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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Don Juan

Don Giovanni, Furtwängler, Salzburg 1954 (English subtitles)

Don Giovanni - Cesare Siepi
Leporello - Otto Edelmann
Donna Anna - Elisabeth Grümmer
Don Ottavio - Anton Dermota
Donna Elvira - Lisa della Casa
Zerlina - Erna Berger
Masetto - Walter Berry
Il commendatore - Dezső Ernster

Conductor -  Wilhelm Furtwängler

Don Giovanni is the greatest opera ever composed. Words to this effect, at least, were written by three men with peculiarly sound equipment to pass judgment - Gioacchino Rossini, Charles Gounod, and Richard Wagner. Beethoven preferred The Magic Flute, for he thought the subject of the Don too immoral.

The intentions of author and composer were, at least on the surface, completely moral; for Don Giovanni was originally only the subtitle, the real title being Il dissoluto punito, or The Rake Punished. Be that as it may, Mozart and Da Ponte both classed the work as a dramma giocoso, that is, a "jolly play;" and two famous anecdotes concerning the preparation of the opera would seem to indicate that it was undertaken in a spirit of levity rather than with the ponderous metaphysical significance in mind that Teutonic critics have pretended to find.

The first of the anecdotes is told in the entertaining memoirs of the librettist Da Ponte (no mean rake himself). Describing the few weeks it took him to turn out this libretto, along with two others, he wrote:

"I sat down at my writing table and stayed there for twelve hours on end, with a little bottle of Tokay on my right band, an inkstand in the middle, and a box of Seville tobacco on the left. A beautiful maiden of sixteen was living in my house with her mother, who looked after the household. (I should have wished to love her only as a daughter—but—) She came into my room whenever I rang the bell, which in truth was fairly often, and particularly when my inspiration seemed to cool. She brought me now a biscuit, now a cup of coffee, or again nothing but her own lovely face, always gay, always smiling, and made precisely to inspire poetic fancy and brilliant ideas.”

The other anecdote concerns the composer's behavior at one of the rehearsals. Mozart was dissatisfied with the scream given by Zerlina when, at the ball, the Don is supposed to be making improper advances to her. He thereupon undertook to make the improper advances himself by slipping behind her and, at the precisely right moment, administering a sharp pinch. He expressed himself as quite satisfied with the more realistic scream.


Opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with libretto in Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte based partially on The Stone Guest, an

opera by Giuseppe Gazzaniga with libretto by
Giovanni Bertati. There were also a number of
other earlier plays about Don Giovanni.


Don Giovanni, a young nobleman
Leporello, his servant

The Commendatore Seville
Donna Anna, his daughter
Don Ottavio, her fiance

Donna Elvira, a lady of Burgos

Zerlina, a country girl
Masetto, her fianci


Time: 17th century

Place: in and about Seville

First performance at Prague,October 29, 1787


Don Giovanni: Baritone. A young nobleman much given to seduction. Alter he has seduced Donna Anna and is chased from the house by her father, he kills him. His servant Leporello has to help him in his ventures. Elvira, having been seduced and then deserted by Giovanni, comes searching for him. His next attempted seduction is the young about-to-be-married Zerlina, but she is saved by Elvira. Giovanni is unmasked as the killer by Anna and her friends. Escaping them, he comes across her father's statue in the graveyard and, when the statue speaks to him, he invites "it' to dinner. At their banquet he shakes hands with the Commendatore and is dragged into the flames of hell. Arias: Fin ch'han dal vino ('Now that the wine'一known as the Champagne Aria); Deh vieni alla flnestra ('Come to the window'); duet (with Zerlina): 'Lit ci darem la mano ('There you will give me your hand'). The Don is reaily a somewhat cruel man, not caring who gets hurt along the way as long as his own louche desires are satisfied. He thinks nothing of beating his servant, Leporello, to make him help in his ventures and is quite happy to have poor innocent Masetto beaten up in the course of trying to seduce his fiancee, Zerilna. 

Dmitri Hvorostovsky - Fin ch'han dal vino (Japan 2005)

Leporello: Bass. Don Giovanni's manservant. He is obliged to help his master in his amorous adventures, keeping watch for him when he seduces ladies. Tries to convince Donna Elvira of Giovanni's terrible nature by reciting a list of his masters seductions including, in Spain, 1,003 conquests. Forced to change clothes with his master to help assist in yet another seduction, he is mistaken for the Don by Donna Anna and her fellow-conspirators, who are determined to reveal Giovanni as a murderer. He has to run for his life. Terrified when it speaks to them in the graveyard, he fails to prevent Giovanni inviting the Commendatore's statue to dinner. After Giovanni's demise, Leporello departs in search of a new master. Aria: Madamina, il catalogo ё questo ('My dear lady, here is a list'). Created (1787) by Felice Ponziani. 

Don Giovanni ; "Madamina, il catalogo è questo"

The Commendatore Seville: Bass. Father of Donna Anna. Killed by Don Giovanni after the latter has seduced his daughter. His graveyard statue comes to life and accepts an invitation to dine with Giovanni. At the banquet he drags the unrepentant Don into the flames of hell. Created (1787) by Giuseppe Lolli.

DON GIOVANNI -Commendatore

Donna Anna: Soprano. Daughter of the Commendatore, she is betrothed to Don Ottavio. Her father is killed by her seducer, Don Giovanni, and she determines to avenge him. She and Ottavio plot with Donna Elvira, whom the Don has won and then deserted, to prove he is the murderer and they come to a banquet costumed and
masked. They accuse Giovanni of murder, but he escapes. He is later damned to hell by her fathers statue. She asks Ottavio to wait for her until she has got over her father's death. Arias: Or sai chi l'onore…(‘Now you know who tried to steal my honour'); Non mi dir ((Do not tell me'). Created(1787) by Teresa Saporiti.

Aria "Or sai chi l'onore" sung by Anna Tomowa-Sintow 
Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Herbert Von Karajan

Don Ottavio: Tenor. Fiance of Donna Anna. A rather weak character, he nevertheless loves Anna and helps her to uncover the murderer of her father, the libertine Don Giovanni. Arias: Dalla sua pace... ('Uроn her peace of mind’). Created (1787) by Antonio Baglioni.

GABRIELLA COSTA sings Pamina's aria "Ach ich fuehl's" from Mozart's "The magic flute"

Donna Elvira: Soprano. Donna Elvira, a lady from Burgos, who has been seduced by Don Giovanni and then deserted by him. She comes to Seville to find him, despite his terrible reputation which is catalogued by his manservant Leporello. She saves the young and newly married Zerlina from his dutches and helps Donna Anna and Ottavio unmask him as a murderer. Aria; Mi tradi ('I was betrayed'). Created (1787) by Catarina Micelli.

Don Giovanni ; "Dalla sua pace"

Zerlina: Soprano. A country girl, betrothed to Masetto whom she loves. Flattered by Don Giovanni's amorous attentions, she becomes frightened when he makes it clear he wishes to seduce her. She screams for help and Elvira comes to her aid. (There is a story that Mozart, dissatisfied with the Singer's off-stage scream at the first rehearsal hid in the wings and pinched her leg at the appropriate moment, resulting in a convincing shriek!) She begs Masetto's forgiveness and comforts him after Giovanni has beaten him. Arias: Batti, batti, 0 bel Masetto ('Beat me, beat me, handsome Masetto'); Vedrai carino ('You will see, dear little one'); duet (with Giovanni): La ci darem la mano ('Tere you give me your hand'). Created (1787) by Teresa Bondoni.

MasettoBass. Betrothed to Zerlina who, before their wedding day, is tempted by Don Giovanni. Masetto is beaten up by Giovanni and comforted by the contrite Zerlina. Aria: Ho capito, signor, si! ('I understood, yes sir!'). Created (1787) by Giuseppe Lolli .

Don Giovanni. Ho capito, signor sì. Ferruccio Furlanetto




The overture (said to have been orchestrated the night before the premiere) b^ins solemnly with the music that accompanies the fateful appearance of the stone guest in the last scene of the opera. These thirty measures are in a minor key; but once they are over, the overture breaks into a sunny major and chatters along as briskly as the overture to any dramma giocoso should. It leads directly, without a break, into the opening scene.


Scene 1 Leporello, Don Giovanni's low-comedy servant, is waiting for his master outside the home of a Sevillian beauty named Donna Anna, as Giovanni is courting her. Leporello complains comically about his job, but pretty soon out comes the Don followed by a maddened Donna Anna. Apparently he had disguised himself as Anna's fiance, Don Ottavio. Donna Anna runs for help, and her father, the Commendatore of Seville, comes out to challenge Giovanni to fight. The Don has no wish to take advantage of his youthfulness, but he is forced to draw his sword, and quickly disposes of the old gentleman. The Don and his servant run off and Donna Anna returns with Don Ottavio. Over the body of the Commandant the two solemnly swear vengeance.

Scene 2 On a lonely road near Seville the Don runs across an old flame named Donna Elvira, whom he had deserted. He manages to escape from this lady's upbraidings but leaves behind his servant, Leporello, to explain matters. It is a very weird sort of comfort this fellow has to offer: he lists his master's conquests in many lands—something over two thousand in number. This is the famous aria known as Il catalogo - "The Catalogue.”

Scene 3 In the next scene the Don embarks on what turns out to be the last of his would-be conquests. He and Leporello run across a party of villagers celebrating the engagement of pretty young Zerlina to a stout fellow named Masetto. The Don is smitten with the pretty girl and invites her to his castle in a very charming duet (La ci darem la mano). But he is interrupted by the entrance of Donna Elvira, who takes Zerlina temporarily under her wing, as well as Donna Anna and Don Ottavio. These last two know Don Giovanni only slightly and do not yet suspect that he is the murderer of Donna Annan's father. But his voice sounds strangely familiar to Anna, and she tells Ottavio that this may be the man they are looking for. He then sings the lovely aria (Dalla sua pace) in which Ottavio swears to devote himself to achieving peace of mind for his beloved Anna. To close the scene (though this ending is sometimes performed as a separate scene by itself), Leporello first repeats bis complaints about his service, threatening to leave his master, but cheers up when the Don congratulates him on the report of progress he gives. 

It seems that Lepordlo has managed to placate the jealous Masetto, to get most of the peasants eating and drinking, and even to get rid of Donna Elvira, who had been warning her new protege, Zerlina, against the Don. The Don is so much pleased that he breaks into one of the bubbliest of all arias—the socalled Champagne Aria—in which he looks forward to more conquests at his party that evening.

Scene 4 Outside the Don's palace Zerlina and her fiance are having a quarrel about the Don's attentions, but it ends with a most charming apology, Zerlina’s little aria Batti, batti. This does not prevent the villain, Giovanni, from trying to pursue the girl, but temporarily, at least, Masetto stops him. Soon we hear the strains of the famous Minuet from inside the palace. Leporello, standing on the balcony, sees some masked figures approaching, and he hospitably invites them to the party. But before they go in, they sing a solemn and exceptionally beautiful trio (Protegga, il giusto cielo). For these three maskers are Don Ottavio and the Ladies Anna and Elvira, calling on heaven to aid them in bringing Don Giovanni to justice.


Scene 5 At the party itself things are going along joyously, with three sets of dancers dancing to three different orchestras playing simultaneously in three different rhythms! While Leporello distracts Masetto by insisting on having him as partner in the dance, Don Giovanni manages to get Zerlina off into an inside room. She screams for help, runs out, and suddenly the Don is threatened by all his enemies at once. Yet the Don is no coward. He draws his sword, and in the exciting finale he makes good his escape.

Portrait of Francisco D'Andrade in the title role by Max Slevogt, 1912


Scene 1 In the opening scene of Act II, the Don is up to bis old tricks. He persuades the reluctant Leporello to change cloaks and hats with him so that he may woo Donna Elvira’s maid. But it is Elvira herself who appears on the balcony to be serenaded; and when she comes down, it is Leporello who, in his master's clothes, makes love to her and takes her off. Now, wearing his servants clothes, the Don sings his serenade, Dehl vieni alla finestra, as he accompanies himself on the mandolin. However, he is interrupted by Masetto and a group of his friends searching for the Don to beat him up. In the dark they take the disguised man for Leporello, and the Don manages to send off all of Masetto's helpers on a wild-goose chase, while he beats up the poor fellow himself. The scene closes with Zerlina finding her aching swain on the ground, and she sings him the sweet and comforting aria Vedrai carino. Her loving heart, she says, will cure his wounds.

Scene 2 Into the garden where the Commendatore lived stray Leporello and Donna Elvira, she still thinking him to be Giovanni. Donna Anna and Don Ottavio also stray into that garden, as do Zerlina and Masetto. Leporello, to save himself from all his master's enemies, gives up his disguise and manages to make bis escape. Now Ottavio feels certain that it must have been the Don who murdered the Commendatore (though bis reasoning is none too clear), and he resolves to consult the local police. First, he delivers himself of one of the finest—and most difficult—tenor arias ever written, Il mio tesoro.

(A low-comedy scene, almost always omitted in modern productions, follows, in which Zerlina catches up with Lepo- rello, drags him around the stage, ties him up in a chair, and even threatens him with a razor. But again Leporello manages an escape. This is followed by Donna Elvira's fine aria Mi tradi quel alma ingrata - “All my love on him I lavished,” which does get sung in modem productions, usually before a drop curtain.)

Scene 3 At two o'clock in the morning, Don Giovanni and Leporello meet in a churchyard before an equestrian statue of the Commendatore. There is some banter about the possibility of the Don's having made love to his servants wife, when the two are interrupted by a ghostly voice sayings, "Before dawn your joking will end." It is the statue speaking and Lepordlo, trembling, reads the inscription on its base: "Here I await vengeance on the impious man who killed me." Braving it out, Don Giovanni instructs his servant to invite the statue to dinner. Twice the stone figure accepts, once by nodding its head and once by uttering the word Si—"Ees." Assuming indifference, the Don merely remarks that it is all very bizarre.

Scene 4 is a very short one. Don Ottavio tries to persuade Donna Anna that, as Giovanni vwill soon be brought to justice, she should agree to marry him. Her reply is the aria Non mi dir. With great tenderness she tells him that she does love him but that while her sorrow for her father is still so fresh she cannot think of marriage.

Don Giovanni confronts the stone guest in a painting by Fragonard

Scene 5 The last, frightening scene opens in a quite jolly way. The Don is feasting by himself and, amid jests with Leporello, recognizes thе various tunes bis private dinner orchestra plays for him. One of them is the Non рiu andrai, from The Marriage of Figaro. This tune was high on Prague's hit parade for 1787.

Donna Elvira brings in the first serious note when she begs Giovanni to change his way of life, but she is gaily disregarded. Suddenly there is a solemn knock at the door. Donna Elvira goes to the door and then rushes back badly frightened. Despite his master's order Leporello refuses to open it; and when the Don does so himself, he finds the stone statue standing come to dinner. The statue grasps the band of Don Giovanni; and when the Don refuses to repent his way of  life, the Don and all bis palace disappear in supernatural flames.

But the opera closes on a sweeter note. The Don is dead and, presumably, in hell; but all the other characters have learned a lesson from him, and they tell us of their future plans in a very tuneful finale. Anna promises to marry Ot-

tavio at the end of the year; the nuptials of Zerlina and Masetto are to take place much earlier; Elvira will enter a convent; and as for Leporello—he will seek a better master. Solemn Teutonic opera intendants, still assuming that Don Giovanni is a profoundly serious philosophical treatise, often omit the finale as too light to be appropriate. Rather an arrogant criticism of the very stage-wise Mozart!

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