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Power and Effervescence

Mozart's 'Don Giovanni', reviewed by MARIA NOCKIN

 

The legend of Don Juan was first published as a play called El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra ('The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest') by the Spanish monk, Tirso de Molina, around 1620. The plot may have been based on an incident that took place two hundred years earlier when vigilante monks are said to have killed an evil doer, but reported to authorities that the man had been dragged off to Hell by the ghost of one of his victims.

Bulgarian soprano Edelina Kaneva as Donna Anna and Lithuanian baritone Vytautas Juozapaitis as the Don in the opening rape scene of Mozart Festival Opera's 'Don Giovanni'. Photo © 2006 Robin Grant
Bulgarian soprano Edelina Kaneva as Donna Anna and Lithuanian baritone Vytautas Juozapaitis as the Don in the opening rape scene of Mozart Festival Opera's 'Don Giovanni'. Photo © 2006 Robin Grant

De Molina hoped his story would teach young people a lesson in moderation, but instead, the depiction of the fascinating libertine charmed audiences throughout the country. Companies of Italian actors loved the tale and spread the fame of 'Don Giovanni' north of the Alps as well. Don Juan, himself, may not have visited lands as far off as Turkey, which is mentioned by Leporello in his Catalogue Aria, but his legend most certainly did.

The Don (Vytautas Juozapaitis) kills the Commendatore (Russian bass Mikhail Kolelishvili) in Mozart Festival Opera's 'Don Giovanni'. Photo © 2006 Robin Grant
The Don (Vytautas Juozapaitis) kills the Commendatore (Russian bass Mikhail Kolelishvili) in Mozart Festival Opera's 'Don Giovanni'. Photo © 2006 Robin Grant

The first opera on the subject was Allesandro Melani's L'empio punito ('The Dissolute Punished'). It was performed in Rome in 1669 for the Queen of Sweden who, unfortunately, failed to appreciate the subject matter. Don Juan's exploits were even more popular in the latter years of the eighteenth century and numerous operatic versions of the tale were composed by popular composers of the time.

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Copyright © 26 November 2006 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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