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Don Giovanni

Mozart [K527]


The one where the Don has already scored 1965 before the opera begins and makes four further attempts in the course of it before being consigned to hell. CAST

Don Giovanni, a Spanish nobleman Leporello, his servant The Commendatore, a high official Donna Anna, his daughter Don Ottavio, her fianc Donna Elvira, aristo from Burgos Masetto, country fellow, a thickie Zerlina, his fiance
2 acts: running time 2 hrs 30 mins

Baritone Baritone Bass Soprano Tenor Soprano Baritone Soprano

STORY Act I Sc 1 Outside Donna Annas house. Night

We are somewhere near Seville sometime in the seventeenth century and Leporello is doing sentry duty outside a house within which his master is up to no good. He grumbles. Giovanni exits from the house with Donna Anna hanging on to him. She screams very loud. This wakes her Dad the Commendatore who stumbles on and challenges Giovanni to a duel. Anna exits to phone the police. Giovanni is not keen to slay an OAP but does so. Exits. Anna returns with Don Ottavio. Shock horror. She swears vengeance etc.

Act I Sc 2 A street in Seville. Dawn

Leporello asks Giovanni can he speak frankly. Go ahead says Giovanni. You are living a horrible life says Leporello. Belt up says Giovanni I smell woman. They hide: enter Donna Elvira. Wow! says Giovanni a good looker. Hey ho sings Elvira I am sad: I have been deserted by my lover. Poor sweet says Giovanni let me help. He steps out. Madam he says oh shit says Leporello its Elvira. Giovanni! you stinking double-crossing stoat says Elvira. Cool it cool it says Giovanni. You horrible man you says Elvira you got me into bed promising marriage then stood me up. Leporello kindly tell the lady the facts of life says Giovanni. Exits. Leporello reads a catalogue of Giovannis score in the EU sex league: Italy 640, Germany 231, France 100, Turkey 91, Spain 1,003. He adds that Giovanni is also sexually democratic and will ravish any class of woman from aristos to beggars any type anywhere any time. Leporello exits. Ill get that Giovanni for what he done to me by God I will says Elvira.


Don Giovanni

Act I Sc 3 In the countryside. Morning

A gang of peasants enter going on about the wedding of Masetto to Zerlinawho gives us a lecturette recommending marriage for the leisurely enjoyment of safe sex. Enter Giovanni and Leporello. Giovanni fancies Zerlina. He tells Leporello to cart off the whole gang to his country house. Im not going says Masetto. You bloody well are going says Giovanni: Zerlina is safe with a titled gent like me. Ho ho says Masetto: watch it Masetto says Giovanni I am a person of some influence around here. OK OK says Masetto I hear what you say Ill go. Giovanni chats up Zerlina: he does a stunning seduction act proposes marriage and says come and see my etchings my villa is quite close. Zerlina is quite overcome and agrees to view the etchings. Elvira bursts in. Dont believe that bastard she cries hes a double-crossing swine. Poor lady she is potty about me and has quite lost her marbles says Giovanni to Zerlina. Dont believe a word of it cries Elvira: come with me: Elvira and Zerlina exit. Enter Anna and Ottavio (my God what next thinks Giovanni). I want your help says Anna. Giovanni (much relieved) replies Yes maam Ill do anything go anywhere to be of service to you. Enter Elvira: Watch it you folks says she this Giovanni is a snake in the grass, a crook, a liar, a seducer. The poor lady is in an advanced state of mental illness says Giovanni. She looks pretty sane to us say Otto and Anna. Elvira shouts youre as guilty as hell, youre a criminal, a liar, etc. Exits. Which one tells truth? ponder Otto and Anna. If I can help let me know says Giovanni just now I have to see a man about a dog. Exits. Otto says Anna O my God Otto Ive got it Thats him! Who? asks Otto. Him! she says him what killed my Dad him what tried to rape me. Tried? asks Otto. No measure of success I trust? Listen you dumbbell says Anna this is what happened (she gives him a detailed account: the surprise awakening: a man in her bed: thought it was Otto [Well! well! Ed.]: it wasnt Otto: her struggles: her escape: the murder etc.). So we must get him get him! she says. Revenge is a matter of prime importance to me. Exits. O Lord says Otto one simply cant relax when shes in a state like that. We will only get some peace when she calms down. Exits. Leporello enters. I cant stick this job much longer the boss is just impossible says he. Giovanni enters: Hows it going? he asks. Badly says Leporello. I took that lot home (Bravo! says Giovanni) I managed to get them to stay (Bravo!) I told Masetto a lot of lies (Bravo!) I got the whole lot pissed as newts and who dropped in? Elvira? asks Giovanni. Right says Leporello and she rubbished you something horrible. So I pushed her out and locked the door (Bravo! Bravo!). OK says Giovanni now theyre half smashed lets throw a big party tonight with dancing and all and just see if I cant make a few scores actually I have the figure of ten in mind.

Act I Sc 4 The garden of Giovannis house

Masetto is dead jealous. You little tramp says he. He never touched me says Zerlina go on hit me do what you like to me you still turn me on whatever you do. Wheedle wheedle I must be potty to weaken says Masetto (but he does). Giovanni is heard outside. We must hide says Zerlina. Why? says Masetto. Ahaaa you dont want me to see you have made your number with Giovanni. Not true you bastard says she. Both hide. Giovanni enters plus servants peasants etc. OK folks he says were going to have a great time! Its party time! Get moving! All exit.


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Giovanni spots Zerlina and resumes his loverly stuff. Masetto jumps out. Hello my lad says Giovanni Zerlina is extremely anxious to rejoin you. Here she is old chap and lets all have a jolly good time at the party. (Masetto goes quietly but only just.) Enter Elvira Otto and Anna in masks. Gosh! they say a pretty tricky old job this one. It takes guts to get in there and expose the bastard in his own home. But weve got plenty of guts. Leporello spots the maskers and checks with Giovanni. Hey there! you maskers! he shouts from window. Like to come to a party? Yeah sure thanks a lot says Otto. The boss will have a go at those females too thinks Leporello. God preserve us think they.

Act I Sc 5 A ballroom in Don Giovannis house

The party is going great guns but sticky in patches. Masetto is crazy jealous: Zerlina is fearful. The maskers arrive. Giovanni is the perfect host. Everyone sings hurrah for freedom! [Why? Ed.] The dance restarts. Giovanni tells Leporello to mind Masetto. The maskers are very tense and not enjoying it much. Giovanni carries Zerlina offstage into a bedroom. Leporello follows to warn him that Masetto is brewing up. Zerlina screams. The dancing stops. All hell breaks loose. Giovanni comes on sword drawn dragging Leporello. The dirty skunk it was him that harassed her says Giovanni. But nobody is fooled. The maskers unmask and shout Now weve got you you dirty beast. A timely thunderstorm breaks. Giovanni is cornered. There is suspense while all sing What a horrible man you are etc. Giovanni using Leporello as human shield makes a dash for it and escapes.

Act II Sc 1 A street. Night

Leporello tells Giovanni hes had enough. Im off he says. Dont be a fool says Giovanni and slips him a couple of monkeys. OK Ill stay says Leporello if you promise to leave women alone. You must be mad says Giovanni I cant live without em. (Leporello stays.) Have you seen Elviras maid? asks Giovanni. Whew! a sizzler. Lets swap costumes: the lower orders prefer sex with their own kind. (They swap.) Elvira appears at a window and says Oh that terrible Giovanni I just cant wash him out of my hair. Ho ho thinks Giovanni: he shouts up to Elvira I love you still so I do. Im really sorry for what I done. Get off says she I dont believe you. Its true he says Come on down please. You take her on Lep my boy says Giovanni Im off after the maid. Hey! wait a minute! says Leporello. Belt up and get on with it says Giovanni. Exits. Elvira enters. Leporello continues to court her as if he were Giovanni. Will you love me forever? asks Elvira. Sure thing says Leporello. Giovanni yells Murder! murder! just offstage. Elvira and Leporello run for it. Enter Giovanni. He serenades the maids window. She opens but is interrupted by the arrival of a noisy gang led by Masetto. Wheres that bastard gone? he shouts. I am Giovannis servant says Giovanni Can I be of service? Wheres your horrible master? asks Masetto. Went thataway says Giovanni no maybe thataway suggest one party searches to the right one to the left. You stay here Masetto. The parties go off. Lemme see your cosh says Giovanni (Masetto hands it over). Giovanni hits Masetto on the head butts him kicks him in the groin etc. etc. Exits. Zerlina comes on. Are you sick or something? she asks Masetto. Ive just been nearly beaten to death by that son of a bitch Leporello says Masetto. Come come poor lovey says Zerlina come up to my place and well do something to restore your health and spirits.

Don Giovanni

Act II Sc 2 A courtyard in Donna Annas house. Night

Enter Leporello (still as Giovanni) and Elvira. Leporello tries to find a door to make an escape. Enter Anna and Otto both still girning on about love revenge etc. Leporello finds a door: Zerlina and Masetto come in through it. Here he is, shouts Masetto, the dirty skunk. Leave him alone! says Elvira hes my man. Its all a mistake folks says Leporello I am not Don Giovanni at all: I am his servant Leporello. Leporello? they echo. Gosh. All are bouleversed. Anna exits [no reason given: Ed.]. So it was you who beat up Masetto says Zerlina. So it was you who fooled me says Elvira. Sorry folks I couldnt help myself I was only obeying orders says Leporello. He makes a dash for the door. Exits. Things are now quiet. Otto says its now quite certain that it was Giovanni who murdered the Commendatore. We must get him. Meanwhile Im off to sing another tenor aria to Anna.

Act II Sc 3 A graveyard. Equestrian statue of Commendatore prominent. Night

Giovanni scales the wall. Cripes! That was a close one! he says. He hears Leporello outside. Come in shouts Giovanni. Leporello scales the wall. Cripes! he says that was a close one! I was nearly killed owing to you. Listen to me says Giovanni I met a girl in the street who thought I was you and said Hey there old Leporello but when I start a little business with her she screams and raises the alarm so I escape here. How shocking says Leporello she could have been my wife. And what a laugh if she had been says Giovanni. Suddenly a spooky voice echoes out: You will laugh no more, it says, after dawn. Whassat? says Giovanni. The voice booms out again. Show some respect for the dead it says. Mama mia says Don Giovanni what goes? He reads the inscription on the Commendatores plinth. Vengeance it says. Tell the old boy to come to dinner tonight says Giovanni to Leporello. Not bloody likely says Leporello Im shit scared. Do it! says Giovanni. Leporello addresses the statue: the statue turns its eyes and nods its head. So you will dine with me? asks Giovanni. Yes says statue. Bloody queer goings-on says Leporello. Wed better get back home to get the dinner on says Giovanni.

Act II Sc 4 A room in Donna Annas house

Otto and Anna going on about revenge as usual. Otto says Why not marry me it would cheer you up. At a time like this? says Anna you must be out of your mind. Certainly not yet. Ah well says Otto I only asked.

Act II Sc 5 A room in Don Giovannis house

Giovanni is about to eat dinner. His house musicians play pops from contemporary ops. Giovanni particularly pleased by number composed by himself. He eats (rather disgustingly) a pheasant leg. Leporello scrounges food. Elvira rushes in: Giovanni she says Im not asking for anything but that you change your immoral ways. Live decently. Giovanni sticks up two fingers. Wine women and women he cries thats my life. Elvira exits. She screams.

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Go and see what hit her says Giovanni to Leporello. Leporello looks out of the door. He screams. He chunters with fear stone man in white walking tatatata he says. Youre off your rocker says Giovanni. A knock. Go and see who it is Leporello says Giovanni. Not likely says Leporello. He dives under the table. The Commendatore stalks in. You asked me to dinner and here I am says he. Incredible! says Giovanni: Leporello set another cover. I dont want food says the Commendatore I have a message. Will you dine with me? Tell him to forget it says Leporello. Im not chicken says Giovanni I accept your invitation. Shake on it says the Commendatore. (They shake.) Zut! says Giovanni his hand is dead cold. Repent! says the Commendatore. Shant says Giovanni. Repent! says the Commendatore. No! says Giovanni. Your last chance to repent says the Commendatore. No! shouts Giovanni. Times up! says the Commendatore (he fades away). Flames spring up also demons devils demoniac spirits appear singing. My God! My God! says Giovanni all the tortures of hell are closing in on me. And serve you jolly well right too sing the demons etc. Going going Ahhhh! shouts Giovanni as he drops into the pit. Ah! echoes Leporello as he sees his master go down for good.

Anna, Otto, Elvira, Zerlina, Masetto ask Leporello wheres he gone? To hell says Leporello. You see it went this way: this stone man came into the dining room seized Giovannis hand and chucked him into hell. So thats it. Anna will you marry me asks Otto (yet again). No says she. Ill take a raincheck for one year. [And whats the betting after that? Ed.] Im going to get me to a nunnery says Elvira. Domestic bliss for us say Masetto and Zerlina. Off to the JobCentre for me says Leporello. All of them agree he was a bad man and he got his deserts.




The overture0 in its first few bars gives us fair warning that this opera is not going to be all giocosa (Mozarts word), that is not all froth and frolic. Even after the dark introduction the fast bit is still full of menace. A long overture.

Act I Sc 1

8: Non sperar, se non moccidi** 12: Ma qual mai soffre** 15: Fuggi, crudele, fuggi!**
After Leporellos opening whinge we go bang snap into action8 in three stages: 1. Attempted rape: Donna Anna struggles with Giovanni: she leads the struggle duet in frightened breathless phrases, Giovanni follows and echoes, Leporello growls away below. 2. Confrontation, duel and murder. The Commendatore comes on shouting at Giovanni: the duel is short sharp and orchestral: it ends on a fraught long-held chord is he dead? 3. Stunned reaction by Giovanni and Leporello. The Commendatore gasps out yes, he is pretty well dead. All of this in three and a half minutes.


Don Giovanni

Mozarts accompanied recitatifs reach their zenith in this opera. Here we have the whole force of Donna Annas shocked discovery of her dead father carried by an accompagnato12 biting strings for horror, woodwind chords for grief. This speaks more directly than could an aria, and secco would, of course, be puny. Then we dive into the duet15 Donna Anna/Ottavio, she again leading strongly and decisively, swearing to avenge her fathers death and he limping along wimpishly below and behind her.

Act I Sc 2

20: Ah, chi me dice mai** 26: Madamma, il catalogo***

Donna Elvira is looking for the man who abandoned her: a bold short aria20 with strong outlines and lots of unexpected sforzandos. Giovanni is sorry for her (but wait). The Catalogue aria.26 Leporello reels off Giovannis score in each country (although he notches up ninety-one in Turkey, sadly he did not perform in England). A delicious allegro: Leporello unwinds the list with a rather ghastly relish with the whinnying woodwind mocking poor Elvira. Followed by a much less attractive andante, still mocking but without the bounce and charm of the first part.

Act I Sc 3

35: 38: 43: 45: 48: 51: 54: 60:

Ho capito* L ci darem la mano*** Ah! fuggi il traditor!* Non ti fidar*** Don Ottavto, son morta*** Or sai chi lonore*** Dalla sua pace*** Finchhan dal vino**

Masetto, suspicious (with good reason), warns Zerlina against the upper classes, reluctantly he agrees to leave her with the Don. Rather a square little number35with an angry beat. Typical Masetto music: we will hear more like it. Giovanni seduces Zerlina rather quickly (three minutes 15 seconds). He wins her with a tune38 that was later to win over the whole musical world. Simple, charming and memorable, it has been used for variations, musical competitions, translated into solos for piano, oboe, bassoon, etc. etc. In its proper form and place its freshness never stales. Look out for the doubling of the melody the second time it comes round, first by the flute then the bassoon. Good advice from Elvira: this scrap of cavatina43 packs a punch that would have deterred any girl of good sense. Elviras music is again decisive, firm and with big intervals and strong accents. There are three things going on in this quartet:45 (1) Elvira is determined to expose Giovanni as a double-crossing con man, (2) Giovanni explains that Elvira is out of her mind, (3) Anna and Ottavio are puzzled as to which story is true. The quartet starts with a firm sane statement from Elvira (Hes a beast) followed by a wondering puzzled response from Anna and Ottavio

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(What a fine woman, shes clearly upset), a response which will crop up again later as they begin to get really fazed. Then things speed up as Giovanni comes in saying forcibly and pretty convincingly that shes potty. Even faster when Elvira rebuffs: now as both he and she get quicker and quicker, Anna and Ottavio get slower and more thoughtful (Mad? She doesnt look so mad), Elvira has quite hysterical little outbursts, patter-runs between breaths. The whole edifice swings into the minor back to the major and on to the finish with Giovanni and Elvira shouting at each other in rapid fire whilst Anna and Ottavio linger over their doubts, which are now becoming very considerable. The apex of Mozarts accompagnatos48 the biggest and best in the business. Down in Donna Annas mind something stirs. Hey! she shouts, Good Lord! I know who killed my father! It was him! Huge dramatic chords. Then she recounts her story, much in the style of a witness giving evidence in a police court, but more agitato. Ottavio acts as her feed like a professional stooge. The accompaniment thins out to let her get things off her chest. Lots of words few notes. Then Anna sails majestically into her proud and glorious aria.51 Long-breathed with a memorable melody, lots of high notes (fourteen high As three of them held for seven beats). Ottavios serene reaction54 to Annas stormy rampage. A honey-sweet tune, with its own miniclimax and cadentials (I want to be happy But I cant be happy Till I make you happy too). The jolly Giovanni.60 Hes just attempted to rape a woman, killed a man, been abused by an old mistress, tried to seduce a peasant girl and to con two friends. Now he wants a really good party with lots of wine, women and song and the prospect of having sex with at least ten of his female guests. A short, noisy and coarse aria with plenty of gusto. Always gets a huge round from the house.

Act I Sc 4

63: 69: 71: 72: 73:

Batti, batti, o bel Masetto*** Zerlinetta mia garbata** Btsogna aver coraggio* Signor, guardate*** Protegga il giusto cielo***

Zerlinas music has simplicity mixed with knowing charm and here she makes her mockinnocent appeal to Masetto to hit her.63 (It might have changed the course of the opera if he had and hard.) A lovely sweet tune with an exceedingly long solo cello weaving around it. Note especially how the woodwind take over the tune after Zerlina has sung it once and she then plays second fiddle, well second something, to them. The wonderful finale, Mozarts most elaborate but not his longest, a music drama in itself. It moves through six stages: 1. Come to the party. Masetto hears Giovanni coming and there is a nervous whispered duet as he persuades Zerlina to hide. Giovanni strides in with a flock of servants and peasants and barks out instructions for the ball: the servants and peasants respond in the dullest twenty bars in the opera, grovel a bit and exit. Giovanni catches sight of Zerlina and immediately the score is alight.69 Sweet loverly phrases until Masetto jumps out: Giovanni softens him up, we hear a snatch of dance music in the distance and they all three decide to get in there and have a good time (a surprise: we expected Masetto to clock him one).

Don Giovanni

2. And you come to the party too. The trio of antis in masks stand outside Giovannis house screwing up their courage to go to the ball71 [and who told them it was on? Ed.]. They are serious, even gloomy, in a minor key and as usual Anna takes the lead with a striking vocal line of her own. The other two are pretty well back-ups. Suddenly magic!72 The key changes, the tune changes and we hear a distant minuet and to its strains Leporello issues his invitation. Giovanni backs him up: our trio reply in close harmony (still minuetting), a few more courtesies and the episode is over. But more magic.73 A short prayer put up by our trio, mainly in the interests of Anna (Vengeance, please God, and keep us safe too), gloriously scored for wind quintet and voices and brushed with that special brand of gold dust that Mozart reserved for wind ensembles.

Act I Sc 5

75: 80: 81: 82:

Riposate, vezzose ragazze* Ricominciate il suono!*** Lempto crede con tal frode** Trema, trema, o scellerato!**

3. Welcome to liberty hall. We are into the bustle and bash of the party itself.75 Rushing violins no dance rhythm yet. Hostly Giovanni chats up guests but its clear Masetto is going to be a problem. All pretty well declaimed against orchestral jollity. A fanfare! The maskers have arrived: greeting and a lot of shouting about liberty, formal bang bang tonic-dominant stuff. 4. Not so strictly ballroom. A stately minuet. Giovanni and Leporello get everyone dancing.80 Masetto still a problem. Look after that man says Giovanni. A second orchestra (well, violins and double-basses) strikes up and thickens the minuet. Comments in character from several guests. Masetto restive. Giovanni drags Zerlina offstage. Now we have a third orchestra confusing things but in a very decorous manner. Zerlina screams offstage! All orchestras, all minuetting stop dead. Bedlam. 5. Explanations, explanations. A lot of shouting, a lot of unison orchestra and all. Shock. Horror. Giovanni comes on dragging Leporello. Noisy declamation. He fools no one. The maskers unmask in a stern trio.81 They enter in canon: Giovanni reacts boldly, but hes had it. 6. In a single bound Giovanni faces the mob baying for his blood.82 They bay fortissimo and there is thunder and lightning too, everything is very loud. But Giovanni does not lose courage. He slips away, jumps out of a window, into the orchestra pit, or whatever the producer has arranged for him, usually during the last eight bars of orchestral wind-up.

Act II Sc 1

3: 9: 12: 17:

Ah taci, ingiusto core!*** Deh vieni alla finestra*** Met di voi* Vedrai, carino**

Elvira comes to the window: Giovanni and Leporello below: she sails into a limpid, calm aria:3 begins by talking to her heart, telling it not to carry on so, Giovanni is a horror: forget him. Giovanni and Leporello take the scene aboard in an up-and-down phrase of eight notes:

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Giovanni (unseen) takes over Elviras aria tune and tells her he loves her. She cant believe it but wants to: he persists and she wonders. The eight-noter pops up again and again as one or another reacts or reflects. Elaborate, elegant, full of grace, its impossible to square the mood of this piece with the mindless cruelty of what Giovanni is doing to the wretched Elvira. Giovanni shows no pity, neither does Mozart. Giovannis serenade.9 Vocal line as smooth as silk: mandolin accompaniment spicy and pert: short: quite perfect and very famous. They went thataway. Giovanni gives instructions to Masettos gang.12 A runaway piece that never comes to anything much but there is some nice work in the orchestra. And one stomachturning modulation. Zerlina comforts Masetto,17 badly smashed up by Giovanni. A simple vocal line (as always for her) sweet as honey (but not saccharine) and as soothing as Friars Balsam. The sexy, coy coda would surely turn on any Masetto even when half-dead.

Act II Sc 2

21: 22: 24: 25: 26: 29: 31: 37:

Sola, sola in buio loco*** Tergi il ciglio** Ferma, briccone** Perdon, perdono** Mille torbidi pensieri** Ah, piet ! Signori miei!* Il mio tesoro*** Mi tradi

So now for the big stuff barring the act finales, the biggest ensemble in the opera,21 rich, varied and enormous. 1. Elvira fears Giovanni (Leporello of course) will leave her. Leporello searches frantically for the door. A fairly mild start nice tune from Elvira, Leporel-los answering piece mumbles around agreeably enough. 2. A majestic change of key.22 Trumpets and drums. In come Anna and Ottavio. He sings out (Sorry for Anna) in the bravest style ever and Anna replies (Only death will end my frightful grief) in typical Anna-music, strong line, free moving. Now we hear a fugitive figure hunting up and down in the strings and this will hunt with us and haunt us for a long time. Elvira and Leporello give vent to private thoughts. 3. Things get tough for Leporello.24 He is identified as Giovanni, cornered and confronted (a lot of the hunting figure). Elvira pleads for him. Loud harsh negatives from the other four. 4. Scuse me, says Leporello, Im not Giovanni, Im Leporello.25 Magical change of key. Hushed amazement. Leporello! 5. Big brassy fanfare. Final molto allegro.26 I dont know what the hells going on says Leporello. Nor I nor I nor I nor I nor I say the other five very loudly, very chorally, for a very long time with Leporello pattering away below. An agreeable buffa aria29 from Leporello (I couldnt help myself swelp me God yer honour). Most of the interest in the orchestra. Ottavio comforts Anna. A golden melody.31 In the middle bit he will avenge her: now he gets as nearly fierce as the poor old thing can manage: back to the golden start: then a slightly

Don Giovanni

ferocious end-piece. Lots of runs and sustained notes to show that whatever Ottavio couldnt do, he could at least sing. Elvira still has problems. Cant decide whether she loves or hates the dreaded Don. Another magnificent accompagnato followed by a quite stunning aria.37 This number has one of Mozarts alpha-plus tunes, long, simple at first, but later running into all manner of decorative patterns. The short middle bit (she wants him dead) is a bit gloomy but otherwise the tone is remarkably cheerful. Lovely writing for the woodwind, perfectly shaped and a great coda. Brilliant.

Act II Sc 3

42: Dt rider finirai**

Giovanni and Leporello encounter the speaking statue. At first he speaks to them in the middle of their secco recitatif.42 Mozart, master of the uncosy, as always uses three trombones to give gravitas and spookiness to supernatural speech. Then we move into a frightened scampering duet. The two ask him to dinner. He replies with a monosyllabic Yes.

Act II Sc 4

50: Crudele? Ah no, mio bene!* 52: Non mi dir*

Anna refuses Ottavios proposal of marriage.50 Here we have first something between an accompagnato and an introduction to the aria. It uses the tune of the aria but speaks in the broken rhythms of recitatif. Good, but not as good as the great accompagnato that has gone before. Then the long aria itself,52 slow at first (Annas usual downbeat mood), a faster section with more spirit and then the best bit near the end, terrific runs and some of Mozarts inspired cadential writing (that is music that makes you think the end is nigh but it isnt yet).

Act II Sc 5

56: 61: 63: 64: 69: 70: 72: 73: 74:

Gi la mensa* Lultima prova** Che grido questo mai?** Don Gtovanni a cenar*** Da qual tremore** Ah, dov il perfido?* Or che tutti* Io men vado* Questo il fin**

The finale opens nicely enough with five minutes of knockabout comedy56 between servant and master. Musically the most interesting items are the snatches of tunes from current operas. Figaros Non piu andrai (surprise surprise) gets the fullest treatment. Elviras last throw.61 She prostrates herself before Giovanni but keeps her strong vocal line: perhaps it is even more passionate than before. His eplies are brutal in meaning and brutish in sound. Leporello chun-ters on-with his customary running commentary. Elvira screams in fear as she leaves. The emotional temperature has shot up.

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Now comes the hour of reckoning, perhaps Mozarts own finest hour: 1. Why did Elvira scream?63 Giovanni asks Leporello to find out. Leporello screams. Comes back dithering with panic. Agitation in the orchestra too. A stone man: he walks like TA TA TA TA (heavy strokes in unison on the strings). Youre potty says Giovanni. The Commendatore enters. 2. Two tremendous chords.64 The Commendatore speaks. He speaks slowly. His first Don Giovanni has the ring of terror. Giovanni cant believe it: the orchestra feeds our fear: Leporello is in a panic. The Commendatore forges ahead unstoppable favouring semitones but sometimes taking huge octave leaps. Scooping scales in the orchestra. Important things afoot, says the Commendatore. Leporello breaks into triplets. The orchestra starts to hammer under the Commendatore: he asks Giovanni to dine with him. Im not chicken says Giovanni, Ill come. (Now for the first time in the opera we have a frisson of admiration for him.) Youll come? says the Commendatore (huge downward leap twice, rather like his first Don Giovanni). Give me your hand says the Commendatore. Shit! its cold says Giovanni: and now he starts to lose his marbles. Tremendous noise throughout the orchestra. Repent! says the Commendatore. Shant says Giovanni. Basses rush about. Yes. No. Battle of wills. 3. Times up! says the Commendatore.69 Panic for all. Chorus of evil spirits or something starts to hammer too. Flames. Im going into hell shouts Giovanni (hes quite right), some hysterical phrases, then Ah Ah Ah and hes gone. Leporello adds his own Ah! as his master disappears. The post-damnation sextet. (Epilogue.) 1. Leporello tells all. Fairly four-square stuff.70 2. Slower section:72 Ottavio proposes once again (will he never get the message?). Anna postpones. A lovely duet, quite a lot of canon, quite a lot of sing-together. At this point in the opera a blessed patch of blue sky. 3. The other four reel off their career intentions, their vocal lines still very much in character.73 4. Fast, majestic final section.74 They moralize smugly. Sounds rather fugal but isnt really. Big climax for curtain fall.

NOTES Don Giovanni

First night Reception Libretto Source Mozarts fourteenth opera National Theatre, Prague, 29 October 1787 Enthusiastic Da Ponte Contemporary one-acter by Bertati (words) and Gazzaniga (music) but this was only the latest in a succession of Don Giovannis. See below.


Mozart was Pragues golden boy. The city had gone mad over Figaro when the stuffy Viennese had received it in a horribly condescending fashion. It had invited him on a special visit to hear their Figaro and had then commissioned him for a new opera for the next season. Well done Prague, say we. Mozart got da Ponte to do the libretto although he was up to his eyes writing

Don Giovanni

two other librettos (one for Salieri) at the time. He pinched a lot from Bertati (different reports as to how much and surely someone could get their Mus.Doc. by laying the two pieces side by side and telling us exactly) but Bertati was only the top of an iceberg stretching back deep into time, actually to 1630. A Spanish gent, name of Tirso, produced the founding member of the Giovanni family. The story caught the fancy of writers in the same way as did Faust, Electra or Candide. There were dozens of Giovannis, usually with the Stone Guest to polish him off. Famous fellows Molire, Goldoni did it. Unknown fellows did it they all did it, but da Ponte and Mozart did it best. (But this didnt stop Byron, Merime, Balzac and Bernard Shaw from doing it later on. But not yet Harold Pinter.) There were the usual extraordinary precautions over censorship. When he submitted the text da Ponte left out Donna Annas account of her rape (and certainly her calm acceptance of the man in her bed, even though it was Don Ottavio, seems a bit strange even today) and the attempted rape of Zerlina. Also the quite gratuitous shouts of Viva la liberta were apparently popped in to please the Emperor who was fond of the idea of liberty. Mozart arrived in Prague on 1 October with the first night set for 14 October. Even today that looks like an impossible schedule and it was. The opening was postponed to the 29th and Mozart wrote out the overture on the night of the 28th which was therefore performed unrehearsed and must have been a mess. But the opera itself was an absolute wow. Not so a few months later in Vienna, where it was anything but. Too many arias, too chaotic, too unmelodic (!), too difficult. A reaction not comprehensible today, especially the word difficult which meant difficult for the singers rather than the audience. One wonders how the poor dears would have coped with Lulu, Bluebeard, etc. Mozart shuffled the numbers around quite a lot for Vienna, adding some, deleting others. Two important changes were the addition of Don Ottavios wonderful Dalla sua pace and the cutting out of the post-damnation sextet, though whether he did this on grounds of taste (one hopes so) or because the opera was too long, we do not know. Anyway it was a flop and after a dutiful number of performances in its first run (fourteen), it was never again played in Vienna in Mozarts lifetime. After that people messed about with it. It was played quite a lot within the Austrian Empire in a German translation as a Singspiel (hideous thought). It reached Covent Garden in 1817 in a version titled The Libertine and arranged for the English stage by Bishop, a really dim composer who had more than a dozen absolutely dire operas to his credit. Giovanni reached Italy in 1811 and France even later. During the nineteenth century it lay pretty low until the 1880s when at last the world began to realize that it was something pretty good. Today everyone knows it is a masterpiece and it stands high amongst Mozarts top four (the other three being Figaro, Cosi and the Flute).

Many people claim Don Giovanni is Mozarts best opera, even the best opera of all time. This cannot be so. It is true that it has perhaps Mozarts greatest operatic music but when it comes to the matter of plot it cant match Figaro or Cosi. All goes along nicely in Act I but in the first part of Act II we pretty well lose the main story altogether. There is no point in Leporello dressing up as Giovanni: it doesnt advance the Giovanni/Elvira relationship one jot. No point in Giovanni beating up Masetto except to liven things up with a spot of violence and to extract another wonderful number from Zerlina. The cornering of Leporello when assumed to be Giovanni is dead end. The truth is that Act I is one story which we pick up again in the graveyard and which is taken to its fearful end in the last scene. The only two players that are needed for the

The Good Opera Guide

main story after Act I are Giovanni and Leporello. All the others have had it: they stick around in the same state as before, Elvira forlorn, Ottavio and Anna going on for ever about love and vengeance, Masetto and Zerlina together again after the disgraceful happenings at the ball. None of their stories pay off until the Epilogue. But the crafty da Ponte and the ingenious Mozart paper over these cracks and keep us on the ball by making the incidents so diverting in themselves and through the absolutely glorious music. The score is pure gold, with as many or more solo winners as Figaro and Cosi, a three-star sextet, a brilliant finale to Act I and a last scene that knocks spots off anything in opera so far. The two act ends are also something entirely new. The finale to Act I starts with the little local difficulty with Masetto, pretty brash stuff, goes on to the invitation to the maskers with its whiff of ballroom music and their solemn little prayer to pull off their mission and then the turmoil of the ballroom scene itself. As the three plots thicken restive Masetto, about-topounce Giovanni and watchful maskers so does the texture of the dance music. The home team dance band plug away solidly at their minuet in 3/4 time, the second comes in with a sort of commentary in 2/4 and the third strikes up in another line of business altogether, again in triple time. Musically you lose your bearings, it gets like a bad dream everythings going haywire, but in a most elegant fashion. Zerlinas scream wakes us out of the dream: everything stops dead and we are back on home ground good standard Mozart finale stuff. In the last scene of Act II Mozart brought terror to the opera stage for the first time. There had been lots of fear before, much of it female and tremulous, besides other popular emotions such as sorrow, joy, rage, love filial, love amorous and love parental. Natural disasters, especially storms, had featured often enough, but here, with the aid of trombones, semitones, octave leaps and a deep strong bass voice, Mozart pulled off something quite new, a coup de thtre that can still raise the hairs on the napes of our necks. The growing tension of the confrontation with the Commendatore is tremendous. It is nemesis. It is awful. We are purged with terror and a little pity too for Giovanni, for in his final hour he shows pluck. The Epilogue was composed to meet the eighteenth-century fashion for a cheery ending to an otherwise gloomy tale. It must be wrong to destroy the impact of the last scene by lining up the cast and letting them rip into their wind-up sextet. If producers must play it today, it is essential at least to allow applause to act as a sort of cordon sanitaire between the terror of Giovannis final Aaah! and the chirpy account by the rest of the cast of their future plans. One other great strength of Giovanni is the way each player is given a musical character. Also true of the other late Mozarts, but in Giovanni better defined and more precise. Elvira is defined in music as a strong-minded woman in torment, Anna as an even stronger-minded woman with an animal instinct for revenge, Ottavio as a sort of neutered tomcat, a foil to Anna and pretty useless except for his ability to produce the most golden sounds, Masetto has the music of a hulking brute, Zerlinas is full of guile, Leporellos that of the standard buffa comic but with a touch more insolence than we would expect. Which leaves the Don himself. Millions of words have been written by clever people, including scholars, trying to pin down the true nature of Giovanni. This is not possible, for Giovanni is no more a real man than Tarzan, James Bond, or even the great god Zeus (who certainly shared some of his tastes). He is a mythological beast and like the man who encountered that other mythological animal, Thurbers Unicorn in the Garden, if you try and explain him away in rational terms, you are likely to end up in the funny farm. He did of course have human characteristics, quite a bit of Douglas Fairbanks senior, something of Casanova (but better looking), a whiff of the Marquis

Don Giovanni

de Sade, but in the end he is a manufactured man, a stereotype, Mr Supersex, who wanders through life doing one thing only and doing it pretty often. This is not to say that Mozart and da Ponte do not invest him with a lot of life, but even they cannot make this peripatetic bounder add up to a complete human being. From his music we learn that he can be seductive, coarse, arrogant and brave, but there is no musical core to Giovanni. If after the opera you were to shout down to hell Stand up the real Don Giovanni, at least three people would rise to their feet, not one. The last scene gives Don Giovanni a stature. It has the power to purge us with pity and fear. It towers above the comic finales of Figaro and Cosi and whether or not Giovanni is Mozarts greatest opera, it is certainly his most powerful finale. Alpha-plus.