the supernatural in eighteenth-century musical theater. University of Chicago Press. p. 332. http://books.google.com/books?id=djnqB_MUJ6kC&pg=PA332. 
  7. ^ Premiere cast from Casaglia (2005)
  8. ^ Deutsch 1965, 313
  9. ^ Benucci was the first Figaro in Le nozze di Figaro'.
  10. ^ Weber, Mozart's sister-in-law, frequently sang in his works.
  11. ^ Cavalieri was the first Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
  12. ^ The role is often sung by baritones
  13. ^ Abert, Spencer, Eisen: W. A. Mozart
  14. ^ 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 rarely performed.
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Flaubert, Gustave. The Letters of Gustave Flaubert. 
  17. ^ Alexander Poznansky, Tchaikovsky: The Quest for the Inner Man, p. 460
  18. ^ Abstract: 19th Century Music, Mark Everist
  19. ^ Louis Charles Elson (1912). University musical encyclopedia. The University society. p. 467. http://books.google.com/books?id=B2gNAAAAIAAJ. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 

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).
  • Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "29 Ottobre 1787". Almanacco Amadeus, 2005. Accessed 24 March 2011 (Italian).
  • Deutsch, Otto Erich (1965), Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804702331.
  • 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
  • McClatchy, J.D. (2010). Seven Mozart Librettos. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0 393 06609 6. 
  • 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, Julian G. (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


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