Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni (En. The Rake punished, or Don Giovanni, K. 527) is a two-act opera composed in 1787 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to an Italian libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte. This would be their second of three joint ventures, all three of them masterpieces. Its plot deals with the downfall and eventual punishment of the legendary womanizer, known in other works as Don Juan.
Don Giovanni was perhaps considered Mozart's greatest opera by listeners and critics of the 19th century, and is still among the ten most-performed operas throughout the world. It was first performed in Prague in 1787, and shortly thereafter premiered (in modified form) in Vienna.
|Don Giovanni, a young, extremely licentious nobleman||baritone|
|The Commendatore (Don Pedro)||Bass|
|Donna Anna, his daughter, betrothed to Don Ottavio||soprano|
|Donna Elvira, a lady of Burgos abandoned by Don Giovanni||soprano|
|Leporello, Don Giovanni's servant||bass|
|Masetto, engaged to-||bass|
|Zerlina, a peasant||soprano|
|Chorus of peasants, servants, young ladies, musicians|
Structure and Musical Style
Don Giovanni, in contrast to Mozart's other operatic achievements, is cast in two long acts -- rather than three or four short acts, which was the norm. It's to the credit of DaPonte's tight dramatic pacing and Mozart's excellent music that the longer acts only intensify the drama. Compared to The Marriage of Figaro, the first collaboration of Mozart and DaPonte, there is less reliance on recitative, and more through-composition of scenes, lending the opera a more immediate and accessible quality.
As with all mature Mozart operas, the musical style is varied among characters in order to delineate their personalities. Thus, the peasant couple Zerlina and Masetto sing in a more rustic style, with peasant dance rhythms like the gigue predominating. Donna Anna and Donna Elvira, on the other hand, are noblewomen who sing in a more florid, exalted style. Don Giovanni, a nobleman, often sings in the form of a minuet, which was an aristrocratic dance.  The Commendatore, when he sings as a ghost/statue, is accompanied by frightening harmonies and a slow tempo. The semantics of various keys also plays a role in their characterization, as often the case in Mozart's operas: typically, simple keys such as F and G major are given to lower-class characters, and keys with more flats are given to the nobility. The opera's main pair of tonalities, however, is D Minor/Major, as exemplified in the overture and the musical passages at dramatically important moments, such as the so-called "statue music" and Giovanni's subduction into hell in Act II.
- For more information on this aspect of Mozart's characterization, see Wye J. Allabrook's Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart.
- Allanbrook, Wye Jamison. Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni. Chicago:University of Chicago Press (1986).