Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, MOZART: Don Giovanni

Justin Davidson

By Justin Davidson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Here's a vivid scene: at a corner table in a tavern in Prague in 1787, three men cluster around a manuscript, scrutinizing it for inaccuracies and scribbling in changes. The men are Mozart, his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte and Giacomo Casanova, consultant extraordinaire to his friends 'new opera about the life of a patrician rake: Don Giovanni. It's not certain such a meeting ever took place, but it may have, which is good enough for me. Certainly Mozart expressed empathy for his rouè drinking buddies in the opera's mix of exuberance and gloom. He called it a "dramma giocoso" ("playful drama"), a genre that in other hands denoted sentimentality and preposterous plot twists. Mozart, though, turned it into a clear-eyed portrait of a victimizer.