Special Sub-Topic: Mozart's Don Giovanni
|What's the full name of this opera?|
Don Giovanni, or the Rake Punished. Don Giovanni, o il dissoluto punito
|Don Giovanni premiered to great acclaim on October 29, 1787 at the Nostitz theatre in what city?|
Prague. The opera was written in and for Prague, the city that had received the Marriage of Figaro so well. The Nostitz theatre had been recently built by the powerful and enlightened nobleman, Count Anton Nostitz. He died in the early 1790s and his heirs sold the theatre to the Bohemian Estates, at which point it became the Estates Theatre, the name it bears today (Stavovske Divadlo).
|Lorenzo da Ponte was Mozart's librettist, and almost as much of a genius as was Mozart. He was an Italian Jewish convert turned renegade priest who had been banished from Venice for his countless affairs. He was also a chronic gambler, a musician, a writer and at the time when he was writing Don Giovanni, official poet and librettist to the court in Vienna. Where did this remarkable man die?|
New York City. Da Ponte eventually travelled to America and became the first professor of Italian language and literature at Columbia university. While in New York City, he was instrumental in organizing the building of an opera house. He died and was buried there in 1838 at the age of 89.
|It is rumoured that a close friend of da Ponte's who was in Prague at the same time contributed a lot of hands-on experience and advice. Who was this expert?|
Casanova. No one really knows for sure, but it is certain that the dates match and that Casanova and da Ponte knew each other well. Among Casanova's effects found after his death were verses that closely resemble exerpts from Don Giovanni. Legend has it that it was he that suggested outcome of the scene where Leporello and Don Giovanni change identities, and it may be that he attended the premiere.
|The story of Don Giovanni (or Don Juan) was not a fresh one. It circulated in the middle ages, and was first published as a morality play in Spain in the 17th century. In 1787 alone, Mozart's was the fourth operatic incarnation of the story to appear. A playwrite of genius had also produced a comedy, Dom Juan ou le festin de pierre, in 1665. Who was this?|
Moliere. The first performance was given at the Palais-Royal and was very well received.
|Now for the story. At the beginning of Act I, Leporello waits for his master, Don Giovanni, who is busy trying to rape Donna Anna. The Don is discovered and then has to fight a duel with the Commendatore, whom he kills. Who is the Commendatore?|
Donna Anna's father. Actually, the Commendatore has way more to do dead in this opera than he does when he's alive.
|There's more trouble afoot as Don Giovanni runs into one of his castoff lovers, Donna Elvira, who is pursuing him looking for revenge. Leporello has to sing the catalogue aria, a list of the Don's conquests, to try to discourage her. The Don has had a lot of affairs - how many in Spain alone?|
1003. 64 in Italy, 231 in Germany, 91 in Turkey.
|After temporarily ridding themselves of Donna Elvira, Don Giovanni and Leporello run into a peasant wedding party. Our anti-hero is immediately taken with the bride, Zerlina. Who is her fiance?|
Masetto. Although Masetto is portrayed as being a bit thick, he is the only character in the opera who has Don Giovanni's number right from the beginning (Ho capito, signor, si!).
|After his attempted seduction of Zerlina is stymied by Donna Elvira, things get worse for Don Giovanni. He meets Donna Anna (who doesn't recognize him) and her wimpy suitor, Don Ottavio. Donna Elvira tries to expose him to them and the Don covers by telling them she's...|
crazy. Woops! Donna Anna recognizes his voice! That's him! The one who tried to rape me!
|Don Giovanni unwisely decides to throw a party for Zerlina and Masetto. His motives are, of course, all bad. He sings an aria that seems to epitomize his personal life philosophy. What is it?|
The champagne aria. Viva la liberta! The party is a fiasco. Donna Elvira, Donna Anna and Don Ottavio have joined forces and show up masked, Zerlina is rescued and the Don exposed. He just barely escapes.
|Things don't get less complicated in Act II. Don Giovanni pursuades Leporello to change identities with him in order to head off Donna Elvira. The Don is interested in romancing her pretty maid. To do this he serenades her with the aria 'Deh, vieni alla finestra'. It has a somewhat unusual instrumental accompaniment. What?|
Mandolin. A plan doomed to disaster. Don Giovanni runs into, tricks, then beats up Masetto, while Leporello is cornered by the rest of the gang and has to reveal his true identity so that Don Ottavio doesn't kill him.
|Eventually Don Giovanni and Leporello end up at the sepulchre of the Commendatore. In a moment of bravado, the Don orders his servant to approach the statue and do what?|
Invite it to dinner. The statue accepts.
|It's dinner time at the Don's. He has a wonderful spread layed on, Leporello is serving and a wind band plays popular tunes. He likes the first two, but upon hearing the third he remarks that he 'knows that one a little too well'. What is being played?|
Non piu andrai. This is Mozart's joke on himself, as 'Non piu andrai' is from The Marriage of Figaro'. Tunes from the operas Cosa rara and I Litiganti are what are first played, and Finch'han dal vino is the Champagne aria.
|His dinner is spoiled by the entrance of two guests, first Donna Elvira and then, inevitably, the statue of the Commendatore. The statue says that as he's accepted the Don's invitation, the Don must come to dinner with him. Many performances have Leporello do something quite innovative at this point. What?|
He shouts. Leporello cries 'Dite di no!' twice. This interjection of spoken, or shouted, words into a full opera was rare until the 20th century.
|The statue drags Don Giovanni down to Hell despite his bravery (or because of it). The rest of the cast then assembles on stage for the happy end. Zerlina and Masetto plan a happy life together, Donna Elvira is off to a convent, and Leporello will look for a better master. Are Donna Anna and Don Ottavio off to the altar?|
n. One of the big ambiguities in this opera full of them is why Donna Anna keeps putting off Don Ottavio. She tells him to wait just one more year... The final conundrum in this great opera.
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