Metropolitan Opera Live in HD Performances

Saturday, May 20, 2023 and the following Wednesday

Ivo Van Hove's new production, conducted by Nathalie Stutzmann (Met debut) with Peter Mattei, Adam Plachetka, Federica Lombardi, Ana Maria Martinez, Ying Fang, Ben Bliss, and Alfred Walker.


Don Giovanni is a young, arrogant, and sexually promiscuous nobleman who abuses and outrages everyone else in the cast until he encounters a force he can't control, outwit, defeat, or beat up. The opera is usually set in a Spanish town, often Seville, in the 16th century.

Overture: The overture highlights the opera's ambivalence between great humor and tragedy. The D major Allegro that is heard at the outset repeats at the end of the opera as justice comes full circle.


Scene 1: The courtyard of the Commendatore.

Leporello, Don Giovanni's loyal servant, complains about his lot: Notte e giorno faticar (Night and day I slave away) and also indulges in fantasy: Voglio far il gentiluomo (You know, I'd like to be a gentleman).  Ever protective of his master, he watches the masked Don Giovanni enter the Commendatore's house in an effort to seduce the police chief's daughter Donna Anna. At this point, the structure of the music is formal. It will shortly change to disorder.  Donna Anna insists on knowing the intruder's real identity and a trio ensues: Non sperar, so non m'uccidi, Ch'io ti lasci fuggir mai! (Do not hope, unless you kill me, that I shall ever let you run away). Donna Anna cries out for help, and her father, the Commendatore, appears and forces Giovanni to fight a duel. Donna Anna leaves to seek help. On a dramatic and dissonant B diminished seventh chord, Giovanni fatally wounds his adversary. Giovanni, the Commendatore, and Leporello join in a haunting trio, each expressing his own view of what has just happened.  A rare moment of stillness occurs before Giovanni escapes with Leporello. 

When Donna Anna returns with her fiancé Don Ottavio, she discovers her father lying in a pool of blood. She forces Ottavio to swear vengeance against the unknown murderer and the two sing the duet that culminates in powerful D minor cadences: Ah, vendicar, se il puoi, giura quell sangue ognor! (Ah, swear to avenge that blood if you can). Although outwardly Anna is horrified at what has happened, some interpretations of her behavior toward Giovanni prior to the murder imply that she encouraged the seduction. In spite of the tragedy, the scene ends with comedy between Giovanni and Leporello.

Scene 2: A public square outside Don Giovanni's palace.

Don Giovanni and Leporello arrive in the square. Leporello berates his master, telling Giovanni that he's leading the life of a knave. Giovanni becomes angry, threatens Leporello, and stops dead in his tracks to exclaim: "I think I smell a woman." The two hear Donna Elvira singing of her abandonment by her lover and of her intention to seek revenge: Ah, chi mi dice mai (Ah, who could ever tell me). Elvira comes across as slightly ridiculous. Her sweeping melody and formal gestures emphasize her character.Giovanni instinctively begins flirting with her, but when it becomes apparent that he's the cad she's pursuing, Giovanni shoves Leporello in front of him to reveal the truth to Elvira.

Leporello tells Elvira that Giovanni is not worth her feelings. In the famous catalogue aria, Madamina, il catalogo e questo (My dear lady, this is the catalogue), he lays out the long list of Giovanni's conquests – 640 women and girls in Italy, 231 in Germany, 100 in France, 91 in Turkey, and 1,003 in Spain!  The total is 2,065. Bubbling patter gives way to a minuet. Giovanni likes his women young, preferably virgins. Elvira vows vengeance.

A marriage procession enters, and the peasants sing a lovely G major chorus. We meet Zerlina, the third woman on whom Giovanni will prey. Masetto and Zerlina are to be married. Giovanni and Leporello enter, and true to form, Giovanni is attracted to Zerlina and attempts to remove her jealous fiancé. When Masetto realizes that Giovanni's offer to host a wedding reception at his castle is an excuse to remain behind with Zerlina, he becomes angry: Ho capito! Signor, si (I understand, yes, my lord). Zerlina and Giovanni are left alone, and the seduction begins in the famous duet: La ci darem la mano (There we will entwine our hands). Giovanni has the nerve to make a proposal of marriage and comes close to obtaining Zerlina's acceptance.

Just as the seduction is about to succeed, Elvira enters and thwarts it, singing the short and formal Ah, fuggi il traditor (Flee from the traitor). She and Zerlina leave. Ottavio and Anna now enter, plotting vengeance on Anna's father's murderer, whose identity they still do not know. Ironically, Anna asks Giovanni for his help, not realizing that he's the assassin. Giovanni offers his assistance, asking who has disturbed her peace. Elvira returns, and recognizing her social equals, she tells Anna and Ottavio that Giovanni is a false-hearted seducer. Giovanni tries to convince the couple that Elvira is insane. A quartet ensues: Non ti fidar, o misera (Don't trust him, oh sad one).

As Giovanni leaves, Anna comes to her senses and recognizes him as the intruder who murdered her father. She explains to Ottavio that she was expecting a night visit from him and didn't realize that Giovanni was an imposter. There's a long recitative between Anna and Ottavio followed by Anna's aria in D major Or sai chi l'onore Rapire a me volse (Now you know who wanted to rob me of my honor). Ottavio is not 100% convinced that Anna is right, as she has recognized only Giovanni's voice, not his face because she never saw it. He resolves to keep an eye on Anna and sings a beautiful aria that was added for the Vienna performance: Dalla sua pace la mia dipende (On her peace my peace depends).

Leporello tells Giovanni that the peasant wedding guests are in Giovanni's house and that he has distracted Masetto, but that Zerlina and Elvira returned and spoiled the plans. Always optimistic, Giovanni tells Leporello to organize a party and invite every girl he can find. He then sings his Champagne Aria: Fin ch'han dal vino caldo la testa (Till they are tipsy). Giovanni and Leporello head to the Don's palace.

Zerlina follows the jealous Masetto and attempts to pacify him: Batti, batti o bel Masetto (Beat, O beat me, handsome Masetto). Just as she convinces Masetto of her innocence. Giovanni's voice from offstage startles and frightens her. Masetto hides, determined to spy on Zerlina's reaction to Giovanni's arrival. Giovanni attempts to continue the seduction but stumbles upon Masetto in hiding. Somewhat confused but recovering quickly, Giovanni temporarily returns Zerlina to Masetto and leads the couple to his lavishly decorated ballroom. Leporello invites three masked guests to the party, Ottavio, Anna, and Elvira. In a moment of stillness amidst a fast-moving opera, the couple prays for protection and Elvira calls for vengeance: Protegga il giusto cielo (May the just heavens protect us).


(ACT I continued)

Scene 3: Giovanni's ballroom.

Three separate chamber orchestras provide entertainment at the celebration. The music resembles the earlier bucolic chorus heard when we first met the peasants. Leporello distracts Masetto by dancing with him, allowing Giovanni to drag Zerlina into a private room. She screams for help, and Giovanni tries to fool the onlookers by dragging Leporello into the room, berating him for assaulting Zerlina, and threatening to kill him. Ottavio whips out a pistol, and the three guests unmask and declare that they know the story. Giovanni escapes – temporarily.


Scene 1: Outside Elvira's house.

Finally disgusted with his master, Leporello threatens to resign. A bribe settles him down, as Giovanni sings Eh via buffone (Go on, fool). Leporello wants Giovanni to give up women, but Giovanni claims he needs them "as much as the food I eat and the air I breathe."His love is universal, and if he is faithful to one woman, he betrays all the others. Giovanni now has his eye on Elvira's maid and convinces Leporello to change clothes with him. Hearing the commotion, Elvira comes to her window. The three sing Ah, taci, ingiusto core (Ah, be quiet unjust heart). Always ready for fun, Giovanni sends the disguised Leporello into the open while from his hiding place he sings of repentance and a desire to return to Elvira. He even threatens to kill himself if she won't take him back. Convinced that Giovanni/Leporello is serious, Elvira comes down to the street. Leporello leads her away while Giovanni resumes his seduction of the maid, accompanying himself on his mandolin: Deh vieni alla finestra (Ah, come to the window).

The arrival of Masetto, accompanied by his peasant friends, interrupts Giovanni's seduction of the maid. Fearful of being killed, Giovanni, still disguised as Leporello, convinces the posse that he too hates Giovanni, and joins the hunt. Artfully dispersing Masetto's friends in different directions, Giovanni sings Meta di voi qua vadano (Half of you go this way). He beats up Masetto and runs off laughing. Zerlina returns to console her battered loved one: Vedrai carino (You'll see, dear one).

Scene 2: A dark courtyard at Donna Anna's house.

Leporello abandons Elvira: Sola, sola in buio loco (All alone in this dark place). As he tries to escape, Ottavio and Anna arrive. Then Zerlina and Masetto catch him trying to slip through the door, still dressed as Giovanni. Elvira is still trying to protect the man she thinks is Giovanni, claiming that he is her husband. The other four are determined to punish Giovanni, but the disguised Leporello saves himself by removing his cloak and by begging for forgiveness: Ah pieta signori miei (Ah, have mercy, my lords). By this time Ottavio is convinced that Giovanni murdered the Commendatore and swears vengeance: Il mi tesoro (My treasure). This number was deleted from the Vienna version of the opera. Still furious with Giovanni for the betrayal but nonetheless sympathetic to his plight, Elvira sings Mi trade quell'alma ingrate (That ungrateful wretch betrayed me).

Scene 3: A graveyard with the statue of the Commendatore.

Leporello tells Giovanni of his brush with danger, but Giovanni isn't sympathetic. He tells Leporello that in his disguise, he tried to seduce one of Leporello's girlfriends. Leporello isn't amused, claiming that the victim could have been his wife. Suddenly, the statue speaks, warning Giovanni that his laughter will not last beyond sunrise. At Giovanni's command, Leporello reads the inscription on the statue's base: Dell'empio che mi trasse al passo estremo qui attend la vendetta (Here am I waiting for revenge against the scoundrel who killed me). Leporello is terrified, but Giovanni bids him invite the statue to dinner. A duet follows: O statua gentilissima (Oh most noble statue). Leporello is too frightened to complete the invitation, and Giovanni completes it himself, thus sealing his own doom. The statue nods; it will return.

Scene 4: Donna Anna's room.

Ottavio pressures Anna to marry him, but she protests, claiming it is too soon after her father's death and that society would frown on such a quick celebration. Ottavio claims she is cruel, and she assures him of her love: Non mi dir (Tell me not).

Scene 5: Don Giovanni's chambers.

Giovanni's appetite for food is as large as his appetite for women. He eats voraciously, enjoying a delicious feast served by Leporello. There is musical entertainment too, and the orchestra plays both opera music by Vicente Martin y Soler and Mozart's own Non piu andrai from The Marriage of Figaro. The scene begins with the finale Gia la mensa preparata (Already the table is prepared). Elvira enters, claiming she feels only pity, no longer resentment for Giovanni: L'ultima prova dell'amor mio (The final proof of my love). Surprised by her change of heart, Giovanni asks what she wants, and she tells him she wants him to change his life. Giovanni taunts her and turns away to praise wine and women as the support and glory of all mankind: Sostegno e Gloria d'umanita).

Hurt by Giovanni's response, Elvira leaves. Almost immediately, she screams, returns, and tries to flee through another door. Leporello investigates the chaos, only to find that the statue has appeared; it has accepted the invitation to dinner. In a booming bass, the statue sings the D minor music that was heard in the overture: Don Giovanni! A cenar teco m'invitasti (Don Giovanni! You invited me to dine with you). The Commendatore offers a last chance for repentance, but Giovanni refuses. The statue sinks into the earth, dragging Giovanni with it. Hellfire and a chorus of demons surround Giovanni as he goes below.

Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Donna Elvira, Zerlina, and Masetto arrive to look for the villain. Instead, they find Leporello cowering under the table, shaken by the supernatural horror that he has witnessed. Giovanni is dead. Anna and Ottavio will marry after the end of Anna's year of mourning. Elvira will go to a convent, and Zerlina and Masetto will go home for dinner. Leporello will go to a tavern to find a better master.

The concluding ensemble in the key of D major delivers the opera's message: Questo e il fin di chi fa mal, e de'perfidi la morte alla vita e sempre ugual (Such is the end of the evildoer: the death of a sinner always reflects his life). Although Gustav Mahler and other conductors have at times eliminated this final ensemble from the opera, ending when the title character dies, most performances retain the conclusion with its important moral.

Highlights of the Opera

  • Don Giovanni was written in two acts. Mozart collaborated with Lorenzo Da Ponte, who wrote the libretto not only for this opera but also for The Marriage of Figaro and later Cosi fan tutte. The opera is based on the legends of Don Juan, the fictional libertine and seducer. Given the popularity of the Don Juan story, Da Ponte borrowed heavily from Moliere's play Don Juan (1665), Carlo Goldoni's play Don Giovanni Tenorio (1736), and Giovanni Bertati's libretto Don Giovanni or the Guest of Stone (1786).
  • Everything in Don Giovanni takes place at night, distorting the normal sense of time. The Commendatore is killed in the dark of night. Donna Elvira arrives from Burgos at night. Don Giovanni's only erotic adventure, reported to Leporello, also takes place at night.
  • Don Giovanni premiered in Prague at the Teatro di Prago (now called the Estates Theatre) on October 29, 1787. The original plan had been to present the opera in honor of Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria and her new husband, but Mozart didn't finish it in time. Although the opening was postponed, there was still a rush to completion. Mozart worked up until the last minute, finishing the music on the day of the premiere or on the previous day – quite a rush job. The opera was an instant success, as was often true of Mozart's work in Prague.
  • The Vienna premiere took place on May 7, 1788. Mozart supervised the production and added two new arias, corresponding recitatives, and an additional duet. The reaction of the audience was less positive than it had been in Prague. Dominated by aristocrats, Vienna regarded the subject matter as politically incorrect! Subsequent productions in Warsaw, Frankfurt, Bonn, Hamburg, and Berlin followed. Later productions in England were sung in both German and English. The first performance in America took place in 1826.
  • At the time of its Prague production, the opera was considered to be drama giocoso, a term that denotes a mixing of serious and comic action. Frequent changes in tempo, particularly in the finale of Act II, emphasize the contrast. Mozart himself categorized the opera as opera buffa, or comic opera. Regardless of the label, Don Giovanni includes comedy, melodrama, and the supernatural. It is one of the ten most frequently performed operas throughout the world. Moreover, many composers have borrowed and arranged the beautiful music. They include Liszt, Chopin, and Beethoven. Snatches of Don Giovanni also appear in Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman and Rossini's Il turco in Italia.
  • Musicologist Robert Greenberg calls Don Giovanni a "couples" opera, where each major character has his or her complement in another major character. Don Giovanni and his servant Leporello are the most important couple. Many contend that the two represent the duality of an individual's personality. To emphasize this concept, Dmitri Hvorostovsky sings both roles in the film Don Giovanni Unmasked. Giovanni, the handsome aristocrat, is fearless, confident, lacking self-restraint, and without a conscience. Leporello is fearful, doubtful, and guilty over his role in his master's antics.
  • The final ensemble was omitted from the Viennese libretto and was left out of most performances until the early 20th century. Occasionally Don Ottavio's demanding aria Il mio tesora is replaced by the less difficult Dalla sua pace. An entire scene between Zerlina and Leporello that was composed for the Viennese production is usually omitted too. Although in both the Prague and Vienna productions, the same singer played both Masetto and the Commendatore, in most modern productions, there are two singers.
  • In his book Mozart, Wolfgang Hildescheimer suggests that Shakespeare influenced Mozart's insertion of the ghost of the Commendatore. For example, in Hamlet, the ghost of Hamlet's father is seen by his son, by Horatio, and by the officers of the watch, but not by the Queen. In Don Giovanni, the Commendatore's ghost is visible to all.
  • A new book on Don Giovanni published in 2022 offers an interesting perspective. Richard Will, the author of Don Giovanni Captured: Performance, Media, Myth, suggests that throughout 120 years of audio and video recordings, Don Giovanni has been a daring individualist defying convention, the victim of social forces, a seducer, and a rapist. During the era of short-playing 78 rpms single-aria discs skewed the listeners' ideas of the essence of the title character. Technology limited a fuller characterization and blurred social issues that eventually became an important part of the opera. During the LP era (1950-1970), full length orchestra accompanied performances were impacted by conductors who objected to vocal embellishments and other liberties. Revisionist literary views of Donna Anna portrayed her as Giovanni's lover rather than as his victim. As Will explains in the book, the closer we get to our own time, the more ambiguous the role of Giovanni and Donna Anna become.

Upcoming Opera Events

  • Metropolitan Opera Live in HD
    • Wagner's Lohengrin: March 18, 2023
    • Verdi's Falstaff: April 1, 2023
  • Triangle Wagner Society
    • Soprano Andrea Edith Moore accompanied by Pianist Danny Spiegel: March 5, 2023 NC Opera
    • Carolina Performing Arts and NC Opera Orchestra: Giddens/Abel production of Omar, February 25 and 26, 2023
    • Gershwin's Porgy and Bess: April 14 and 16, 2023
  • Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle
    • The Baroque Concerto: February 19, 2023
    • Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice: March 25, 2023

About this Website

The website contains links to the music we will hear and other background information.

Questions and Additional Information

Please reach out to Instructor Margie Satinsky with questions and requests for additional information. Contact information is: (919) 383-5998 (home/work), or (919) 812-2235 (cell/text), or margiesatinsky@icloud.com.