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Don Giovanni

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 1756–1791

Dramma giocoso in 2 acts
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
First performed October 29 1787, National Theatre, Prague

This production first seen May 11 2014
Sung in Italian with German & English surtitles

Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 mins before performances begin and available here on video shortly before opening night

Don Giovanni Kihwan Sim
Leporello Nicholas Brownlee
Donna Anna Mojca Bitenc
Donna Elvira Elissa Huber
Don Ottavio Michael Porter / Martin Mitterrutzner
Zerlina Kateryna Kasper
Masetto Erik Van Heyningen
Commendatore Andreas Bauer Kanabas

Seville, at night. Don Giovanni forces his way into the Commendatore's house to overpower his daughter Donna Anna. The father, hearing his daughter's screams, appears and is killed by Giovanni in a duel. Giovanni looks into the eyes of the dying man and flees. Donna Anna, who didn't recognise the intruder in the darkness, discovers her father's body. She demands that Don Ottavio, her fiancé, find the unidentified man and avenge her father's death. First light of dawn. Giovanni tries to forget about killing the Commendatore by throwing himself into a new amorous adventure. But the next woman to cross his path is Donna Elvira, a young aristocrat from Burgos, who he recently married and then deserted three days later. He flees again, leaving Elvira with his servant Leporello, who gives vent to his exasperation at his master's behaviour by explaining to the unsuspecting woman: Don Giovanni's a driven man, in Spain alone he's bedded 1003 women. The enumeration of Giovanni's conquests makes both the young woman and Leporello feel quite giddy. Morning. Don Giovanni, meanwhile, is attracted to Zerlina, a young country lass about to marry Masetto, a farmer's lad. Intending to indulge one of the privileges afforded the aristocracy he orders Masetto to leave him alone with Zerlina. With infinite tenderness Giovanni gets closer to Zerlina, even promising her marriage. Zerlina is confused, even more so when Donna Elvira suddenly appears and asserts her rights to Giovanni. Donna Anna and Don Ottavio come to ask Don Giovanni to help them find the Commendatore's murderer. When Elvira intervenes again and Giovanni tries to stop her talking, Donna Anna realises that he's the murderer. She confides in her fiancé, telling him about the assault in her room at night. Ottavio promises to do everything in his power to help his beloved to find peace of mind again. Evening. In the meantime, Don Giovanni has ordered that a feast be prepared. Wine and women shall intoxicate him. Zerlina and Masetto have been invited too. Masetto, suspecting Zerlina of being unfaithful, is deeply hurt. She can't convince him of the depth of her love for him. When Giovanni approaches her again, Masetto is livid with jealousy. Meanwhile Donna Anna, Donna Elvira and Don Ottavio, who have entered into a pact, have also received an invitation to the feast. They intend to wear masks to surprise Don Giovanni. They reveal their identities when Zerlina has difficulty preventing Don Giovanni from raping her. But, once again, with his servant's help, he manages to escape. ACT II A few hours later. Don Giovanni feels slightly uneasy after this lucky escape. He orders Leporello to swap clothes with him. They meet lovesick Elvira, who's dropped the role of avenger and now seeks only one thing: love. She embraces Leporello and is caressed by Giovanni's voice. Her senses diminish and she disappears into the darkness with a man who is also longing for love: Leporello, enveloped in Giovanni's black cloak. Giovanni is driven by desire too, but is alone. He only meets people who want to kill him. Masetto has mobilised his friends to find Giovanni, beat him to the ground and quarter him. Giovanni manages to pass himself off as Leporello and splits the gang up by sending them off in different directions. Left alone with Masetto, he beats him up. Zerlina finds her completely terrified and shamefaced bridegroom. She convinces him that she loves him and nobody else. Masetto can't believe his luck. After midnight. Leporello doesn't want to continue this game with Elvira and vanishes; but tonight he finds no peace and his attempt to escape is foiled by Masetto, Zerlina, Don Ottavio and Donna Anna. They take him for Don Giovanni and intend to execute him. He reveals his true identity and their confusion is heightened when they realise that Elvira has spent a night of love with the »fake« Giovanni. Only Zerlina is absolutely determined to bring Leporello to justice instead of Giovanni, who now seems to them to be becoming almost a figment of their imagination. Masetto, however, feels sorry for Leporello and lets him get away. Elvira now feels compassion for Giovanni. She, who betrayed herself this night, senses that she will leave Giovanni. Shortly before two in the morning. Giovanni has retreated to a nearby graveyard. Here, in front of a statue of the Commendatore, he swaps clothes again with Leporello. He orders his servant to invite the Commendatore, whose voice both think they have heard, to a late banquet. When Giovanni looks the Commendatore in the eye he's gripped by terror and leaves the graveyard. Donna Anna fearfully relives the memories of last night, but Ottavio assures her that he'll stand by her. She can cautiously imagine a future with him without fear, to touch a man without fear and be touched by him. Not long before dawn. Giovanni's waiting for the Commendatore. Elvira senses that he needs her and doesn't want to leave. The Commendatore appears and asks Giovanni if he regrets the way he's lived his life. Giovanni refuses to bow to anyone, or the next world, but realises he can't escape death. Sunrise. Don Giovanni's pursuers appear, to arrest him. Leporello says that his master's vanished again. The devil came to get him. The survivors try to understand what has happened during the last 24 hours and grasp what roles they played in this game of life and death.

The beginning of Mozart‘s world famous »dramma giocoso« is anything but light-hearted or jolly: Donna Anna’s father, the Commendatore, comes to her aid when Don Giovanni tries to seduce her, but is killed in a duel. Happy-go-lucky Don Giovanni is confronted with his own transitoriness, losing the light-heartedness he has practiced for years. Nothing is like it used to be. Donna Elvira, his wife, appears out of thin air, foiling another attempt at seduction. And he keeps being haunted by the murdered Commendatore’s ghost, who literally seems to hold a mirror up to him. Christof Loy places Mozart‘s opera in a baroque world, where terms like heaven, hell and God really meant something. Don Giovanni behaves like a blithe spirit who can’t be bothered with ethics or morals, whose anarchic lifestyle captivates, infects and changes the other characters forever.