In two acts by MOZART.
Text by DA PONTE.
Don Juan is Mozart's most beautiful opera; we may even say, that it is
the greatest work of this kind, which was ever written by a German
musician. The text too, written by Mozart's friend, is far above the
level of ordinary opera-texts.
The hero, spoilt by fortune and blase, is ever growing more reckless.
ven dares to attack the virtue of Donna Anna, one of the first
ladies of a city in Spain, of which her father, an old Spanish Grandee,
as noble and as strict in virtue as Don Juan is oversatiated and
frivolous, is governor. The old father coming forward to help his
beloved daughter, with drawn dagger attacks Don Juan, who compelled to
defend himself, has the misfortune to stab his assailant.
Donna Anna, a lady not only noble and virtuous, but proud and
high-spirited, vows to avenge her father's death. Though betrothed to
a nobleman, named Octavio, she will never know any peace until her
father, of whose death she feels herself the innocent cause, is
avenged. Her only hope is death, and in that she offers the liveliest
contrast to her betrothed, who shows himself a gentleman of good temper
and qualities, but of a mind too weak for his lady's high-flown courage
and truly tragic character. Though Octavio wants to avenge Donna
Anna's father, he would do it only to please her. His one aim is
marriage with her. Her passionate feelings he does not understand.
Don Juan, pursued not only by Donna Anna, but also by his own neglected
bride, Donna Elvira, tries to forget himself in debauches and
extravagances. His servant Leporello, in every manner the real
counterpart of his master, is his aider and abettor. A more witty, a
more amusing figure does not exist. His fine sarcasm brings Don Juan's
character into bold relief; they complement and explain each-other.
But Don Juan, passing from one extravagance to another, sinks deeper;
everything he tries begins to fail him, and his doom approaches.--He
begins to amuse himself with Zerlina, the young bride of a peasant,
named Masetto, but each time, when he seems all but successful in his
aim of seducing the little coquette, his enemies, who have united
themselves against him, interfere and present a new foe in the person
of the bridegroom, the plump and rustic Masetto. At last Don Juan is
obliged to take refuge from the hatred of his pursuers. His flight
brings him to the grave of the dead governor, in whose memory a
life-size statue has been erected in his own park. Excited to the
highest pitch and almost beside himself, Don Juan even mocks the dead;
he invites him to a supper. The statue moves its head in acceptance of
the dreadful invitation of the murderer.
Towards evening Donna Elvira comes to see him, willing to pardon
everything, if only her lover will repent. She fears for him and
for his fate, she does not ask for his love, but only for the
repentance of his follies, but all is in vain. The half-drunken Don
Juan laughs at her, and so she leaves him alone. Then the ghostly
guest, the statue of the governor enters. He too tries to move his
host's conscience; he fain would save him in the last hour. Don Juan
remains deaf to those warnings of a better self, and so he incurs his
doom. The statue vanishes, the earth opens and the demons of hell
devour Don Juan and his splendid palace.