Opera in two acts1
Libretto by L. da Ponte
Donna Anna, his daughter
Don Ottavio, the groom of Donna Anna
Leporello, the servant of Don Juan
Peasants, peasants, musicians and servants.
HISTORY OF CREATION
The plot is based on an old legend about Don Juan, a daring adventurer, bold and dexterous seducer of women. Originated in medieval Spain, this legend has gained wide popularity in many European countries. The plot was first processed by the Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina (1571-1648), subsequently attracted many writers, including Moliere and Goldoni.
In the XIX century Byron, Hoffmann, Pushkin, Merimee and others turn to the image of Don Juan. Repeatedly used this theme and musicians – in 1761 in Vienna was staged Gluck’s ballet “Don Juan”; There are also a number of operas on the same subject. In these works, the legend of Don Juan received different interpretations. In some of them, having a religiously instructive coloring, Don Juan is described as a criminal, rude voluptuary, receiving deserved retribution.
After the huge success of “The Wedding of Figaro” in Prague, Mozart received from the Prague Theater an order for a new opera. The composer’s choice fell on the plot of “Don Juan”. He began composing music in May 1787, the premiere took place in Prague on October 29 of the same year. For the Vienna production (May 7, 1788) some changes were made to the music of the opera by the author. The libretto, written by L. da Ponte (1749-1838) in Italian, is sustained in a comic plan. However, Mozart’s music takes the opera beyond comedy. The composer created a remarkably deep work, full of great passions
and sharp collisions of characters.
Don Giovanni Mozart – an image of a complex, multifaceted. Condemning his hero to die, the composer at the same time poets and ennobles his appearance: Mozart’s Don Juan is brave, charming, full of boundless vital energy. The other characters of the opera are the inseparable companion of Don Juan Leporello, who simultaneously admires his master and censures him, the proud Donna Anna, the passionate Donna Elvira, the coquettish Zerlina, Ottavio, Mazetto – occupy a subordinate position. Their actions, thoughts and feelings are related to the actions of Don Juan.
Mozart called his opera “dramma giocosa”, which means “a merry drama,” or, in a free translation, a tragicomedy. The name emphasizes the originality of the work, in which tragic and comic, sublime and everyday are intertwined. This feature gives the opera greater truthfulness of life. Master of musical and psychological characteristics, Mozart brightly and expressively draws in the arias feelings of their heroes, and their relationships, sometimes subtle and complex, reveals in numerous ensembles. The drama of the opera is based on comparing the opposite principles – joy, light and fatal retribution, the turbulent flow of life and the cold of death embodied in the images of Don Juan and the Commander.
On the contrast of a gloomy, tragic introduction and the splashing joy of the next part, an overture is based.
In the first act – a rapid alternation of different episodes. A small playful-rude aria Leporello “Day and night to work” depicts the image of this comic character. The music of the dramatic tercet simultaneously embodies the heavy meditation of Don Juan, the intermittent speech of the dying commander, the alarm of Leporello. The aria of the insulted Elvira “Where he decided to find out” is full of passionate, passionate emotion. In the Leporello aria directed to Elvira “That’s all right,” the comic patter is replaced by a smooth, gentle-insinuating minuet parodying the seductive speeches of Don Juan. The beauty of melodies and expressiveness are distinguished by the duo of Don Juan and Zerlina “You give me your pen”; The soft, enveloping sensual charm of Don Juan’s speech sounds more insistent, while the musical phrases of the wavering Zerlina become more timid. The sublime noble warehouse of Donna’s soul is revealed in the aria “Now we know.”
The development of the second act is associated with a continuous increase in tension. The aria of Don Juan “To boil the blood hotter” is impressive shine and cheerfulness; dance movement, clear contours of easy impetuous melody convey the ebullient merriment that engulfed Don Juan, his passionate love for life. The aria of the naive and crafty Zerlina “Well, nail me, Mazetto” captivates melodic elegance. The central episode of the act is the stage of the ball, where the voices of the characters are combined with the simultaneous sound of three instrumental ensembles playing the minuet, contredance and lendler. In the big sextet, completing the act, the angry pressure of the vengeful voices is answered by short remarks of embarrassed Don Juan and Leporello.
The third act is divided into two parts.2 In the first, comic episodes prevail; in the second contrasts are exposed, the tragic plan of “merry drama” is amplified. Terzet Elvira, Don Juan and Leporello are remarkable for the breadth of melodic breathing of vocal parts and orchestral accompaniment. A simple and fluid song melody underlies the serenade of Don Juan, which he sings to the accompaniment of a mandolin. Sextet (Avengers and Leporello) is an extended scene full of movement and convex contrasts. In the cemetery scene, the commander’s menacing cries invade Don Juan’s carefree speech and the hurried patter of frightened Leporello, creating a sense of anxiety about the proximity of the denouement. The joyful mood of Don Juan at the beginning of the last picture emphasizes the pieces performed by the stage orchestra from Mozart’s fashionable operas, including the “Wedding of Figaro.” The episode of the appearance of the statue of the commander brings into the music a gloomy color; The ominous impassivity of his phrases is set off by the terrible sound of the trombone. In light tones the opera sextet is held.
1 Now the opera is in three acts. So her story and music are outlined.
2 In some modern productions, these two parts form two independent acts – the third and fourth.