Repertoire

Don Giovanni [don Juan]

W.A. Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Don Giovanni was commissioned for the opera in Prague, where Figaro had just been a phenomenal success. The main theme was a familiar one, the story of the conquest of innumerable ladies by Don Juan and a statue that comes to dinner! Read on. The opera is a story of social class and, especially, sexual tensions. The immense popularity of the opera was due not only from the range of its dramatic and musical action and to the quality of the music, but also to the fascinating figure of Don Juan himself. A libertine and blasphemer, his courage endears him to men, while his scandalous reputation attracts women. By all accounts, the first performance was a rushed affair, with Mozart applying last-minute touches to his masterpiece at the eleventh hour.

The opera starts with Don Juan, a nobleman, assaulting Donna Anna. Her father intervenes and is promptly killed by Don Juan. Donna Anna and her suitor, Don Ottavio, swear revenge. A masked ball introduces the character of Zerlina, a country girl, who receives the unwanted attentions of Don Juan. Don Juan continues his amorous and devious ways throughout the second Act and is fortunate to escape attempts to kill him. Later, in a cemetery, he is found boasting to his servant, Leporello, of the seduction of his wife. A mysterious voice tells him that his laughter will be silenced before morning. They find the statue of the commendatore, Donna Anna's deceased father, with the inscription that he waits to be avenged. The statue is invited to supper. The final Act sees Don Juan dining alone, interrupted by the statue arriving, to bid him mend his ways and repent. He refuses, shakes the hand of the statue and immediately loses all his strength. A chorus of demons and screams marks the delivery of Don Juan into the flames of damnation. With the exit of Don Juan, the characters resume a more peaceful existence. The opera ends with the moral that sinners meet with their just reward.

Programme notes for BHSO performance, Nov 2004
Written by Steve Armitage

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