Don Giovanni 009 © Werner Kmetitsch


When Le nozze di Figaro, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's first collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, was such a resounding success in Prague in 1786, a follow-up commission came from that city almost immediately. The story of Don Juan was very popular at this time, so it was safe to assume that an opera based on the tale would meet with interest. Following the first performance in 1787, a contented Mozart wrote to his friend Jacquin, "on 29th October my opera D: Giovanni was staged, and was received with the loudest applause". Neither he nor Da Ponte could know that Don Giovanni would soon be regarded as the "opera of operas" and would incite numerous deliberations on principles of philosophy, aesthetics and psychology. This "dramma giocoso" with its mixture of comedy and tragedy tests the boundaries of morality, explores the hidden depths of emotion and has provoked new contemporary interpretations in every era including ours.


His face concealed by a mask, Don Giovanni tries to seduce Donna Anna, the daughter of the Commendatore. He is about to flee when the Commendatore confronts him. The two fight a duel, and Don Giovanni kills him and escapes. Anna and her betrothed, Don Ottavio, swear to find the murderer and avenge her father. In the meantime, Don Giovanni and Leporello, his servant, encounter Donna Elvira. She has been abandoned by her betrothed and is now searching for him — and who should it be but Don Giovanni. He leaves the furious woman to Leporello who reveals to her the extent of his master's womanising. Elvira also swears to take vengeance on Don Giovanni. When Donna Anna finally realises that Don Giovanni is her father's murderer, the hunt for him begins in earnest. But he continues to waylay women, undeterred, and Leporello has to take the beatings intended for him. On the run again, the pair come to the statue on the Commendatore's grave. The statue comes to life, and Don Giovanni invites it to dinner. It really does come, and demands from Don Giovanni that he repent of his crimes. When Don Giovanni declines to do so, hell opens up and swallows him. The vengeful women, who were unable to exact revenge on their quarry, disperse and Leporello has to find himself a new master.