Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The 2011 foresees the presentation of an ambitious project of Mozart’s work by a talented team of young performers, offering an original and unique interpretation of Da Ponte’s trilogy.
The first part of the project, which will go on to include Le Nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte, is on Tuesday 20th September 2011 at 19.00 (subscription cycle A) with the revival of the successful
production of Don Giovanni, by Damiano Michieletto (direction), Paolo Fantin (set), Carla Teti
(costumes), Luca Scarzella (video direction) and Fabio Barettin (lighting), first performed at Teatro
La Fenice in May 2010.
A comic two-act drama KV527 to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte based on the novel El
burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra by Tirso de Molina through the libretto Don Giovanni
o sia Il convitato di pietra by Giovanni Bertati, Don Giovannni had its première at the Nostitz-
Theatre in Prague on 29th October 1787 and is the second of the three masterpieces Mozart created
together with the Italian librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte; it is also one of the greatest operatic works of
The ninth date in the 2011 Opera Season, the opera will be conducted by Antonello
Manacorda, who also conducted it in May 2010. The cast is also basically unchanged and includes
Markus Werba alternating with Simone Alberghini as Don Giovanni, Anita Watson alternating
with Elena Monti as Donna Anna, Antonio Poli alternating with Mario Zeffiri as Don Ottavio,
Goran Juric alternating with Abramo Rosalen as il commendatore, Carmela Remigio alternating
with Maria Pia Piscitelli as Donna Elvira, Vito Priante, Simone del Savio and Alex Esposito as
Leporello, Borja Quiza and William Corrò as Masetto, Irini Kyriakidou alternating with Caterina Di
Tonno as Zerlina.
After the première on Tuesday 20th September 2011 there will be eleven repeat
performances, Wednesday 21st (subscription cycle D) and Friday 23rd (not part of the subscription
cycle) at 19.00, Saturday 24th (subscription cycle C) and Sunday 25th (subscription cycle B) at
15.30, Tuesday 27th, Wednesday 28th, Thursday 29th and Friday 30th (not part of the subscription
cycle) at 19.00, Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd October (not part of the subscription cycle) at 15.30.
The second masterpiece of the so-called trilogy to librettos by Lorenzo Da Ponte (also
including Le Nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte), the comic drama Don Giovanni had its première
with Mozart in Prague on 29th October 1787. The entrepreneur of the National Theatre had
commissioned him with another piece after the success of Nozze di Figaro in Prague, asking him
to pay particular attention to the role the baritone Luigi Bassi was to be given, famous as Figaro.
Mozart worked on it intensely from March to October and when it had its debut , it met with great
success, thus renewing the enthusiasm of the Prague audience.
However, although not unexpected, the reception it received in Vienna in May 1788 was
lukewarm: “too strong for us Viennese” was the emperor’s comment. In fact, several pages of the
opera – for example the polyrhythmic superimposition of three dances in the first finale and the so-
called “dodecaphonic series” of the commander, fruit of a radical conception of chromatism in the
second finale – are the voice of the dark, pre-romantic Mozart who was to spend the last years of his
life in basic incommunicability.
An implicit challenge to its almost contemporary Don Giovanni Tenorio ossia Il convitato
di pietra by Bertati and Gazzaniga, presented at San Moisè in Venice in February 1787, Mozart
and Da Ponte’s Don Giovanni deals with a subject that was common in ancient literature (by high
ranking authors such as Tirso de Molina, Molière, Goldoni) but which, during Mozart’s lifetime,
was relapsing into its original role as popular theatre entertainment. Above all, it was thanks to
the composer’s choices, often open to sublime heights that are only comparable to the pages of
his Requiem and Zauberflöte, that Mozart and Da Ponte managed to raise a subject that was for
popular entertainment to a sphere of tragedy and symbolism, which frequently made itself felt in the
eighteenth-century playful-comedy structure, thus liquidating the pedantic distinctions of genre of
rationalist classicism and anticipating pre-romantic values such as tragic irony and the sense of the
grotesque (simultaneous presence of both the comic and serious) as an existential characteristic.
Leaving the intrinsic duplicity of Mozart’s masterpiece aside, and exaggerating the sublime,
terrifying aspect of the opera, according to some interpretations Don Giovanni is a sort of myth of
European culture, thus pointing out the undeniably modern approach of this masterpiece: from the
metaphysical depth E.T.A. Hoffmann attributes to the protagonist, to Kierkegaard’s interpretation,
identifying Mozart’s music as the only means that is able to express the sensual vertigo of
seduction, and identifying that latent, Faust-like malaise in the character of Don Giovanni, that
drives the free-willed human to go beyond each and every boundary in their search of the absolute.
There is no doubt these interpretations are partial, not taking into consideration entire
sections of the opera, and with them the historically defined values of the musical styles Mozart
used. Interpretations that have even resulted in the misconstruction of the sub-title “comic drama”,
which goes back to the tradition of Goldoni’s librettos and with which Don Giovanni is closely
linked. However, it must be admitted that these interpretations cannot easily be set aside, and
remembered that the true meaning of the simultaneous presence in Don Giovanni of the comic and
tragic, the eighteenth and nineteenth century, does not lie in their conflict, but in their harmony, the
work of a genius who, like no other, recognised the depth of lightness.