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EvilA History$
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Andrew P. Chignell

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780199915453

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199915453.001.0001

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Is Don Giovanni Evil?

Is Don Giovanni Evil?

Chapter:
(p.306) Reflection Is Don Giovanni Evil?
Source:
Evil
Author(s):

Elaine Sisman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199915453.003.0017

Although Mozart’s librettist for Don Giovanni, Lorenzo Da Ponte, explicitly invoked Dante’s Inferno as a source of his inspiration, both text and music tell a much more ambivalent story. The parts of the action familiar to its first audiences (the night-time escape and duel, the country maid, the statue of the dead Commander coming to dinner) were complicated by Don Giovanni’s persuasive, even heroic music and the hyper-dramatic self-justifications by his would-be conquests. Chronicling the Don’s last day, the opera focuses on his behaviors both nonchalant and impassioned as well as the inability of patriarchal norms and punishments to contain him. The opening scene, the episodic introduction of the women, and the serenade in Act II are seen here as telling examples of Mozart and Da Ponte’s desire—as in their other two collaborations, Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte—to accommodate a serious moral tale to the poignant delights of comic opera. They reveal a vision of the Don beyond good and evil.

Keywords:   Mozart, Don Juan, Don Giovanni, opera, Da Ponte

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