The Original Portrayal of Mozart’s Don Giovanni  book cover
1st Edition

The Original Portrayal of Mozart’s Don Giovanni

ISBN 9780367243203
Published November 16, 2021 by Routledge
260 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Original Portrayal of Mozart’s Don Giovanni offers an original reading of Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s opera Don Giovanni, using as a lens the portrayal of the title role by its creator, the baritone Luigi Bassi (1766–1825).

Although Bassi was coached in the role by the composer himself, his portrayal has never been studied in depth before, and this book presents a large number of new sources (first- and second-hand accounts), which allows us to reconstruct his performance scene by scene. The book confronts Bassi’s portrayal with a study of the opera’s early German reception and performance history, demonstrating how Don Giovanni as we know it today was not only created by Mozart, Da Ponte and Luigi Bassi but also by the early German adapters, translators, critics and performers who turned the title character into the arrogant and violent villain we still encounter in most of today’s stage productions.

Incorporating discussion of dramaturgical thinking of the late Enlightenment and the difficult moral problems that the opera raises, this is an important study for scholars and researchers from opera studies, theatre and performance studies, music history as well as conductors, directors and singers.

Table of Contents


Rewriting the myth of Don Juan

The demonising of Don Giovanni: A historical overview

Chapter 1: Luigi Bassi as Don Giovanni

The singer and his role

Intention and experience: Prescriptive and descriptive sources

The performer as a phenomenon

Grace and gallantry: Bassi’s portrayal

Performance traditions: Italians and Germans

Chapter 2: The opening scene

Chapter 3: Don Giovanni and the three women

Donna Elvira’s entrance aria

The duettino

The quartet and Donna Anna’s narration

Chapter 4: The party episode

The champagne aria

The garden scene

The ballroom scene

Chapter 5: The disguise episode

The first duet with Leporello

The trio

The canzonetta

The disguise aria

Chapter 6: The graveyard scene

Chapter 7: The second finale

The supper

The last encounter with Donna Elvira

Don Giovanni and the stone guest

The final scene

Postscript: In defence of the operatic work


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Magnus Tessing Schneider (Stockholm University) is a Danish theatre scholar specialising in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian opera. He has edited Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito: A Reappraisal (2018), together with Ruth Tatlow, and Felicity Baker’s essay collection Don Giovanni’s Reasons: Thoughts on a Masterpiece (2021).