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Don Giovanni (Mozart)

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Don Giovanni is an opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. There are a great many operas upon the subject of Don Juan and his amours, but Mozart’s masterpiece is unequalled. It was first produced at Prague in 1787. Originally music and dialogue were heard alternately, but at present the secco-recitatives[?] composed by Mozart are mostly in use.

ACT I

Place: Seville.
Time: the 17th century.

The garden of the Commendatore. Leporello is keeping watch before the house into which Don Giovanni has crept in order to seduce Donna Anna, the betrothed of Ottavio. (Introduzione: "No rest night or day.") Donna Anna appears with Don Giovanni, she wishes to know who he is and cries for help; but when the Commendatore appears, he is stabbed by Don Giovanni, who escapes unrecognised. (“Yes, I endangered my life.”) Anna stands aghast and Ottavio swears vengeance. (Recitative: “What terrible sight before mine eyes”; Duet: “Away, away from my sight.”)

Change of scene: A public square before the palace of Don Giovanni. Giovanni and Leporello arrive. (Recitative: “Now then, declare yourself.”) Elvira, whom he has seduced, appears. Don Giovanni does not recognise her and tries to make her acquaintance. (Sextet: “Where will I discover him?” Recitative: “What now? Heavens, what do I see?”) As Don Giovanni realises who is before him, he shoves Leporello to the front and hurries away. Leporello endeavours to console Elvira by unrolling a list of Don Giovanni’s amours. (Aria: “Dearest Donna, this little register.”) Elvira vows vengeance. (Recitative: “In what darkness of sorrow,” and Aria: “-The ungrateful one leaves me.”)

When she has departed, a marriage procession with Masetto and Zerline comes upon the scene. (Duet and chorus: “Dear sisters, horn to love.”) Don Giovanni sees Zerline, who pleases him, and he attempts to remove the jealous Masetto. (Recitative: “Oh, see, Leporello, the pretty young people”; Aria of Masetto: “Have I comprehended? Yes, dear sir.”) Don Giovanni and Zerline are soon alone; he immediately begins his seductive arts. (Recitative: “At last we are released,” and Duet: “Give me your hand, my life.”)

Elvira joins them, but Don Giovanni answers her reproaches by declaring to Ottavio and Anna that both Zerline and Elvira are insane. (Recitative: “Away from her, seducer”; Aria of Elvira: “Lost one, hear him not”; Recitative, Ottavio and Anna: “Oh, Don Giovanni”; Quartet, Elvira, Ottavio, Anna, Don Giovanni: “Flee the hypocrite’s smooth tongue.”) Anna believes she has recognised in Don Giovanni the murderer of her father, and Ottavio determines to observe his friend. (Recitative: “What a misfortune, horrible”; Aria: “You know the traitor, he threatened me with disgrace.”) Leporello informs Don Giovanni that all the guests of the peasant wedding are in the house, that he had found occupation for Masetto, but that the return of Zerline has spoiled all. Elvira he had locked in an empty room.

The careless Don Giovanni is extremely gay. (Champagne aria: “When the champagne drives the blood coursing.”) He hurries to the palace. Zerline follows the jealous Masetto and tries to pacify him. (Recitative and aria: “Be not angry, dear boy.”) Don Giovanni leads both to the bridal chamber, which has been gaily decorated, and Leporello also invites three maskers, Elvira, Octavio and Anna. (Sextet: “Here clasp we our hands in covenant.”) Change of scene: Ball room, quadrille, waltz, minuet. (“Come ye maidens to pleasure born.”) Don Giovanni leads Zerline away, while Leporello engages Masetto’s attention. When Zerline’s cry for help is heard, Don Giovanni plays a comedy by rushing upon Leporello with drawn sword and accusing him of the seduction of Zerline. When he is not believed, and they attack him, he fights his way through the crowd.

ACT II

Before Elvira’s house. Don Giovanni pacifies Leporello and exchanges cloak and hat with him. (Duet: “Be content, be true to me.”) Leporello is compelled to deliver a message to Elvira. (Terzett, Elvira, Leporello, Don Giovanni: “Oh hearts, cease to beat.”) In the mean-while, Don Giovanni serenades the maid. (“Hear the music of the zither.”)

Surprised by Masetto and his friends, the false Leporello escapes and thrashes Zerline’s bride-groom. (Recitative and aria: “You go in that direction.”) Zerline arrives and cheers Masetto. (Aria: “If you are good, if you are you.”)

Change of scene: Elvira’s room. It is dark. To Elvira come Ottavio, Anna, Masetto and Zerline, who unmask the pseudo-Don Giovanni. Their suspicion is strengthened more and more that the real Don Giovanni is the murderer of the Commendatore. (Sextet: “In the evening’s quiet shadow.”) Ottavio alone. (Aria: “Tears dried by friendship.”)

Change of scene: A graveyard with the statue of the Commendatore. Leporello tells Don Giovanni what has occurred. ‘The voice of the statue commands the libertine to be silent; upon the command of Don Giovanni, Leporello reads the inscription upon the statue’s base: “Vengeance here awaits my murderer.” The servant trembles, but the unabashed Don Giovanni mockingly invites the statue to dine with him at the evening meal. (Duet: “The governor on horseback.”) The statue nods its head and answers, “Yes.”

Change of scene: The room of Donna Anna. Ottavio taxes her with cruelty for postponing the wedding. (Recitative: “I cruel! Oh, my love”; Aria: “You are dear to me beyond all.”)

Change of scene: Room of Don Giovanni. (Finale “Merry be my evening meal.”) Elvira appears, hoping to move Don Giovanni to repentance. (“The might of love has led me to you.”) As Elvira departs in despair, the statue of the Commendatore approaches with heavy tread; it also exhorts the careless villain without avail and then sinks into the ground. Hell fire surrounds Don Giovanni and he is carried below.

A concluding chorus of the entire cast of the opera is sometimes omitted.

References and external links: Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.



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