Don Giovanni, Opera by W. A. Mozart
Don Giovanni is among the best-known and most revered works in the operatic catalogue. It is a fantastic demonstration of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's endless talent to instil emotion and narrate by the power of his music. The timeless quality of this work will shine again on the stage of the Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice this season!
To create Don Giovanni, Mozart collaborated with Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. The two set their sights on the famous story of the fictional Spanish womaniser of the same name who eventually has to face the payback for his many sins. The plot offered ample room for Mozart and Da Ponte's comedic talent, but the work has many more qualities besides the good laughs.
At first intended as an opera buffa, Don Giovanni's second act slowly but surely morphs into darkness which opera connoisseurs had not seen in Mozart's repertoire before. The hugely successful premiere at the National Theatre in Prague (nowadays the Estates Theatre) on 29 October 1787 left audiences stunned with its powerful, hard-hitting finale, emphasised adeptly by the ominous theme in d minor which surely haunted many opera-goers' dreams.
A master of contrast, Mozart imbued most of Don Giovanni with his trademark playfulness and musical humour. Librettist Da Ponte was split between several projects at the time, so the composer took over some storytelling duties and incorporated little jokes into his score. The famous aria 'Madamina, il catalogo è questo' in Act I lists Don Giovanni's conquests and characterises their physical appearance in music. As Donna Elvira is having a fit of rage in Act II, the orchestra takes on a syncopated, hurried rhythm to underscore her short breaths and sighs instrumentally.
Still, no amount of humour can offset the musical and physical horror of the ghost of the Commendatore, a granite statue come to life, who drags the shocked protagonist into hell as final payback for his sins. The blood-curdling basso call – "Don Giovanni!" – instantly kills the light-hearted soirée mood of the previous scene and drives the opera's message home: sooner or later, our transgressions catch up with us. A splendid ending to a thoroughly enjoyable stage work!