Don Giovanni

2011 Festival production of Don Giovanni. Photo: Robbie Jack

Synopsis

Setting: A city in Spain

Act I

Leporello, Don Giovanni’s servant, paces up and down outside Donna Anna’s house while his masked master is inside, attempting to rape her. She fights him off and the two enter, Anna retiring inside after her cries for help have brought her father, the Commendatore, to her aid. He challenges Giovanni to a duel in which he is killed. Giovanni and Leporello make off.

Anna returns with her betrothed, Don Ottavio, and faints on seeing her father’s body. Reviving but still in shock, she makes Ottavio join her in an oath of vengeance against the unknown perpetrator. 

In a street the following morning, Giovanni and Leporello are arguing about the nobleman’s lifestyle when the former scents a woman, who turns out to be Donna Elvira, come from Burgos to seek Giovanni, who promised her marriage. Giovanni slopes off, leaving Leporello to show Elvira his notorious catalogue of the seducer’s conquests; she, too, vows revenge.

Near Giovanni’s house, peasants are celebrating the imminent wedding of Masetto and Zerlina. Giovanni turns up with Leporello and decides to seduce Zerlina; Masetto (unwillingly) and the others are sent off to admire his palace. Left alone with Zerlina, Giovanni offers to marry her himself. As soon as she agrees, Elvira shows up, warns Zerlina about Giovanni, and leads her away.

Giovanni’s friends Anna and Ottavio now arrive, asking for his support in their revenge upon the unknown assailant. As he is agreeing, Elvira returns, throwing everything into confusion with her accusations; Giovanni tries to pass her off as a mad woman, but her bearing convinces them otherwise. Eventually she leaves and Giovanni follows her. Anna realizes that Giovanni is the villain they seek. She renews her vow of vengeance and Ottavio affirms his unquestioning loyalty to her.

Returning to the scene, Leporello warns Giovanni that Elvira has been making further trouble at his house. Giovanni is more concerned about organizing a party, at which he hopes to add ten more conquests to his list.

Inside Giovanni’s home, Zerlina defuses Masetto’s anger; he then hides as Giovanni is heard offstage. Giovanni, launching his party, renews his seduction of Zerlina until foiled by Masetto’s sudden reappearance. 

Ottavio, Anna and Elvira, all masked, are invited in. With the party now in full swing, Leporello waltzes off with Masetto while Giovanni leads Zerlina into a private room. Her screams for assistance alert everyone to an assault. Giovanni attempts to blame Leporello, but no one is fooled. As the maskers reveal their identities and threaten him with punishment, Giovanni defies them and escapes.

Act II

Back in the street later that evening, Giovanni and Leporello’s relationship reaches breaking-point until Giovanni hands him more money. Giovanni now proposes to seduce Elvira’s maid while dressed as Leporello. When Elvira herself appears at her window, it is Giovanni’s voice she hears pleading for forgiveness, but Leporello’s disguised form she sees. She goes off with him, leaving the real Giovanni to serenade her maid.

Masetto and his cronies arrive in search of Giovanni, finding, as they believe, Leporello instead. Giovanni sends the others off on a wild goose chase and beats the defenceless Masetto before disappearing. Arriving in search of Masetto, Zerlina tenderly binds his wounds. 

Leporello, meanwhile, is attempting to escape from Elvira in the darkness. The arrival of Ottavio, Anna, Zerlina and Masetto prevents him, and only the removal of his disguise saves him from their anger; Zerlina, even so, takes the opportunity to punish him. Elvira contemplates the follies into which her love has led her, while recognizing that she cannot give it up.

That night, in a graveyard, Giovanni and Leporello catch up on each other’s latest doings, including the former’s attempted seduction of the latter’s girlfriend. As Giovanni laughs at the joke, the voice of the Commendatore’s statue is heard warning him of speedy retribution. Giovanni forces Leporello to invite the statue to dinner; the statue agrees.

In Anna’s house, Ottavio renews his offer of marriage; still grieving, she defers their discussion.

At Giovanni’s house, the master and servant are being musically entertained at supper. Suddenly Elvira enters, with one final plea for Giovanni to reform. She is rebuffed, but her scream on leaving announces another visitor. The statue has come for dinner. As Leporello hides, the statue invites Giovanni to dine with him in return. He agrees. As he grasps the statue’s hand, he feels a deadly chill, but refuses to repent. Amid fire and earthquake he is swallowed up by the ground.

The other characters rush in to learn of his fate and moralize on the reward for his wickedness.

Words: George Hall

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