Don Giovanni: Music, Strategy, Method,
Or, The Real Plot Hatched
Mozart and Da Ponte
by David Shavin
The Vienna “Don Giovanni”
by Ian Woodfield
The Boydell Press
Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK. 2010
Hardback; 217 pp.
This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.” And the doctor says, “Why don’t you turn him in?” And the guy says, “I would but I need the eggs.” (Woody Allen in “Annie Hall”)
Ian Woodfield has carefully examined a variety of manuscripts of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” opera, and, on a technical level – as a detective that knows how to sort out fingerprints – makes intelligent, reasoned choices as to the probable sequence of events in Mozart’s composition of some parts of the opera. And there are delightful details that are strewn throughout such an investigation. However, the primary issue involves an examination of the circumstances of Mozart’s alteration of the original 1787 Prague production for the production six months later in Vienna. In essence, Woodfield thinks that he can speak to such a question by close attention to various manuscript changes, on the assumption that if they occurred while Mozart was involved, they all must have had equal weight for Mozart. Therefore, the obvious conclusion: If the production was changed, Mozart would have wanted it to change as it did.
It is somewhat crazy to think that the high-tension pressures upon Mozart, during his “Don Giovanni” cultural intervention, could be addressed in such a fashion. Woodfield is no raving deconstructionist or obvious ideologue. He just has a small-minded approach to a question that demands a method of investigation capable of answering a much bigger question. It is a measure of how far our culture has gone awry that we depend upon such investigators for all the delightful items to be found in these precious manuscripts from another time. But…it seems that we need the eggs.
“Don Giovanni”: Prague Original vs. Vienna Remake
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
It is indeed a worthy question to investigate: What was involved in the changes that Mozart made in his opera? But, first, mention might be made as to the political realities behind Mozart’s decision to put the opera on stage, so as to have a clue as to the sort of reactions and events between the two productions.
In brief, the American victory at Yorktown had turned the world upside down on the British Empire; and every court in Europe had to rethink their strategic position.1 In Mozart’s Vienna, the Emperor Joseph II took the lead in adopting ‘American System’ reforms, designed to transform a peasantry into a skilled middle class. However, an entrenched nobility, who had put up with Joseph’s 1781 freeing of the serfs, was not reconciled to develop the talents of the former serfs. In 1785/6, Mozart and his librettist, Lorenzo da Ponte2, worked with Joseph on their “Figaro” opera, aimed at demolishing the resistance to the reforms. Count Almaviva, who had formally renounced the ‘right of the first night’, or the medieval right to deflower any bride before the husband, would spend the whole opera attempting to, in fact, bed the bride. The nobility's backwardness in their view of their fellow man's possibilites was treated on stage as a nobleman's domination by animal lust. When Joseph temporized, and did not follow through on the cultural offensive, Mozart and da Ponte suspected an unaddressed problem.
In the summer of 1786, da Ponte identified an operation that had inveigled the Emperor – the sexual blackmail run by the Venetian agent, Casanova. It wasn’t obvious that an opera could help the Emperor at this point. For about six months, Mozart had plans to leave Vienna, likely forever; but, by the Spring of 1787, the two decided to put the satanic evil of the Venetian disease on stage. With the Emperor’s agreement, they would stage “Don Giovanni” – not to simply expose a Casanova, but to force one and all to squirm in their seats at the weaknesses of the victims that allowed Venetian methods to dominate. They could use the more republican Prague to springboard an assault upon the capital of the Empire, Vienna.
In 1787, before Mozart’s “Figaro” had captured Prague, triggering the kind of optimistic transformation that should have swept Vienna. In early November, with the tremendous opening of “Don Giovanni”, Mozart wrote from Prague: “But perhaps my opera will be performed in Vienna after all!3 I hope so. People here are doing their best to persuade me to remain on for a couple of months and write another. But I cannot accept this proposal, however flattering it may be.” He had to use the Prague victory to conquer Vienna. Da Ponte, back in Vienna, reported that week: “The Emperor sent for me, and overloading me with gracious felicitations, presented me with another hundred sequins, and told me that he was longing to see ‘Don Giovanni’. Mozart returned [and] immediately gave the score to the copyist who hastened to prepare the parts, since Joseph had to leave.” This was in November, 1787. Three months later, Joseph left for a senseless, imperial war against the infidel Turks. By April, 1788, Mozart was rewriting portions of the opera for the May 7, 1788 Vienna premiere. Joseph, and his country, never recovered from the disorientation from the misguided war, nor from the attendant diseases – nor would he ever see the staged opera production.
That, in a nutshell, identifies the nature of the cultural and strategic brawl, which would make it rather incredible were the Prague victory simply to have been replayed in Vienna, with no outside pressures. Virtually none of this makes it into Woodfield’s considerations as he sets out to explain the changes in the two productions of “Don Giovanni”.
Woodfield puts his work into a certain perspective. In 1801, Breitkopf and Haertel, after some research into the various manuscripts, published what was basically the Prague version as the official “Don Giovanni” and added the three new arias that Mozart wrote for Vienna in an appendix. In 1868, Bernhard Gugler4 published an edition that was based upon Mozart’s original manuscript, loaned to him by Pauline Viardot, nee Garcia.5 He went out of his way to consult other manuscripts to resolve various questions. Next, Woodfield credits Alan Tyson’s modern studies of the watermarks of the manuscripts as a revolution, helping to break down the reliance upon one, integral Mozart ‘Prague’ creation. Following this, he cites Dexter Edge’s studies (e.g., his PhD thesis on “Mozart’s Viennese Copyists”) for bringing attention to the markings by instrumentalists on their performing parts, and fleshes out our knowledge as to how, in particular, dynamics and articulation were practiced in the early productions.
Finally, Woodfield’s research on various copyists’ manuscripts provide footprints as to the path of discussion, as Mozart helped stage the opera productions. Mozart, for example, wrote certain parts of “Don Giovanni” first while home in Vienna, and finished other parts when he arrived in Prague.6 Again, he made a few amendations to the libretto7 itself, and even to the stage directions. More of this will become clear when we harvest the eggs.
The Argument Against Artistic Integrity
Unfortunately, then Woodfield argues that, while the stodgy ‘Neue Mozart Ausgabe’ incorporated some of these developments, they are stuck with the conclusion of such as Wolfgang Rehm: that “the Vienna Don Giovanni… ‘smacks of the variable, experimental, and non-definitive’, whereas the Prague version of 1787, both in its musical and dramatic structure, seems to be cut from whole cloth.” Instead, Woodfield contends that his detailed investigation shows that Mozart’s three new arias for Vienna changed the Prague original “even in Mozart’s lifetime… in an entirely ad hoc fashion, producing a multiplicity of different arrangements…Evidence presented in this study certainly supports the idea that the much-maligned composite versions [that is, productions mixing elements of Prague and Vienna productions together], already current during the composer’s lifetime, should be regarded as fully authentic.” Flexible is good. One has to roll with the punches. “There need be no qualms at all” about mixing elements from both versions: “Given appropriate circumstances, it is much more likely than not that Mozart would have done the same.”
This technical examiner of manuscripts finds examples where Mozart could accommodate a limitation or strength in a new singer, or could delete a pun upon a singer’s name in the Prague production, when the same singer is not in the next production. Then, if the composer can adjust to new circumstances, one should allow that any and all changes are equally authentic. Such methods prove nothing, except – perhaps - the saying, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
Woodfield proceeds to cite one Professor Roger Parker (King’s College, London) in his attack upon the integrity of a composer’s work of art. Parker ‘exposes’ the hidden assumptions of those who argue for integrity: 1. “…[F]irst versions are likely to be better than revisions when the latter are known to have been stimulated by practical necessity rather than ‘artistic’ reasons…” and 2. “[T]hat when performers are suspected of having influence over composers, it is likely to be unwelcome and can be assumed to have taken place under duress…” Woodfield explains that, while Parker was referring to “Figaro”8 , these first two assumptions apply to those who uphold the sanctity of the Prague “Don Giovanni”. But what are Woodfield’s and Parker’s assumptions here? Evidently 1. Artistic integrity or principles are on no higher plane than practical considerations; and 2. Composers are not more likely to be viewing the whole performance than any given performer – or, worse, a performer’s individual concerns sets the upper limit on the composer’s concerns. Or, more simply put, it all comes down to ego, so don’t allow the possibility that a creative artist has an integral idea and works toward a singular effect in his intervention into the world.
The Vienna Changes: “Il Mio Tesoro”
A ticket to the premiere performance of Don Giovanni in Vienna, May 7, 1788.
Woodfield is addressing here the three new arias that Mozart composed for the Vienna production. The new tenor, Francesco Morella, reportedly had problems with the Act II aria “Il mio tesoro” and, instead, was provided the heartfelt “Dalla sua pace” – which is inserted in Act I, scene 4 (as #10a). This likely provoked the other changes. The hole left by the removal of “Il mio tesoro” is filled with the buffo duet “Per queste tue manine”, where Zerlina taunts a terrified Leporello, accompanied with much physical humor. Shortly afterwards, Elvira’s beautiful “Mi tradi” amplifies upon her still-conflicted feelings for Giovanni. It is usually assumed that the Elvira in Vienna, Caterina Cavalieri, with the reputation of a diva, thought her part demanded more attention. Woodfield brushes aside the complaints that the pace and tightness of the drama was disrupted by these changes, arguing, basically, that since Mozart was engaged in the process, everything is equally ‘authentic’.
But what were Mozart and da Ponte dealing with? In Prague, each of the characters in the first act could be seen as making normal, limited ‘good faith’ or ‘sincere’ efforts to counter Don Giovanni, only, in the second act, to be ruthlessly exposed as harboring the sort of fantasies that allow such Venetian evil to rule. The audience that finds some smug satisfaction in the first act in identifying with the ‘good guys’, find themselves squirming in their seats as Mozart takes them where they don’t want to go. To take one example, in “Il mio tesoro”, the audience gets to hear finally from Don Octavio what they’ve been aching for. After spending so much of the opera equivocating, wondering whether someone of their own upper class as Don Giovanni could possibly be guilty of such horrible lusts and crimes, Octavio finally resolves that he won’t see his love, Anna, again except to deliver the news of Giovanni’s punishment and death.9 What is the audience to think whereupon in Octavio’s next appearance, his news is that the authorities will be dealing with Giovanni in the near future, so Anna should marry him immediately? Modern audiences may miss the point, as Octavio’s disease has spread, but Mozart’s audience would have been struck at how the resolute Octavio can’t see things through to the end. Has Octavio the stomach for battle, for confronting real evil, or is he desperate to change the subject?
In Prague, as of November, 1787, “Il mio tesoro” and Octavio’s next entrance could be presented with the required edginess. However, by late February, 1788, the same Emperor who had been exhilarated by the news of the Prague premiere and anxious for “Don Giovanni” in Vienna, was now gone from the scene – off on a Venetian-manipulated military adventure, a contrived changing-of-the-subject away from the ‘American-style’ transformation of Europe and toward the same sort of ‘dog-eat-dog’ military brawls.10 Change-the-subject ruled Vienna. That winter, Joseph lost the war against the medievalists, a faction that included the head of the Court Theatre, Count Orsini-Rosenberg.11 Only two years earlier, in 1786, Joseph had over-ruled the Count’s attempts to destroy “Figaro”, but now Joseph no longer has the upper hand.
The mystery as to what kind of pressures Mozart and da Ponte had to deal with in Vienna in March and April, 1788, cannot lie very far away from the same medievalists that laid low the Emperor’s plans. Certainly, at any moment in history, a tenor may have difficulties with “Il mio tesoro” – but that is just the occasion for a fight over the requisite integrity of the drama, a requisite level that would make every nobleman squirm at Ottavio’s flinching. To observe that Mozart did not also win this fight shouldn’t provoke hand-wringing over Mozart, but perhaps only a deeper appreciation of his prior victories for the Emperor, and of the realities that he faced upon the surrender of his Emperor. But, not knowing his history, our manuscript-technician will simply conclude that there’s a manuscript trail showing Mozart going down both paths, so it obviously makes no real difference which one was taken.
Da Ponte’s Recollection
Woodfield examines the relevant quotes, beginning with da Ponte’s testimony, but is deaf to the conversation. Decades later (1823), da Ponte recalls this period, somewhat poetically:
It was staged… and – dare I say it? – Don Giovanni did not please. Everyone, except Mozart, believed that something was lacking. Additions were made… some of the airs were changed, it was staged again, and Don Giovanni did not please. And what did the Emperor say? ‘The opera is divine; it is perhaps more beautiful than Figaro, but it is not food for the teeth of my Viennese.’ I recounted this to Mozart, who replied without becoming upset: ‘Let them have time to chew on it.’
The key here is the refrain, “did not please”. Who was not pleased?
Let’s unpack da Ponte’s testimony. The first staging would have occurred before some of the airs were changed in April. So, this is a staging well before the May premiere; and if done as early as January or February, it would have included the Emperor. Regardless it was done in front of a private grouping, certainly including Orsini-Rosenberg; and it is most likely to have been only the Count’s group, the ones managing the Theatre, where “everyone, except Mozart, believed that something was lacking”! Clearly, da Ponte, while not relating the actual fight, is laughing. It could only be an insult for him to say that all of them thought something was lacking. Hence, “Giovanni did not please” is but a refrain that translates to “The fight was insane and brutal.”
All this likely occurred while the Emperor was at the front, where his source of information was the skewed reports of Orsini-Rosenberg. In April, 1788, the Count wrote Joseph that, in the rehearsals, Mozart was taxing the singers too much. This elicited Joseph’s response, that Mozart made matters “much too difficult…” After the three new works are added, including the dropping of “Il mio tesoro”, they are happy to praise Mozart – probably occasioning Joseph’s comment on the difference between Prague and Vienna: “The opera is divine; it is perhaps more beautiful than Figaro, but it is not food for the teeth of my Viennese.” Mozart probably hoped that there was enough still left in the opera to do the job. Rosenberg knows that he has blunted the edginess of the drama, and is willing to concede that at least the music was excellent. Joseph responds, “…[Y]our taste is beginning to become reasonable.” In May, after the first three performances, the Archduchess Elisabeth writes her husband: “In recent days a new opera by Mozart has been given, but I’ve been told it has not had much success.” The reporting of the gossip is not so surprising. More striking is that the Court obviously was never planning to attend. Madame de la Lippe’s report (via Count Zinzendorf), that the opera was “learned and not well-suited to the voice”, is found echoed days later by Joseph’s comment, it is “too difficult for the voice.” Again, not surprising, as the Madame was close to Orsini-Rosenberg.
Did the opera still “not please”? Perhaps it never was going to please a certain set, but da Ponte claims that he fought for the time for the Viennese to chew over the opera:
I managed, on his advice, to get the opera repeated often: at each performance the applause grew, and, little by little, even the Viennese with bad teeth appreciated its flavor and understood its beauty, and rated Don Giovanni among the most beautiful operas that had been performed in any theatre.
No one, even Orsini-Rosenberg, would deny the beauties of the work. It had four performances in the first nine days, then eight more over the next ten weeks. After an eleven-week gap, there are three more performances over a seven-week period, ending December 15th. Joseph has finally returned to Vienna, his health broken by malaria contracted in the campaign, his policies broken – never to recover over the last year of his life.
The Eggs: First, the End
Basically, Mozart found that his ending would not work in Vienna. Aside from the well-known difference, the three new arias, of the Vienna production, there has been the controversy as to whether the ‘scena ultima’ was cut, ending the opera with Giovanni going to hell. Woodfield’s work helps to address this controversy.
Were the ending, the famous epilogue or ‘scena ultima’, of “Don Giovanni” properly delivered, the audience would not be speaking of the beauties of the opera. After identifying with various of the six characters in their apposition to Giovanni, and then witnessing their pathetic inability to deal with Giovanni’s level of evil, the audience is shocked with the supernatural statue coming to life and dragging Giovanni to hell. Surely, now, their alter-egos upon the stage will summon up the strength, character and will to re-make themselves. But horror of banalities – the epilogue shows their littleness as more alive now than ever! The realization comes crashing down upon the audience: their own desperate clinging to littleness has been put on stage before them, and it is they who must become different people, people capable of steering out of tragedy.
As mentioned above, if “Il mio tesoro” is removed, then Ottavio’s reappearance, asking Anna’s hand in marriage, is not so shocking. But, further, Anna’s mere acquiescence even with a discussion of marriage also avoids the historical responsibility to deal with Casanova-type of evil – regardless of how it affects one’s private life. (Doesn’t she also flinch when, in finding out that her beloved will refuse to rise to an historic role, she finds that it makes no difference?) With the dramatic structure torn, it appears that the epilogue was rendered incapable of properly getting under the audience’s skin.
Further, the removal of the epilogue was, in all likelihood, the major change that allowed the audience to resume a spectator role, appreciating all the marvelous beauties. If so, it would have been after the first few performances – performances that still “did not please” until the epilogue was removed. It’s been known that Mozart inserted into his score, after Giovanni’s cry of horror, a unison cry by the others, with an immediate end. Coherent with this, Woodfield finds, in one of the Vienna librettos, instructions that “the others come out and scream.”12 His examination of early manuscripts, along with a reading between the lines of da Ponte’s account, provides, for this reviewer, for the first time a fairly convincing narrative behind the sacrifice of the epilogue.
Egg Two: “Madamina”
Woodfield’s findings underline the controversial role of Leporello’s “Madamina” aria. Leporello has the job, for his master Giovanni, of handling the women who Giovanni seduces when they try to track him down. He recites to Elvira a catalogue of Giovanni’s conquests – a standard device, over the years, in traditional stagings of Don Juan – rubbing into the debauched woman that she is one amongst two thousand other foolish women - just an entry in the catalogue. But after Leporello has finished this act of degradation, Mozart has him get caught up in the lust, vicariously celebrating Giovanni’s catholic tastes. He sings of Giovanni’s “supreme passion… the young beginner”. Then, with Mozart’s musical treatment of “la piccina”, he has Leporello salivate over the young women. Somewhere in the midst of those nine consecutive “la piccina’s”, the audience realizes with horror that we’re not talking any more about the size of the woman. The victim becomes a younger and younger girl, as the audience is forced to witness. Their ears will never be the same.
Da Ponte knew details about Casanova prior to Casanova’s Memoirs, and he obviously had discussed with Mozart the level of deliberate evil that they were dealing with. Casanova had made a virtue out of fornicating with women of all ages, but especially seeking out pre-pubescent girls, thirteen, twelve and eleven. Casanova proudly argued that only social convention frowns on such, but the true libertine is beyond such considerations. Of note, Woodfield finds that Mozart himself had altered Leporello’s first reference to Giovanni, changing the da Ponte’s word “malandrino” (scoundrel) to “libertino”13 – even though he makes nothing of the alteration.
Woodfield’s examination of the Graz score, and of the Lausch score (from Florence), shows that the early scenes up to “Madamina” were in a different hand than what followed. He is able to trace a history of the manuscripts, which suggests a likely early submission to the Vienna court censor that stopped just short of “Madamina”. The strong suspicion is that da Ponte and Mozart knew where the fireworks were, and showed the censor the minimum necessary. As such, the censor would likely assume that the expected catalogue aria would be along the standard pattern.
Woodfield mentions several versions that insert music after the stunning “Madamina”. Of note, Guardasoni took his troupe to Leipzig and then Warsaw, were he allowed Elvira to vent her rage, using Haydn’s 1784 aria “Odio, furor, dispetto” (sung by Armida). The point is that “Madamina”, even though coming early on in the opera, was recognized as a turning point; and it generated various responses from theatre directors. Yet another tantalizing gem is that an early Viennese copy of Act I, now in the Bonn Beethoven-Archiv, was closely studied by Beethoven.14 Sections could be separated from the manuscript for study, and the one section that is missing includes “Madamina”.
Egg Three: Casanova
A lot of nonsense has been written regarding two drafts, found amongst Casanova’s manuscripts, evidently designed for Leporello, after he’s been caught by the others, while disguised as Giovanni. Writers try to use the drafts as evidence that Casanova was collaborating with Mozart’s original production in Prague. However, Woodfield quietly locates the two drafts in the context of disturbances over the replacement for Leporello’s “Ah, pieta” aria, disturbances that occurred not in 1787 Prague, but in 1788 Vienna and 1789 Leipzig. The fantasy that Casanova was helping out his old friend, da Ponte, in October, 1787, when the latter was called back to Vienna, by offering newly-composed text for Mozart when last minute fixes were needed in Prague - this comes undone.
In Prague, Leporello sings “Ah pieta”. Notable is that Leporello’s strongly felt need is to attempt to appeal to the various individuals, one-by-one, in quick succession. It is a complicated piece of acting, whereby Leporello is shown trying to work one individual in front of the others, and then turn and work another — something that perhaps only his master could have pulled off. Even though full stage instructions were usually only in the libretto, here, Woodfield mentions, Mozart had entered detailed stage instructions in his own score. The text requires direction as to whom Leporello is appealing. Mozart seems to be very much involved in the physical staging of this scene. For whatever reason, it appears that the Vienna version drops the aria for a recitative. Woodfield writes that Mozart intended to keep the aria, but, later, the recitative was substituted. Guardasoni’s troupe in Leipzig (1789) used a recitative plus a canzonetta, and made yet another revision the next year in Warsaw.
Casanova’s first draft is remarkably flat, with little drama and no irony. It is a lawyer’s defense, in the indicative, made to an undifferentiated group. The second draft basically picks up upon the rage Zerlina displays in the newly-composed buffo duet with Leporello (discussed above), underlining what was already a turn in an ugly direction. So, Casanova, from his position at the Waldheim castle at Dux, fifty miles from Prague, was rather well-briefed regarding events in Vienna. Though much may yet be undetermined regarding the disturbances over this scene, it certainly can be assumed a) that Mozart did not get all of what he wanted; b) that Casanova was informed of the disarray over this scene; and c) that Orsini-Rosenberg and his crew15 (including his chief factotum, Johann Thorwart) fit the bill as the trouble-makers. They were positioned to both undermine the dramatic unity of the opera and to involve Casanova in the shenanigans. Woodfield’s details corroborate a reading of Casanova’s two drafts that makes some straightforward sense of their context, and, in the process, another count in the charges against Orsini-Rosenberg is raised.
Perhaps in the future, researchers into the details and minutiae of history will also be able to keep the bigger picture in mind as they dig. For now, it is pretty crazy that we still rely upon them for our eggs.
1 A recent and more complete treatment of this is in the reviewer’s “Mozart’s Entschlossenheit: or ‘Don Giovanni’ vs. Venetian Ca-Ca” at http://schillerinstitute.org/music/2010/shavin_don_giovanni.html
2 For a treatment of da Ponte’s lifelong republicanism, see Susan Bowen’s “Lorenzo da Ponte: Mozart’s American Librettist” at http://www.schillerinstitute.org/educ/hist/daponte.html
3 Woodfield twists into a pretzel to try to find in this phrase (“…vieleicht wird Sie doch in Wienn aufgefuehrt.”) a reference to a hypothetical previous plan to stage the opera first in Vienna, and now to revive that original plan. (Page 41.) The obvious strategic reality, that such a controversial opera was designed to assault Vienna in a two-stage offensive, does not exist for him.
4 A teacher at a polytechnic school, Gugler became a good friend of Eduard Moerike, author of the novella Mozart on the Journey to Prague. (Beginning around 1852, the two seemed to devote serious attention to Mozart.) At that time, Mozart scholar Otto Jahn raised the issue of restoring the ‘scena ultima’, missing since the Vienna performances; and Gugler played a major role in the 1860’s in restoring it. Worthy of investigation is the role of Richard Wagner’s 1850 alterations of “Don Giovanni” in provoking Jahn and Gugler to their restoration efforts. (Wagner’s “Giovanni” was co-temporaneous with his infamous attack, “Jewishness in Music” and his revised “Don Giovanni” is reported to have been “exceedingly anti-Semitic”.) Notably, Mendelssohn’s colleague, Eduard Devrient, staged the opera in 1853. Brahms’ anti-Wagner colleague, Bischoff, also translated the libretto at this time (1860).
5 Pauline’s father, mother, sister and brother had staged the American premiere of “Don Giovanni” in New York City, 1826, in collaboration with da Ponte, then the professor of Italian literature at Columbia. Pauline, then too young to perform, would later become Brahms’ choice for his “Alto Rhapsody”.
6 A first scribe did Act I and three parts from Act II: Elvira’s “Ah taci, ingiustro core”, Zerlina’s “Vedrai carino” and most of the Finale; a second scribe, the rest – suggesting what of Act II was composed first.
7 Mozart inserted Leporello’s lines in the dinner scene, where he recognizes the music played on stage: “Bravi! ‘Cosa rara’!”, “Evvivano I’Litaganti’!” and, to “Figaro”, “Questa poi la conosco pur troppo!”
8 Full disclosure might impel this reviewer to admit that his longstanding argument regarding “Figaro” stands impugned by Parker (in his 2006 Gresham College lecture on “Figaro”): “A typical account of ‘Figaro’ along these lines would announce that the opera is nothing less than a covert message in support of Joseph II’s attempts at reforming aristocratic privilege; at, if you want, humbling the Count’s class. It is, though, extremely difficult to find any support for such readings, in particular no sense in which the ruling classes (who were, let’s be clear, the principal patrons of the opera) thought themselves thus threatened.” (It is heartwarming to discover that the account has graduated to ‘typical’!) Parker’s lecture proceeds with a very learned, and somewhat Byzantine, trivialization of Mozart’s intent.
10 Mozart had famously worked with Joseph II in 1781/2, where his “Abduction from the Seraglio” was key to Joseph’s ability to avoid this very same military adventure against the Turks, this changing-the-subject away from the American Revolution. See http://www.schillerinstitute.org/fid_91-96/fid_924_shavin.html
11 The Count’s cousin, Philip Joseph Count Orsini-Rosenberg, a former Austrian ambassador to Venice, had taken as a second wife one of Casanova’s coterie, Giustianna Wynne – a decade after Casanova had his ‘first night’ with her; two years after he obtained an abortion for her, and attempted some rather bizarre practices with her. In 1791, at the coronation of Leopold, Orsini-Rosenberg made a point of telling Casanova, “with an equivocal smile,” about the recent death of Giustianna, his cousin’s widow and Casanova’s ex.
12 Actually: “il foco crese D. Gio. Si sprofonda: nel momento stesso escon tutti gli altri: guardano, metton un alto grido, fuggono, e cala il sipario.” Woodfield also locates a story, attributed to a Wenzel Swoboda, bass player in the Prague orchestra in 1787 opera production, who had to explain, fifty years later, to generations accustomed to not hearing the epilogue: “The opera as at first written did not terminate with the carrying off of Don Giovanni by the Furies.”
13“A second curious instance of Mozart’s changes in the libretto comes in Zerlina’s “Vedrai carino”, where, Woodfield reports, he altered da Ponte’s “e certo antidoto” (a certain antidote) to “e un certo balsamo” (a certain balm). Earlier, a political friend, the scientist Larry Hecht, after reading in a draft of my Mozart’s Entschlossenheit that Casanova’s fellow Venetian agent, Cagliostro, was named Giuseppe Balsamo, suggested that da Ponte might be playfully alluding to him. This surmise took on unexpected life when I ran into Woodfield’s finding. Certainly, it also fits in with Mozart and da Ponte’s zest for word-play. For example, in the dinner scene, Giovanni’s monstrous appetite has him praising “Ah che piato saporito!” (a tasty dish) – and the name of Donna Anna was Saporiti. In later productions, with different Anna’s, this line was dropped.
14 Beethoven composed his variations upon “La ci darem la mano” around the time of his 1796 trip to Prague, where he met and worked with Mozart’s friends, the Duscheks. (Later, he would quote Leporello’s “Notte e giorno faticar” in the 22nd of the “Diabelli Variations”.) However, “Madamina” may have had an impact not yet properly appreciated. [Text and translation of “Madamina”]
15 Later, in 1790/1, three of Orsini-Rosenberg underlings are involved in a plot to drive Emperor Leopold II away from da Ponte, and da Ponte out of Vienna. When da Ponte and Leopold II finally meet, in July 1791, the Emperor names Johann Thorwart, Johann Wenzel Ugart, and one Lattanzio as the three who were lying to him about da Ponte. Months later, the Emperor is dead before he can make the promised restitution.
Lyndon H. LaRouche Comments on Tragedy and Don Giovanni
Excperted from the article "Rand Paul's Fascism, For Example: 'The Destruction of the Destruction of the Destruction' by Lyndon LaRouche, published in the November 26, 2010 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
"…To suggest that these and other actually Classical modes of drama bearing upon processes viewed by the playwright from within real history, are "merely fiction," are the contemptible fantasies spread among those who were both illiterate in principle and were partaking of the beliefs of a foolish man's bad taste respecting the execution expressed in the opinions of the playwright and director.
"Take the rather crucial sort of illustrative case of the usually wretched sort of mis-performances of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni, an opera which was composed in faithful representation of a real-life principle of history, and which was taken, by Mozart, from what was then current real-life history and its indicated issues. The representation of the implications of the character "Don Giovanni" and of the subject-matter of the drama, is historically true to life as to matters of historical principle of the tragically specific, real-life history of Europe in that time. Mozart and his librettist and historian Lorenzo Da Ponte, subsume a relevant, historical principle of the actual process to which that drama implicitly refers. Mozart's genius subsumes the aspect of then current European real-life history which is the essential subject of that drama.
"The failure of the typical performance of what passes for a presentation of that opera, reflects the same corrupting unwillingness to face the truth of that drama on stage, the truth which Mozart demands of the epilogue with which the drama is concluded. The frauds go so far to the extreme as to simply eliminate that conclusive and integral closing episode from the staging. Thus, history subsumes and condemns the fraudulent staging of what are Mozart's both explicit and implicit intentions, just as the dramas of Orson Welles were costumed anachronistically, to serve as largely a fraud on the principle of historically specific, actual truth required of Classical drama. Such is the nature of truly Classical tragedy and its relationship to the relevant aspect of the real history of mankind.
"Thus, on such accounts as the referenced instances provided here, the typical expression of Classical tragedy can be considered as consistent with the notion of monetary systems, in the following respect. The system of values by which the process of Classical tragedy is regulated, is not essentially fictitious; rather, the composition is ordered internally by a principle which is as true to the real principle of real history, that insofar as the playwright and director of the performance are willing and able to present the subsuming principle which the drama is capable of expressing in its performance.
"So, all that meets the standard of truly Classical drama, as from Homer through Friedrich Schiller, is the expression of a visible, true principle of the historical process to which it refers. It is to the degree that the design and performance of the play meets that standard, that the drama is artistically truthful among the attempted apprehensions of the principles of real-life history and the strategies which must flow from those principles. The outcome must adduce insight into a relevant principle of real-life history. Otherwise, the drama would fail its proper, implicitly sacred mission: to unveil the principles which truthfully order, and may thus remedy the often tattered, taught history of mankind."
THE WONDERFULLY IMMORTAL GHOSTS WE MUST BE:
Einstein Viewed Kepler
In my recently published "Science & Drama: What Is Sense-Perception," I had emphasized the principle of Classical tragedy as tragedy is associated with drama, as dated from Homer's Iliad and the tragedies of Aeschylus, through William Shakespeare and Friedrich Schiller. Contrary to what Heinrich Heine denounced as the Romantic School, the Classical tragedy as such, is a Hellish domain, like that of Mozart's Don Giovanni, in which there are no actual heroes, except in the leering Romantic fantasies of the credulous.
Texts and Translations
Translations by Jenny Getachew and Aaron Halevy
More aria translations can be found at www.aria-database.com
this is the catalog
of all the beauties that my master has loved;
a catalog which I have made;
Observe it, read it with me.
In Italy …
six hundred and forty
In Germany …
two-hundred and thirty-one
One-Hundred in France … in Turkey ninety-one;
But, in Spain,
there are already 1003.
Among them we have country bumpkins,
Waitresses, city ladies,
we have little countesses, baronesses,
And we have women from every pedigree,
Of every form, and every age.
In the blonds he has his traditions
of boasting to their kindness,
in the brunets, their constancy,
in the white haired ones, their sweetness.
In the winter he likes the fat ones,
in the summer, he likes the thin ones;
The big ones are majestic,
the little one is a charming and honorable.
The old broads he conquers
for the pleasure of adding them to the list;
His passion, above all,
is the young beginner.
He doesn't care
– if she's rich,
if she's ugly,
if shes pretty;
As long as she wears the skirt,
You know what he does.
Il mio tesoro
mio tesoro intanto
Andate a consolar,
E del bel ciglio il pianto
Cercate di asciugar.
Ditele che i suoi torti
A vendicar io vado;
Che sol di stragi e morti
Nunzio vogl'io tornar.
|In the meantime,
go to console my darling,
And try to dry the tears
from that beautiful cheek.
Tell her that I go
to vindicate her wrongdoings;
That I shall only return
as an herald of blood shed and death.