Don Giovanni 1787 • A comic opera (opera buffa) in 2 acts. • Commissioned by the Pasquale Boldini’s Prague Opera company after the success in Prague of Marriage of Figaro. • Planned as entertainment for visit of newlywed niece of Emperor – the archduchess Maria Theresia and Prince Anton Clemens of Saxony – 14 October 1787. • Mozart home to Vienna from Prague February 8 1787 to start work. • His father died 28 May and was buried that day. Also his pet starling died. Mozart did not travel to Salzburg to oversee arrangements.
Libretto • By Court poet – Lorenzo Da Ponte (like Cosi and Figaro) • Based on a very well known existing story. • Going back to El burlador (before 1630) it had been used and adapted for a variety of purposes – commedia dell’arte in particular – Goldoni’s Don Giovanni Tenorio 1736. Don Giovanni has obvious parralels with Mr Punch. Don Juan is a stock character. • Il convitato di pietra (1762) with libretto by Giovanni Bertati and music by Giuseppe Gazzaniga – a success all over Europe. This was the starting point for Da Ponte. • Da Ponte and Mozart worked closely together on the opera right up to the performance.
Rehearsals • Mozart arrived in Prague 4 Oct 1787 with only 5 days before the premiere. • Da Ponte arrived and was resident across the road. • The performance had to be postponed as it was under-rehearsed and then one singer was ill. • The Prague company was small and singers not easily replaced. • The work was considered very difficult.
The Cast • As always the singers determined the nature of the music – Mozart had to write to their capabilities. He knew them all except one as he had conducted them in Figaro. • Don Giovanni – Luigi Bassi had been Count Almaviva – a fiery Italian `very handsome and very stupid’ – 22 years old an excellent mimic and a very good actor. • The cast requires 3 females (all sopranos), 5 males (3 basses, baritone and tenor), plus chorus. This small cast reflects the Prague company exactly.
First Performance • 29 October 1787 beginning at 7pm and planned to end at 9.30. • Mozart had composed the overture the night before it was to be rehearsed. • Mozart greeted with great cheers on entering pit to conduct at the keyboard. • A great success and a long run of performances. • Mozart remained in Prague until 13th November. • Boldini wanted Mozart to stay and write another but Mozart had to make it back in Vienna. • Prague was always a great supporter of Mozart and Mozart remained very fond of the city to the end.
Vienna • The success of Don Giovanni became known in Vienna and helped Mozart get Gluck’s job as Kammermusikus to the Emperor. • Command for Vienna performance by Emperor – 7th May 1788 in Burgtheater. • Joseph II already busy on battlefield of second Turkish War. • Some alterations to arias and scenes to accommodate Viennese taste and singers available. • Mozart conducted first three performances. Only gradually did Vienna warm to the work. • Vienna and Prague versions exist – the Prague is generally preferred.
Characters - Male • Don Giovanni – a cavalier and seducer of women. An ambivalent role that can be played a number of ways. Needs a great voice. • Leporello – servant of Don – his assistant in crime who unlike Don has some reservations about their activities. • Don Ottavio – fiance of Donna Anna. • Masetto – country peasant lover of Zerlina • Commendatore – elderly knight and man of honour.
Characters Female • Donna Anna – daughter of Commendatore and betrothed to Ottavio. • Donna Elvira a highborn lady from Burgos – used and abandoned by Don. • Zerlino – a country girl who Don attempts to seduce.
Terror and Effects. • Don Giovanni is notable for the introduction of terror into opera. Naked fear. • To do this he uses Trombones – always associated with the underworld. They do not appear until Commendatore statue appears on stage to condemn Don Giovanni. • At the end of Act I three orchestras play simultaneously on stage. First band plays Minuet in G in ¾ for oboes, horns and strings; then orchestra II turn up and play Contradanse in G in 2/4 time; orchestra three tune up and play German Dance in 3/8.
Keys • As always the opera is carefully constructed in terms of key relationships. • D is the opera key – minor at first (overture and statue scene at end). Overture and opera end in D major. • Second Act leads from G major to A major, D major, F major, E flat (sextet – forgiveness by Elvira of Don who is Leporello in disguise at that moment). Then to D major for trumpets and drums. Then to D minor punishment key for murder. Back to D major then D minor for end of sextet in E flat.
Liberty • Act I scene 20 Don’s grant reception in the Hall. After introductory scene with Don, Leporello, Masetto and Zerlina – key changes to C major for entry of Don Ottavio, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira (all masked). • After greeting all Don sings `E aperto tutti, a tutti quanti, viva, viva la liberta’ (it is open to everyone, long live liberty). • Every one seizes the phrase and it turns into triumphal march with trumpets and drums • IS this Da Ponte’s personal tribute to Joseph II and his ideas on personal freedom and enlightenment.