Opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(Vienna 1788 version)
Libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, based on the legends of Don Juan, inspired by the major musical, literary and folkloric writings of the time
In front of the Commendatore’s residency, Leporello (Don Giovanni’s servant) complains of his daily duties to his master, a libertine nobleman. Soon, Don Giovanni appears wearing a mask; he is followed by Donna Anna, whom he tried to seduce. When the Commendatore (Anna’s father) hears her cries, he comes to help her, but he is killed by Don Giovanni, who escapes. Donna Anna returns with her fiancé, Don Ottavio. She sees her father lying dead and asks Ottavio to revenge her.
Don Giovanni is flirting with a lady from Burgos, which turns out to be Donna Elvira, his wife. Abandoned after only three days of marriage, she had travelled around Spain in order to find him and call him to account. Bored of her reproaches, Din Giovanni manages to escape. Leporello reveals his master’s amorous adventures to Donna Elvira by showing her a long list of his lovers’ names.
A group of peasants appears in the marketplace, celebrating the wedding of their friends, Zerlina and Masetto. Attracted by the bride’s beauty, Don Giovanni joins the merrymakers’ group. His attraction for Zerlina causes Masetto, the groom, to take heed, but he is side tracked by Leporello.
Left alone with Zerlina, Don Giovanni tries to convince her to accept his love, promising her that he himself will marry her. But they are interrupted by Donna Elvira, who tries to protect Zerlina from his hits. Donna Anna and Don Ottavio meet Don Giovanni, but they can’t recognize him as the Commendatore’s murderer. Donna Elvira’s sudden appearance leads Don Giovanni to say that she is a mad woman and goes along with her. Donna Anna realizes from his tone of voice and gestures that he was the man who broke into her house, seduced her and killed the Commendatore. Terrified, she confesses her suspicions to her fiancé, Ottavio declares his love for her and promises his full support, swearing that he will avenge her father.
Don Giovanni orders Leporello to organize a party for the peasants in his palace, in order to seduce Zerlina and conquer other women, as well.
In front of Don Giovanni’s house, Zerlina asks Masetto to forgive her apparent infidelity. The very moment Don Giovanni enters, Masetto hides and tries to take the two lovers by surprise, but the tension eases and they all go to the ball. Elvira, Anna and Ottavio, eager for revenge, arrive at the party while in disguise. Leporello invites them to come in.
During the party, Leporello distracts Masetto’s attention, while Don Giovanni leads Zerlina to another room. When the girl cries for help, Don Giovanni accuses Leporello of having attacked Zerlina, but nobody would believe this lie. Elvira, Anna and Ottavio take off their masks and warn the seducer that vengeance will soon be upon him.
It’s the middle of the night. Elvira suffers from her husband’s infidelity, but, at the same time, she admits that she loves him. Intending to play a prank on her, Don Giovanni persuades Leporello to exchange clothes with him and to declare his love to Donna Elvira. Don Giovanni is trying to seduce Elvira’s maid. His poetic moment is interrupted by Masetto’s arrival, who, alongside a group of armed peasants, is searching to punish him. Giovanni (dressed as Leporello), misleads them into going the wrong way. He punishes Masetto, who had remained alone. Zerlina arrives and comforts her fiancé.
Donna Elvira and the pretended Don Giovanni, who is none other but Leporello, dressed in his master’s clothes, are surprised by Anna, Ottavio, Zerlina and Masetto, who terribly threaten the disguised servant. Frightened, he reveals to them his real identity. Don Ottavio, worried about Donna Anna’s suffering, who incessantly weeps over her father, reiterates his love for her. Angry that she was outwitted again by Don Giovanni, Elvira vehemently expresses her outrage, but she also admits that she still loves him.
In the cemetery, Leporello meets his master again. A sinister voice announces the end of Don Giovanni. It is the spectrum of the murdered Commendatore, whom Don Giovanni defies and invites, jokingly, for dinner. Leporello sends the Commendatore this invitation and the spectrum accepts it. Donna Anna, together with Don Ottavio come to her father’s grave. Deeply grieved, she reminds her noble fiancé of the promised revenge, hoping to find her peace.
Leporello serves his master’s dinner. Donna Elvira enters, and, as she is still in love with Giovanni, she begs him to repent and become a different man. But he sends her away. The spectrum of the Commendatore arrives for dinner. Don Giovanni refuses to change his ways, even under the threat of death. The revenge is, thus, accomplished: Don Giovanni is dragged, by the spectrum, into the world of shadows.