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Don Giovanni is an opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with
libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. There are 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.
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
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.
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.