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Mozart's opera Don Giovanni follows the adventures of the rougish, womanising Giovanni, mixing comedy, tragedy and drama with the supernatural
As the curtain rises, we find a masked Don Giovanni outside the Commendatore’s house, attempting to seduce his daughter, Donna Anna, under the watchful eye of Giovanni’s servant Leporello. Pictured: Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Don Giovanni, Sydney Opera House, 2005.
For a while, the mask fools Anna into believing that Don Giovanni is in fact her fiancé, Don Ottavio. But once she realises it’s not her bethrothed behind the mask, she screams for help, bringing her father running to her aid. Pictured: Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Don Giovanni and Kate Ladner as Donna Anna, Sydney Opera House, 2005.
The furious Commendatore challenges Giovanni to a duel. A terrified Anna runs off to find help in the form of Don Ottavio, but by the time they arrive at the scene of the fight, it’s too late - the Commendatore is dead. They vow to avenge his murder. Pictured:John Heuzenroeder (Don Ottavio), Kate Ladner (Donna Anna) and Arend Baumann (Il Commendatore), the Sydney Opera House, 2005.
Unperturbed by the events of the previous day, the next morning Don Giovanni and Leporello are hanging around in the town square outside his castle. As they loiter, they hear a woman singing about getting revenge on a lover who abandoned her. Intrigued, Giovanni approaches her and starts flirting with her, only to realise that she is one of his previous conquest, Donna Elvira – and he is the rogue she was singing about. Pictured: Bo Skovhus as Don Giovanni in the Dmitri Tcherniakov-directed Don Giovanni, the theatre de l'Archeveche in Aix-en-Provence, as part of the 62st lyrical art festival, 2010.
Not wanting to confront a furious Elvira, Giovanni scuttles away, leaving Leporello to reveal the truth about his master. Elvira angry grows as the servant tells her that she is one of many hundreds of women seduced by Don Giovanni. Elvira storms off. Pictured: Kristine Opolais, Bo Skovhus and Kyle Ketelsen perfom respectively as Donna Elvira, Don Giovanni and Leporello, the theatre de l'Archeveche in Aix-en-Provence as part of the 62st lyrical art festival.
Later the same day, Don Giovanni comes across a wedding party celebrating the marriage of a peasant couple, Zerlina and Masetto. Don Giovanni immediately takes a shine to the bride Zerlina and tries to persuade her new husband to let him throw the happy couple a wedding party at his castle. Masetto isn’t fooled, and guessing Giovanni’s alternative motives, turns his offer down. Pictured: Richard Anderson as Masetto and Amy Wilkinson as Zerlina, Sydney Opera Australia, 2008.
But Giovanni’s not about be put off on his seduction mission. He orders Leporello to remove an angry Masetto from the building, leaving the new bride alone with Giovanni.Pictured: Kerstin Aveno and Bo Skovhus as Zerlina and Don Giovanni, the theatre de l'Archeveche in Aix-en-Provence, as part of the 62st lyrical art festival.
But before Giovanni can work his magic, Donna Elvira arrives and pulls Zerlina away from him. At the same time Donna Anna and Don Ottavio arrive and, not knowing he was the man behind the mask, ask Giovanni to help track down her father’s murderer. Before he can reply, Donna Elvira interrupts, shouting about his womanising ways and telling them he can’t be trusted. Her words rile Giovanni and he loses his temper. His raised voiced triggers something in Anna’s memory and she realises that Giovanni is the Commendatore’s murderer. Pictured: Marlis Petersen, Kyle Ketelsen, Kerstin Avemo and Bo Skovhus as Donna Anna, Leporello, Zerlina and Don Giovanni, the theatre de l'Archeveche in Aix-en-Provence, as part of the 62st lyrical art festival.
Despite Masetto’s reservations and Elvira’s interventions, Giovanni still manages to persuade the wedding party to continue at his castle. On the way, Zerlina and Masetto argue about Giovanni, Zerlina insisting that she will always be faithful to her new husband. Unconvinced, Masetto jumps into the bushes when he sees Giovanni coming so he can see witness first hand his wife and Giovanni together. Pictured: Gabor Bretz as Don Giovanni played with Richard Anderson as Masetto and Amy Wilkinson as Zerlina, Sydney Opera Australia, 2008.
But his plan fails as Giovanni soon discovers Masetto, and reproaches him for leaving Zerlina alone. He then takes them both to his castle and leads them into the ballroom where he finds three masked guests, who are, unbeknown to him, Ottavio, Anna and Elvira. Pictured: Kerstin Avemo and Kyle Ketelsen as Zerlina and Leporello, the theatre de l'Archeveche in Aix-en-Provence, as part of the 62st lyrical art festival.
While Leporello dances with Masetto, Giovanni whisks Zerlina off to a private room against her wishes. Her screams bring the other guests running to her aid and Giovanni tries to frame Leporello for the attack. But the guests aren’t fooled, Ottavio pulls out a pistol and he, along with Elvira and Anna declare they know the truth. Giovanni flees with his servant. Pictured: John Heuzenroeder (Don Ottavio) and Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Don Giovanni) at Sydney Opera House, 2005.
Having failed to woe Zerlina, Giovanni is now eager to seduce Elvira’s maid. He persuades Leporello to swap clothes with him, forcing Leporello (as Giovanni) to distract Elvira by attempting to seduce her. Despite her earlier anger, Elvira is only too keen to be whisked off by “Giovanni”. Pictured: Erwin Schrott in the role of the Leporello, right, and Christopher Maltmann as Don Giovanni, Salzburg, 2008.
Giovanni, dressed as Leporello, begins his flirtation with Elvira’s maid, but is interrupted by the arrival of Masseto and his friends. Mistaking him for Leporello, Masetto believes his story that he too hates Giovanni and sets off with them to track him down. Giovanni manages to send Masetto friends away, allowing the disguised Giovanni to take the peasant’s weapon from him and beat him. He flees just before Zerlina arrives to comfort her husband. Pictured: Ekaterina Siurina in the role of the Zerlina and Alex Esposito as Maetto, Salzburg, 2008.
Elvira and Leporello come across Anna, Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto, and mistaking servant for master, threaten to kill Leporello. Frightened, Leporello unmasks and escapes, leaving Elvira outraged by Giovanni’s second betrayal. Pictured: Erwin Schrott as Leporello and Dorothea Roeschmann as Donna Elvira, as part of the Salzburg Festival, 2008.
Leporello catches up with his master by the Commendatore’s statue in a graveyard, and tells him how he was nearly killed. Giovanni dismisses Leporello’s story and tells him that in his absence he tried to seduce one of Leporello’s ex girlfriends. Pictured: Richard Alexander (Leporello) and Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Don Giovanni) perform at the Sydney Opera House, 2005.
Giovanni laughs at his servant’s visible annoyance at his story, and, as he does so, the statue speaks, telling him he won’t be laughing any more come sunrise. Leporello is terrified at the talking statue, but cocky Giovanni invites the statue to dinner and the stone figure of the Commandatore accepts. Pictured:Teddy Tahu Rhodes (Don Giovanni) and Arend Baumann (Il Commandatore) at the Sydney Opera House, 2005.
The action ends at Don Giovanni’s chambers where he’s indulging in a banquet. He is interrupted by Elvira who declares she is no longer angry with him, but instead pities him, begging him to turn his life around. Unmoved by her sentiments, Giovanni insists wine and women are the essence of life. Elvira storms off again, only to let out a terrified scream and run back into the castle. The servant goes out to investigate, only to come face-to-face with the Commendatore’s statue. Pictured: Anatoli Kotscherga, Bo Skovhus, Kristine Opolais and Kyle Ketelsen perform as Il Commendatore, Don Giovanni, Donna Elvira and Leporelle, the theatre de l'Archeveche in Aix-en-Provence, part of the 62st lyrical art festival.
The Commendatore gives Giovanni one last chance to repent his ways, but the cad refuses. The statue sinks into the ground, taking Giovanni with him as hell erupts from the ground, consuming Giovanni and his house. Among the ruins of the house, the others discuss their futures as they consider the fate of the wrong-doer. Pictured: Don Giovanni, Salzburg Festival, 2008.
The story Lorenzo Da Ponte based his libretto on, that of a statue coming to life to avenge his murder, dates back to medieval times. It was considered a dramma giocoso, an opera that mixes comedy with drama, at the time, although Mozart himself described it as an opera buffa". Pictured: Richard Anderson as Masetto, Sydney Opera House, 2005.
The opera was premiered by the Prague Italian opera at the Teatro di Praga on October 29, 1787. Mozart left finishing Don Giovanni until the very latest deadline; legend has it that the scores handed to the orchestra minutes before curtain call were still wet. Pictured: Kyle Ketelsen, and Marlis Petersen perform as Don Giovanni, Leporello and Donna Anna, the theatre de l'Archeveche in Aix-en-Provence as part of the 62st lyrical art festival.
Mozart famously wrote the Overture the night before the premiere, after spending an evening with friends. He claimed it took him just three hours to write the Overture. Pictured: Adam Plachetka in the role of Masetto, Erwin Schrott as Leporello, Aleksandra Kurzak as Donna Anna and Joel Prieto as Don Ottavio, Salzburg, as part of the Salzburg Festival, 2010.