In the latest of our series looking at the operas that we will be bringing to our theatre this year, we meet Mozart’s famous anti-hero.
There can’t be many comedies which end with the hero’s consignment to hell. But this is exactly what happens at the end of Don Giovanni, as the titular character finally gets his comeuppance. This fate is foreshadowed in the opera’s full title, which is: Il dissoluto punito, ossia il Don Giovanni, which translates as The Rake Punished, or Don Giovanni. As you may have guessed, it’s written in Italian, even though Mozart, was, of course, Austrian. (If you’ve read any of these blogs before, you’ll probably have noticed that this linguistic confusion is a running theme in opera). However, in this case, the words were actually written by an Italian – Mozart’s regular librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte.
It was first performed in Prague, on 29 October, 1787 – Mozart having finished writing it only the day before. It was met with a rapturous reception both in Prague, and in its first appearance in Vienna in May of the following year. It has remained one of the most frequently performed and popular operas ever since – it’s currently ranked as the tenth most-performed opera worldwide.
The opera is based on the stories about Don Juan, the legendary libertine and seducer of women. Don Giovanni is seducing his way around Spain, accompanied by his long-suffering servant Leporello. While attempting to seduce one young lady, he gets into a fight with her father, whom he kills. Showing no remorse, Giovanni continues with his debauched lifestyle – until the spirit of the dead man returns to seek his revenge.
As you would expect from Mozart, their opera contains some great music – whether that’s the Don’s predictably sparkling ‘Champagne’ aria, or the famously seductive duet Là ci darem la mano (There We Will Entwine Our Hands) the tunes in this opera are among Mozart’s best.
This year, we are bringing you not one, but two chances to see Mozart’s masterpiece (we try to be generous…). The first is from English Touring Opera, which will be with us on Friday 6 May. This new production, sung in English translation, is performed in Victorian dress. It was described by The Guardian as, “Beautifully acted and finely sung… A fine achievement, and the best UK staging of Don Giovanni for some time.” What’s On Stage as, “Unmissable… Gets practically everything right.”
If you miss this, or it’s just not enough of the Don for you, the rake will be back in our theatre in November, as part of our annual visit from the Glyndebourne Tour. This is a revival of a modern-dress production first created by renowned director Jonathan Kent in 2010, sung in the original Italian (with English supertitles). If you’re curious to know more about Don Giovanni and opera in general, Glyndebourne will also be bringing us their new Behind The Curtain presentation, a unique chance to learn more about this unique art form.
ETO: Friday 6 May Book here
Glyndebourne: Tuesday 15 & Friday 18 November Book here
Behind The Curtain: Thursday 17 November Book here