Synopsis

Approximate running time for Don Giovanni is three hours, including one 20-minute intermission

Time: 18th Century

Place: Seville, Spain

Act 1

Don Ottavio receives a note from his fiancéeDonna Anna, inviting him to her room that evening, but decides to preserve her purity until their impending wedding night. Meanwhile Don Giovanni decides to disguise himself as Ottavio and seduce the beautiful Anna.

Leporello’s existence as Giovanni’s man-servant is a living nightmare and he prays for a reversal of fortune so that he can play the part of a nobleman. Suddenly his master emerges from the palace, pursued by the Commendatore’s daughter, Donna Anna, whom Giovanni had attempted to seduce. Their struggle is interrupted by the Commendatore and his guards who confront the intruders. In the ensuing duel, Don Giovanni kills the elder nobleman and escapes. Donna Anna returns with her fiancé, too late to save her father, and swears an oath of vengeance.

Donna Elvira arrives in Seville to track down Don Giovanni, the man she believes to be her husband, who has abandoned her. Giovanni, attracted to this unknown woman, approaches and is shocked to discover her identity. After some sweet talk, he manages to escape, leaving Leporello to destroy Elvira’s delusion of having a faithful husband by showing her an inventory of the Don’s 2,065 amorous conquests, organized by country. Shattered by this news, she swears vengeance.

A group of peasants arrive in celebration of the wedding ceremony of Zerlina and Masetto. Giovanni happens upon the joyous scene and immediately begins to seduce the young bride, much to the chagrin of her new husband, who storms away in a rage. Elvira enters to thwart Giovanni’s seduction, successfully warning the girl of his treacherous nature (“Ah, fuggi il traditor!” – “Flee from the traitor!”). Anna and Ottavio arrive, seeking Giovanni’s aid in finding her father’s assassin and once again, Elvira interrupts, begging the two nobles not to trust their “friend”. As Giovanni is about to leave, Anna suddenly realizes that it is Giovanni himself who assaulted her and killed her father. She renews her demand for vengeance to Ottavio.

Giovanni orders Leporello to throw the party of all parties, vowing to add a dozen conquests to the catalog (“Fin ch’han dal vino calda la testa” – “Till they are tipsy”). Zerlina begs Masetto’s forgiveness for her behavior and assures him that she did not succumb to the advances of the Don. However, when the Don appears, the jealousies of the bridegroom flare up again. Dance music is heard in the distance and Anna, Elvira, and Ottavio, who have arrived incognito to save the peasant girls from Giovanni, are invited into the palace.

At the party, Giovanni takes advantage of the drunken chaos to seduce Zerlina. When she screams out in terror, the three masked guests reveal their identities and threaten Giovanni, who cleverly escapes their clutches.

Intermission

Act II

Leporello is furious and threatens to leave his service but Giovanni bribes him to stay and to exchange clothing with him, so that he can more easily seduce Elvira’s maid. Elvira enters instead, forcing Leporello to impersonate his master and eventually lead her away, leaving Giovanni to serenade her maid (“Deh vieni alla finestra” – “Ah, come to the window”). Masetto enters, bearing firearms with which he intends to murder Giovanni. Convincing Masetto that he is Leporello, the Don beats him mercilessly. Zerlina arrives on the scene to console her wounded husband with tender care.

Leporello, still in disguise as his master, leads Elvira into a dark grotto in order to escape her clutches, but instead is cornered by Anna, Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto, all thinking he is Giovanni and exacting their revenge. The servant finally reveals his true identity and manages to escape by the skin of his teeth.

Don Giovanni and Leporello meet at the burial site of the Commendatore and resume their own identities. Giovanni’s laughter rouses an unearthly voice, emanating from the Commendatore’s statue and uttering a dire warning. As a jest, Giovanni forces his petrified servant to invite the statue to dinner. To their surprise, the voice answers in acceptance. Anna and Ottavio visit the gravesite, where she insists on delaying their marriage until a proper period of mourning has passed. But Ottavio, fearing she harbors secret feelings of desire for Giovanni, storms away, leaving the deeply confused Anna to beg heaven’s forgiveness for her sins. 

Production underwritten by Joel and Sharon Koppelman
and the Estate of Ms. Ellen Cole Miller

Production from Cincinnati Opera

Audio excerpts from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni (Opera Philadelphia, 2004; Corrado Rovaris, conductor). Featuring David Pittsinger (Don Giovanni), Richard Bernstein (Leporello), Wendy Nielson (Donna Anna), Patricia Schuman (Donna Elvira), Christine Brandes (Zerlina), Jeremy Ovenden (Don Ottavio), Riccardo Ferrari (Commendatore), and John Marcus Bindel (Masetto). Excerpts include: the frightening opening chords of the overture, Leporello’s brilliant “catalogue” aria of the Don’s conquests, “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” (Little lady, this is the catalogue), Don Giovanni’s seductive duet with Zerlina “Là ci darem la mano” (There I'll give you my hand), the stirring Act I finale when the Don’s victims expose him for who he is; the Don’s serenade “Deh! vieni alla finestra” (O come to the window), the jilted Donna Elvira’s wounded “Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata” (That ungrateful soul betrayed me); the Commendatore’s harrowing resurrection to bring Don Giovanni to the underworld in “Don Giovanni, a cenar teco” (Don Giovanni, I dine with you), and a moment from the victims’ moralistic epilogue “Ah! dov'è il perfido?” (Where is the evil man?)