Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Don Giovanni 

Radio Broadcast of Saturday, March 10, 12 Noon

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Scenes from Don Giovanni at the Met: Don Giovanni descends to hell as Leporello watches in horror, below (Kwiecien, Pisaroni)
© Beth Bergman 2012


The 2011–12 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by 
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®,
with generous long-term support from 
The Annenberg Foundation and 
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media, 
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.

Don Giovanni

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte 
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Leporello     bass-baritone, BRYN TERFEL
Donna Anna     soprano, MARINA REBEKA
Don Giovanni     baritone, GERALD FINLEY
Commendatore     bass, JAMES MORRIS
Don Ottavio     ten., MATTHEW POLENZANI
Donna Elvira     soprano, ELLIE DEHN
Zerlina     mezzo, ISABEL LEONARD
Masetto     bass-baritone, SHENYANG

Conducted by ANDREW DAVIS

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Michael Grandage
Set and costume designer: Christopher Oram
Lighting designer: Paule Constable
Choreographer: Ben Wright
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Dennis Giauque,
     Donna Racik, Joseph Colaneri,
     Howard Watkins
Assistant stage directors: Gregory Anthony
     Fortner, Sarah Ina Meyers, Louisa Muller
Prompter: Donna Racik
Stage band conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg
Fight director: Nigel Poulton
Harpsichord continuo: Howard Watkins
Italian coach: Hemdi Kfir

Production a gift of the Richard and Susan
     Braddock Family Foundation,
     and Sarah and Howard Solomon

Additional funding from
     Jane and Jerry del Missier, and
     Mr. and Mrs. Ezra K. Zilkha
THE SCENES    Timings (ET)  
  (Seville, 17th c.)   
ACT I   12:00–1:33
     Sc. 1 Commendatore's palace  
     Sc. 2 A street  
     Sc. 3 A wooded glade, near
Don Giovanni's palace
     Sc. 4 Outside the Don's palace  
     Sc. 5 Don Giovanni's palace  
ACT II   2:10–3:37
     Sc. 1 A street  
     Sc. 2 Commendatore's palace  
     Sc. 3 A cemetery  
     Sc. 4 Another part of the
Commendatore's palace
     Sc. 5 Don Giovanni's palace  
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
     Elena Park

For more information on the broadcasts,
     please visit

Send quiz questions to:
     Metropolitan Opera Quiz
     Metropolitan Opera
     30 Lincoln Center
     New York, NY 10023
     or e-mail

This performance is also being broadcast live
     on Metropolitan Opera Radio
     on SiriusXM channel 74.


ACT I. At night, outside the Commendatore's palace in Seville, Leporello grumbles about his fatiguing duties as servant to Don Giovanni, a dissolute nobleman. Suddenly the Commendatore's daughter, Donna Anna, appears, in pursuit of the masked Giovanni, who has entered her chamber and tried to seduce her. When Anna's father arrives on the scene in response to her cries, he is killed in a duel by Giovanni, who escapes. Anna, having gone in search of more aid, returns with her fiancé, Don Ottavio; finding her father dead, she insists that Ottavio swear vengeance on the assassin.

At dawn, Giovanni flirts with a traveler outside a tavern. She turns out to be Donna Elvira, a woman he once seduced in Burgos. She is still lamenting her betrayal. At his master's request, Leporello distracts Elvira by reciting Giovanni's long catalogue of conquest, giving Giovanni time to escape.

Peasants arrive, celebrating the nuptials of their friends Zerlina and Masetto. When Giovanni joins in, he pursues the bride, angering the groom, who is removed by Leporello. Alone with Zerlina, the nobleman suavely persuades her to forget her betrothed and come instead with him to his palace. Elvira interrupts and whisks the girl away. Momentarily thwarted, Giovanni greets Ottavio and the grieving Anna, only to be embarrassed by the persistent Elvira, who denounces him as a seducer. Explaining that Elvira is mad, he leads her off. Anna, having recognized Giovanni's voice as that of her attacker, calls on Ottavio to avenge her honor; when she departs, he muses on his devotion.

At his palace, Giovanni dresses for the wedding feast he has planned for the peasants, toasting the revelry to come.

Outside the palace, Zerlina begs the jealous Masetto to forgive her flirtation with the Don. The two enter the palace together as a minuet sounds from the ballroom. Elvira, Anna and Ottavio arrive in dominoes and mask; Giovanni tells Leporello to invite them to the feast.

Guests crowd the ballroom. While Leporello distracts Masetto, the host dances with Zerlina, drawing her into a nearby chamber. When the girl's cries for help put him on the spot, Giovanni tries to blame Leporello. Elvira, Anna and Ottavio, however, are not fooled; they unmask and confront Giovanni, who barely escapes Ottavio's drawn sword.

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As his servant Leporello watches, Don Giovanni greets the peasants Zerlina and Masetto, above (Mojca Erdmann as Zerlina, Joshua Bloom as Masetto, Dwayne Croft as Don Giovanni, Luca Pisaroni as Leporello)
© Beatriz Schiller 2012

ACT II. Under Elvira's balcony, Leporello exchanges cloaks with Giovanni to woo the lady in his master's stead. Leporello leads Elvira off, leaving the Don free to serenade Elvira's maid). When Masetto passes by with a band of armed peasants bent on punishing Giovanni, the disguised rake gives them false directions, then, tricking Masetto into handing over his weapons, beats him up. Zerlina tenderly consoles her betrothed.

Elvira follows the disguised Leporello to the Commendatore's palace, where they are surprised by Anna, Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto, who, mistaking servant for master, threaten Leporello. Frightened, Leporello unmasks, feigns to vow revenge on Giovanni, then escapes. When Anna departs, distraught, Ottavio asks the others to comfort his beloved and leaves in search of the culprit. Elvira, furious at her second betrayal, voices her rage . 

Leporello catches up with his master in a cemetery, where a voice emanating from the statue of the slain Commendatore warns Giovanni of his doom. The Don orders Leporello to invite the statue to dinner. When the terrified servant reluctantly stammers an invitation, the statue nods acceptance.

In her home, Anna postpones marriage to Ottavio until her father is avenged.

In his banquet hall, where an orchestra is playing, Giovanni orders Leporello to serve supper. Elvira rushes in, begging the Don, whom she still loves, to reform. Unmoved, he waves her away. As she departs, her screams announce the arrival of the statue. Giovanni bravely greets his guest, which bids him repent. When he refuses, flames engulf his palace as he is dragged down to hell. As day breaks over the city, Elvira, Anna, Ottavio, Zerlina, Masetto and Leporello gather to plan their future and state the moral: such is the libertine's fate. 

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Don Ottavio comforts Donna Anna, left (Ramón Vargas as Don Ottavio, Marina Rebeka as Donna Anna)
© Beth Bergman 2012


To many people, Don Giovanni is the greatest opera ever written — certainly because of its shifting values, the balance of tragic and burlesque, worldly and sublime. Librettist da Ponte called it a dramma giocoso (merry play); Mozart himself called it an opera buffa. He wrote the score for a small company in Prague, where Le Nozze di Figaro had made a tremendous hit. When he began the opera, early in 1787, Mozart was preoccupied with thoughts of death. Just recovered from a severe illness, he had lost his father and then his young physician. Also, he was an active Freemason, and his new chamber music was pervaded with mysticism. So Don Giovanni became a comedy with serious characters and a moral.

Don Juan, the irresistible seducer, is an age-old legendary figure. His archetype in Spanish folklore was Don Juan Tenorio y Salazar, who eloped with the daughter of Don Gonzago de Ulloa, killed the father and was murdered himself by avengers. Since its first recorded treatment, El Burlador de Sevilla, by Tirso de Molina (1571?–1648), the subject has fascinated poets and dramatists. Mozart saw it in Vienna as a ballet by Gluck and an opera by Righini, and he had read Molière's Don Juan, ou le Festin du Pierre (1665). The suggestion to use the story for Prague came from da Ponte, who had heard of the success of a new Don Juan opera in Venice, Giovanni Gazzaniga's Il Convitato di Pietro, with a text by Giovanni Bertati, which da Ponte used as a guide.

The opera was a success in Prague on October 29, 1787, though some of the singers were inadequate, and the overture, which Mozart completed at the last minute, had not been rehearsed. The libertine Casanova, a friend of da Ponte's, attended the premiere. In Austria and Germany, Don Giovanni met with some resistance, but it was chosen to open the new Hofoper in Vienna in 1867. 

The opera was given its first U.S. performances by Manuel García's company, in association with da Ponte, in 1826. The Metropolitan Opera premiere took place during the company's first season, on November 28, 1883, with a cast that included Emmy Fursch-Madi (Anna), Christine Nilsson (Elvira), Giuseppe Kaschmann (the Don) and Marcella Sembrich (Zerlina). The Met's new staging by Michael Grandage was unveiled on October 13, 2011, with Fabio Luisi conducting. 

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Leporello sings of Giovanni's conquests to Donna Elvira (Pisaroni, Barbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira)
© Beth Bergman 2012

Good basic sources are Stanley Sadie's economical The New Grove Mozart (Norton paperback) and the more elaborate Mozart Compendium, edited by H. C. Robbins Landon (Schirmer). Maynard Solomon's Mozart: A Life (Harper Collins) is a paragon of meticulously researched, insightful and sympathetic interpretive biography. The ENO/Royal Opera Guide to Don Giovanni (Riverrun paperback) includes a libretto, but Julian Rushton's Cambridge Opera Handbook (paperback) is more probingly analytical. The four relevant essays in Daniel Heartz's Mozart's Operas (California paperback) bring an exceptional blend of historical knowledge and musical insight to bear on the opera's origins and sources. Scores are from Dover (orchestral) and Schirmer (piano-vocal).

With six demanding lead roles, Don Giovanni offers a major casting challenge, rarely met with complete success even on recordings (all 3 CDs). Vintage classics include Josef Krips's 1955 set (Decca), with Cesare Siepi a commanding protagonist, and Carlo Maria Giulini's from 1959 (EMI), in which Eberhard Wächter's rough Giovanni undermines an otherwise superior cast. Siepi is also in the Paul Czinner film derived from 1954 Salzburg performances under Wilhelm Furtwängler (DG, DVD), representing an older, weightier performance tradition. Among "historically informed" recordings laid out to let you play either the Prague or Vienna version, John Eliot Gardiner's (DG Archiv) is the freshest, but Charles Mackerras (Telarc) achieves a comparable effect with modern instruments, historical savvy and fine musicianship. Thomas Hampson's Giovanni can be heard in Nikolaus Harnoncourt's provocative performance (Teldec). 

Among the score (or more) of Don Giovanni perfomances available on DVD, the 1999 Roberto de Simone staging from Vienna State Opera, led brilliantly by Riccardo Muti, has particularly strong appeal (Arthaus). Also recommended is the edgy 2006 Salzburg Festival production staged by Martin Kušej, with Daniel Harding pacing Thomas Hampson and Anna Netrebko (Decca). Gerald Finley is a suave Giovanni in Jonathan Kent's 2010 Glyndebourne staging, conducted by Vladimir Jurowski (EMI). An earlier Glyndebourne production, from 1977, offers Peter Hall's imaginative, thoughtful directing and Bernard Haitink's exhilarating conducting (Arthaus). spacer 

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