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 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 disguise aria
Chapter 6: The graveyard scene
Chapter 7: The second finale
The last encounter with Donna Elvira
Don Giovanni and the stone guest
The final scene
Postscript: In defence of the operatic work
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).