Opera in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Text by Da Ponte.
The hero, spoiled by fortune, and blase, is ever growing more reckless. He even dares to attack the virtue of Donna Anna, one of the first ladies of a city in Spain, of which her father, an old Spanish grandee, as noble and as strict in virtue as Don Giovanni is satiated and frivolous, is governor. The old father, coming forward to help his beloved (laughter, with drawn dagger attacks Don Giovanni, who, compelled to defend himself, has the misfortune to stab his assailant.
Donna Anna, a lady not only noble and virtuous, but proud and high-spirited, vows to avenge her father’s death. Though betrothed to a nobleman named Octavio, she will never know any peace until her father, of whose death she feels herself the innocent cause, is avenged. Her only hope is death, and in that she offers the liveliest contrast to her betrothed, who shows himself a gentleman of good temper and qualities, but of a mind too weak for his lady’s high-flown courage and truly tragic character. Though Octavio wants to avenge Donna Anna’s father, he would do it only to please her. His one aim is marriage with her. Her passionate feelings he does not understand.
Don Giovanni, pursued not only by Donna Anna, but also by his own neglected bride, Donna Elvira, tries to forget himself in debauches and extravagances. His servant Leporello, in every manner the real counterpart of his master, is his aider and abettor. A more witty, a more amusing figure does not exist. His fine sarcasm brings Don Giovanni’s character into bold relief; they complement and explain each other.
But Don Giovanni, passing from one extravagance to another, sinks deeper; everything he tries begins to fail him, and his doom approaches. He begins to amuse himself with Zerlina, the young bride of a peasant named Masetto, but each time, when he seems all but successful with the little coquette, his enemies, who have united against him, interfere and present a new foe in the person of the bridegroom, the plump and rustic Masetto. At last Don Giovanni is obliged to take refuge from the hatred of his pursuers. His flight brings him to the grave of the Dead governor, in whose memory a life-size statue has been erected in his own park. Excited to the highest pitch and almost beside himself, Don Giovanni even mocks the dead; he invites him to a supper. The statue moves its head in acceptance of the dreadful invitation of the murderer.
Toward evening Donna Elvira comes to see him, willing to pardon everything if only her lover will repent. She fears for him and for his fate. She does not ask for his love, only for the repentance of his follies; but all is in vain. The half-drunken Don Giovanni laughs at her, and so she leaves him alone. Then the ghostly guest, the statue of the governor, enters. He too tries to move his host’s conscience. He fain would save him in the last hour. Don Giovanni remains deaf to those warnings of a better self, and so he incurs his doom. The statue vanishes, the earth opens, and the demons of hell devour Don Giovanni and his splendid palace.